Brave New World: Loss of Human Identity Due to Technological Progress
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley is a dystopian novel published in 1932 in England. This unorthodox view of society and government led this book to be banned in Ireland and Australia and is currently within the top 10 most wanted banned books in America. Huxley wrote Brave New World not only as a warning about what could happen to society if things go wrong but a satire of the society in which Huxley existed, and which still exists today. Huxley challenges how the use of highly developed technology by an all-powerful government will affect society and humanity itself. This novel is still relevant today because of its satirical perception of the threats the world will face due to advancements in technology when misused by powerful people; many believe this will lead to the end of man. The novel takes extreme measures to convey its message with its technology. The community receives Neo-Pavlovian Conditioning which consists of shock therapy and hypnopedia, which is sleep conditioning. The society is taught to take soma, a drug used to escape truth and reality. The rigid control of reproduction ensures there is no change in the World State’s ‘stability.’ Brave New World is living in an unstable society, meaning it consists of individuals who are not established – those who are not in control of themselves. Brave New World suggests that society’s instability is primarily caused by the misuse of technology by those that control it.
Soma is a governmentally provided hallucinogen drug that is distributed to the masses. Citizens take soma to escape any kind of unhappiness. Society has been conditioned to love and depend on the drug whenever they feel any discomfort or dissatisfaction. The citizens are essentially enslaved by the drug and turned into mindless drones. The World Controllers misuse the technology that is supposed to be used to relax the muscles is instead used to prevent any thoughts that is unorthodox and goes against “our Ford.” Those that take soma go on a “soma vacation” where they are no longer aware of their surroundings and are just in a “happy state” where they are in a calm and surreal condition. This drug has caused the society to be unstable. They are not willing to face reality and only want to live in their own little bubble. The citizens are not able to cope with loss, uncertainty or difference of opinion. As Mustapha Mond says, “and if ever, by some unlucky chance, anything unpleasant should somehow happen, why, there’s always soma to give you a holiday from the facts.” This drug distracts a person from realizing what is wrong with their society. The World Controllers have full power over the citizens, and they do not realise it. The citizens are conditioned to never speak their thoughts and just be in a state of no consciousness. As the citizens say, ‘A gramme is better than a damn.” The community will not accept their anger, discomfort, sad state because they rather forget there is a problem entirely. This is seen when John throws out the soma when it is being distributed to the Deltas. The Deltas then go into a riot until they receive their soma ration. Also, when Lenina is with Bernard at the Savage Reservation, she is barely functional and is found reaching for soma. She had left it behind so she resorts to a substitute for drugs found at the reservation. She could not stand the difference of societies and is disgusted. She is in desperate need to lose herself and not have to think or feel. This soma has caused instability within the individuals because they cannot function without their daily dose of soma, without receiving it violence and self-destruction occurs.
Soma is used to condition society throughout their lives but precautions have been taken to ensure there is uniformity since the birth of a citizen. World Controllers use a sleeping technique which is called hypnopedia. While the children are asleep, they are to listen to rhyming phrases for about 123 times a week for 30 months and then continue to the next advanced teaching. This method is used to ensure that one’s thoughts are contributing to the economy, use and abuse soma and accept the values and tenets of the Ford. For instance, they have been taught, “the more stitches, the less riches.” This means that when something is old or broken, one should just buy a new item and not mend the item they already own. This way citizens are always investing in products and the cycle of consumerism continues. World Controllers are misusing this technology to make their wants the only form of action society can take. There is also a brutal method used which is called Neo-Pavlovian Conditioning. It is a method that was used originally on animals that is now used on the babies; it is a system of rewards and punishments – the punishment being shock therapy. Since there are different castes, some are lower or higher than others. Those that are from lower castes have been given shock therapy when they were little children, so they associate items worth knowledge as bad. The caste, Epsilons, are the lowest caste and they are given books. Once the children begin to play with the books they are shocked. This leads the children to associate bad thoughts with knowledge and ensure that they never try to attempt to pursue any job that is more advanced than what is supposed to be within their caste capabilities. As the director says, ‘They’ll grow up with what the psychologists used to call an ‘instinctive’ hatred of books and flowers. Reflexes unalterably conditioned.” Those in power do not allow people to have their own opinions or thoughts about topics because it has already been decided for them. By random selection, they are put in a caste, which determines their thoughts, emotions and decisions for the rest of their lives. The society is very instable because the citizens have never formed their own thoughts and rely on the government’s ideas and principles. This is seen when Lenina is talking about the unorthodox views of monogamy and she says, “After all, everyone belongs to everyone else.’ Lenina is pneumatic, she is lifeless and dull. She is a machine repeating what has been taught to her.
This totalitarian government has complete power over not only the society’s minds, but also their bodies. Females are required to receive a pregnancy substitute when they are 21 years old. These substitutes are set of injections and pills that women are given to simulate the effects of being pregnant and they simulate the hormonal effects of pregnancy. Women are also required to wear a Malthusian Belt. It consists of various contraceptives in order to prevent females from getting pregnant. However, not all females need to take these precautions to ensure the growth of population is restricted. Some females are who has been deliberately made sterile by exposure to hormones during fetal development; in the book, government policy requires freemartins to comprise 70% of the female population. The World Controllers misuse this advanced technology and do not understand what instability they are causing to this society. As Henry Foster said, “fertility is merely a nuisance.” However, having children is a fundamental natural process of human life. As the Director of Hatcheries and Conditioning says, “The greater a man’s talents, the greater his power to lead astray.” They recognize that they have given up humanity for “social stability” but in reality they have created unstable citizens who are dependent on this misuse of technology.
The teachings of Ford have led to the members of society having a lack of thought and emotion. Brave New World suggests that the advancements of technology have allowed to surpass any barriers known to man. However, this advanced technology is being misused by these World Controllers leading individuals being stripped of their identity and humanity.
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