Title: Brave New World
Rating: 4 Stars
Re-reading this book in the age of Trump is kind of a revelation.
At its core, it’s a screed against the engineered society. In Huxley’s future, after a particularly heinous war, the world governments turn away from the anarchic freedom and messiness of allowing each person to individually find his/her own way in the world.
Instead, the world leaders seek to remove passion, individualism, and unhappiness.
Babies are no longer born. They are incubated artificially. There are five specific castes (Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta, Epsilon). As the various embryos move through their gestation, steps are taken to ensure that they have the right physical characteristics at birth for their caste. After they are born, the children are raised communally in a nursery. At night, they are given sleep hypnotherapy to reinforce conventional social beliefs.
Each caste is thus not only resigned to their roles, but would be actively unhappy if removed from it. The illiterate Epsilons are content doing their simple menial labor. The highest class Alphas are content with their responsibilities of running the world. The castes have no desire to interact or to rise above their caste. Everyone is placidly content with their situation.
To remove passion, sexuality is encouraged from the youngest age. There is no longer any concept of monogamy, thus no opportunities for jealousy. Most women are purposely born sterile.
For enjoyment, they have various forms of entertainment and easy access to soma, basically a mood leveling narcotic.
Into this world comes John Savage, a member of their society that was actually born (gasp!) and raised among a primitive tribe of people trapped inside their reservation. John is ‘rescued’ from the reservation and begins to live in the modern world. At first John is bewitched by it, but over time becomes disenchanted with the sterile, predictable, amoral nature of it.
In case you haven’t read this nearly ninety year old novel, spoiler alert: it doesn’t end well for him.
So how did Huxley do? The jury’s still out since the novel is actually taking place in the year 2540, but…
We’re not worshiping Henry Ford yet, so I guess that’s good (who wants an anti-Semitic God?), but we could be on way to creating a Bezos deity.
We are slowly but surely losing our religion. This is especially true in Europe, but even in America, despite the attempts of such upright Christians such as Judge Roy Moore, as a country we are becoming less Christian and more generally, less religious.
We might not have soma, but we certainly have Prozac, which seems to fill much the same function. Instead of suffering from the human pangs of the full range of emotion, if you find the right doctor, you can live that monotone life that we all love.
Sports is certainly the 21st century replacement for religion. If you don’t think so, just go to any big time Division I college football game.
So, why am I not more worried about this particular potential sterile dystopian future?
Well…for this scenario to play out, there has to be some governmental level of respect for … science.
Even if, in this Brave New World, leaders have taken the science of social engineering to extreme ends, the basic point is that science is actually being done.
In the current time of Trump, there’s not much concern about science taking over our lives. The head of the EPA is a climate change denier. Another key scientific position was almost filled by someone whose primary qualification for the position was being an early Trump supporter. Scientific results are being actively censored. Scientists are quitting and resigning in droves. A tax bill is on the verge of passing despite the near unanimous consent of economists that it will precisely not do what the administration says that it will.
As long as Donald Trump is in power, we probably do not have to worry about being ruled over by an elite group of highly trained scientists.