Thursday, April 25, 2013

Brave New WorldBrave New World by Aldous Huxley
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I first read Huxley's Brave New World years ago -- right after I read 1984 . Back then, I found Orwell's vision creepy and scary. But less likely than Huxley's. Since I saw evidence of the population "disengaging," and "not thinking" all over the place.

Drug use in silly night clubs. Wealthy college students pulling lines of cocaine off of the bar. All the while not paying attention to things like Grenada, El Salvador, Pinochet and the Mujaheddin. And instead of reading, which takes work, people would just be vegging in front of the tube. Watching Married With Children and Beavis and Butthead .

All in all, things have not changed much. I still see Huxley's dystopia everywhere I look. Though I have grown up, and see the elitist, sophomoric flaw in my initial reasoning -- family and struggles and bills and relationships and heart break will do that to you -- there are some aspects of Huxley's dystopic vision which still ring true as steel. Becasue, all too often, people are treated like income streams. And indoctrinated into their "places" in society from birth on.

Sure, we don't play Centrifugal Bumblepuppy yet. But is X-Box much different? How many hours and dollars have been spent on video games? All the while the world is choc full of solvable problems. That we choose not to see.

So I am going to confirm my long-ago judgement: Brave New World merits five-stars. But my reasons now are different. I now see that Huxley does such an excellent job of painting two major ways that societies can dissolve into static entities.

One is the falsely conceived "Romantic" way of the "Nobel Savage." Which Huxley paints not as a Rousseau-type great place to live. Instead, in his hands, it looks pretty static. Filled with misery, devoid of science and exploration. And, since it lacks these "perspective" building elements. The "Savage" society turns in on itself. And rejects everything that smacks of newness.

But Huxley is too keen an observer to think that the rational "Scientific/ Postivistic" state would be much better. Since it would legislate out those things that make life worth living. Like love and loss. And deep attachments. And the passionate striving after things like art and "Truth". Things that take an entire being to experience, but which science and commerce just cannot provide.

What I found most incredible throughout the book was how fine Huxley draws his characters. For instance, I love that Bernard is both aware of his weakness and it's impact on him, yet is still controlled by it. He is missing the "outsiders" view that Shakespeare granted John. And thus could not see into, vocalize and then act in ways beneficial to his true self-expression. I also felt how painful it was for him to be that isolated. And how that isolation manifested itself as a desire to leverage his relationship with the Savage into a new-found popularity. Which, for a time, assuaged that isolation.

I, too, really felt for John. Who seemed dedicated to seeing people from a holistic perspective, not bound by conditioning, but inhabiting rich, complex interior worlds. Instead of being allowed to accompany Bernard to the island where other misfits were "ostracized to," he is sentenced to live life among people dominated by their conditioning. And the results -- truly tragic.

All in all, an excellent book that stands the test of time. Often funny in its satire. But ultimately a tragic look at the limits of rationality. And the inadequate responses to the dehumanization of man that both Positivism and Romanticism entail.

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