It is a negative utopia according to its author and represents the ultimate in scientific and technological progression. However, the inspiration for imagining such a nightmarish fictional discourse has its seeds in the contemporary issues of the 20th century
Huxley sets his novel in 2040 AD in London and depicts a hedonistic welfare state whose sole aim is maintaining social stability through complete elimination of the possibility of misery, pain, despondency and religiosity: the causes of social turbulences.
The hugely powerful narrative of the so called welfare state is peopled by impassive puppets programmed by the state administrative machinery. The absorbing but questionable world order which he portrays, blends elements of satire and caricature with a subtext of veiled but prickly joviality. The syntax and semantics are uniquely original and represent the tour de force of human intellect and vibrant imagination.
He envisages a society where emotions are a taboo, thinking is a disease, private life is extinct and promiscuity is a norm. In the new world, emotions stand controlled through behavioural conditioning. Thinking ability is non existent, successfully stunted by reducing vocabulary to a few hundred words and by abolishing nuances of meaning altogether, e.g. opposite of good is ungood. The life of these emotionless people is governed by a few ingeniously designed slogans, which are ingrained into their systems through conditioning and reinforced permanently through sleep teaching methods from birth itself. The slogans actually constitute the tenets of the world order of BRAVE NEW WORLD.
The polarities of our existence which provide meaning to our life have been dealt with by ensuring an eternally happy state. There are no desires because every desire is met before the longing for it surfaces. Life is totally predictable, static and struggle free. If by any freak chance some slight irritant is experienced, there is the harmless remedy of ‘soma’ which can transport one on a sleep holiday minus a hangover. Frequently the new worldians are heard saying “one cubic centimeter cures ten gloomy sentiments.”
In the new centralized totalitarian system the miracle of nature’s wonderful creation and its variety is replaced by cloned hierarchical classes of people representing Alphas, betas, Gammas etc., who are slaves to their instinctual conditioning. Through a technologically perfected method of Eugenics and emotional engineering, it is ensured that there are no round pegs in square holes. Children are not born but are made in test tubes in special hatcheries and brought up in infant nurseries, strictly according to the needs of the system. All classes of people are happy and don’t desire or aspire to be different from what they are. There is no competition, no jealousies and no chance of joblessness as only the specific numbers of people needed are created by the state. State sponsored propaganda is imbibed into the mental physiology of the infants through repeated chanting of rhythmically rhymed statements by a mechanism under their pillows.
The institution of marriage and family has been done away with. The words: parent, father and mother arouse embarrassing reactions. Preference for one man or one woman is regarded as a sexual abnormality and attributed to some slight error in the decanting process. And also it endangers the core of their stabilizing process which survives on the subsumed principle of instant gratification and uninhibited free sex. Sexuality has degenerated into mere entertainment imprinted via the slogan “everybody is for every one else.” Sex is regarded as an activity like any other activity and loses all privacy and romance.
Huxley was disturbed about the promiscuity which he witnessed in the West reaching alarming proportions, where divorce had become a norm rather than exception.
In BNW “My Ford” the father of assembly line mass production has taken the place of My God. To keep the wheels of economy moving the experts in the field are ever busy in creating artificial demands and desires for excessive consumption. For example the craze for buying for its own sake is fed and generated through innovative methods and subtext of subtle conditioning through shrewdly designed graphics.(Don’t you think it is happening around us already? “Buy one get one free” and other sales gimmicks around festivals make the people splurge on items which are not needed at all and pushed under beds and forgotten because there is no space in the almirah.)
In the new world there is surfeit of goods at all times and the question of mending or repairing any thing doesn’t arise. The slogan which the BNW coined to promote excessive spending is “Ending is better than mending.” And funnily worded “less stitches more riches.” The Mall culture which is spreading its tentacles around us is a symptom of mindless buying sprees growing by the day.
The narrative above stirs familiar vibrations in our midst. It is time to reflect perhaps.