“Brave New World” still relevant for a world in search of meaning
Stephen King once said that when people attempt to ban books, it is your duty to go to the nearest bookstore or library and find out what it is that you shouldn’t be reading. I wholeheartedly agree with the sentiment. It was tough to find a book to pick for this assignment, as there are so many challenged books that I have enjoyed over the years such as “Lolita,” “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,” “Fahrenheit 451,” “Of Mice and Men,” “Looking for Alaska,” and so many more. But I finally decided on “Brave New World,” the dystopian novel from Aldous Huxley from 1932.
But what about “1984” one might ask. It is a great novel for sure; one that should be discussed forever due to its timeless message about how totalitarian governments take power away from the people. But I’ve always felt that there was something far more disturbing about the hedonistic world of “Brave New World” than anything that Orwell dreamed up. Huxley isn’t interested in an evil bogeyman that watches everything you do and squashes any dissent with a boot, to paraphrase from “1984.” While there is an evil government who controls the populace, it doesn’t need any of the fear tactics of Big Brother, because we’re all too good at being distracted from noticing our oppression. What makes “Brave New World” so insidious is that it isn’t an evil government bogeyman who destroys us…but ourselves. We only have ourselves to blame for this. As Neil Postman wrote in his book “Amusing Ourselves to Death,” “in Huxley’s vision, no Big Brother is required to deprive people of their autonomy, maturity, and history. As he saw it, people will come to love their oppression, to adore the technologies that undo their capacities to think.”
But aside from being a chilling dystopia, “Brave New World” is about attempting to live a meaningful life in a world that no longer has any interest in doing that. Like Ray Bradbury’s “Fahrenheit 451,” people are completely apathetic to living lives where they can love, feel pain, and live an authentic experience. The unexamined life is not worth living. But what happens once the unexamined life is no longer considered necessary in our society? The soma, the orgy-porgys, and the feelies are intoxicating. They take your mind off such things such as thinking and dealing with why we’re on this planet and what will happen when we die. Every day I see more and more people fall into these traps, and it only makes “Brave New World” more prescient for me. Like The Savage, I think often about how to live an authentic life…and if others will be like The Savage in that regard and with that aim, I think this book will continue to be important. People are often worried about dictatorships and having their freedoms taken away. But they always fail to consider how the people allow these governments and these systems to exist, and if this apathy and complacency exists, “Brave New World” will always hold relevance.
It’s not too late to stop a “Brave New World.” It’s entirely up to you.