Thursday, May 31, 2007

Science Fiction - "Brave New World"

I had read this book long time ago and as it turned out I remembered little. One thing that I wondered was about the author's name and his relationship to Thomas Huxley who was a defender of Darwin and theory of evolution. Since "Brave New World" was written in the 30s Darwin's Huxley could not be the author. Turns out the Aldous Huxley, the author of "Brave New World", was a granson of Darwin's defender.

"Brave New World" is one of the distopian visions of the future, written by an author who is not a science fiction writer. The book was written in response to some of the utopian novels of the future published by H.G. Wells.

In the world of the novel all disease, wars and conflicts between humans have been eliminated. Babies are produced in hatcheries. By carefully controlling growing embryo and then by repetitive conditioning each person is prepared to take a specific role in life. There are Alphas - the thinkers, then Beta, Gammas and Deltas with what we would consider lower social standng. However, the conditioning has prepared each person to be satisfied with his position in life.

Because parenthood has been eliminated, all the emotional stress of love, sex and coupling have been also eliminated. In fact in the "Brave New World" universe "mother" is an obscene world. Sex drive still needs to be satified - so everyone is encouraged to have many partners, with periodic and compulsary orgies.

All material needs are provided for, and everyone is encourage to consume more - why try to fix things, when you can get a new thing. This way everyone can be occupied producing new material goods.

Finally, there is Soma. Soma is a drug, freely given to everyone, that makes you happy but has no ill effects like for example alcohol might.

However, even in this world there exist areas that are considered "savage" - mainly in North America - where descendents of American Indians still live the same as always. These areas serve as tourist attractions, where people from the Soma world come and see.

During one such trip a man is discovered, living among the Indians, who is in fact a child of a woman who was accidently lost there many years ago. This man, named John "Savage", is rescued and brought into the civilized world. The bulk of the story is how he tries to cope with this change.

While he was living within the savage preserve his mother taught him to read and his only book was a collection of all Shakesperean plays. The title of the book comes from one of these plays - "The Tempest" - which he quotes when he arrives in London: "Oh, brave new world that has such people in it!".

While we were discussing this book at our SF group meeting a question came up as to which book is more relevant to present day "1984" by Orwell or "The Brave New World". I thought that Huxley's book is more relevant. It shows a recipe on how to control society without overt fear, but by simply making everyone want certain things that can be easily provided.

I thought that "soma" could be seen as a metaphor for the mindless entertaiment that amuses us all, while important subjects are not discussed and the controlling elites (our Aplhas) get us to go along with nearly anything.


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