Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Brave New World - by Aldous Huxley

A few weeks ago I read an article by Margaret Atwood explaining why we should all read Brave New World at which point I realized I had no choice but to look it up in the catalog of the library where I worked, find the call number, walk up the two flights of stairs to retrieve it, and check it out.

The brave new world described in the book is painted as a "utopia", but readers easily see it for the dystopia that it is. Humans are created, rather than born, each to a specific caste (Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta, or Epsilon) for which they are programmed to believe is better than the others. Everyone is happy with their lot, and regularly provided drugs and sex to keep them happy. Everyone also knows that "everyone belongs to everyone else". Worst of all books are censored.

 We learn early on that Deltas are conditioned to hate books. (Presumably this is true of Epsilons, and perhaps Gammas as well). This was because "you couldn't have lower-caste people wasting the Community's time over books, and that there was always the risk of their reading something which might undesirably decondition one of their reflexes". While not verboten for the upper-castes, books are still considered a waste because "you can't consume much if you sit still and read books." And even at Eton (where you can find the Alpha Double Pluses) the library "contains only books of reference. If...young people need distraction, they can get it at the feelies."

Ultimately we learn what is almost always true about those who would keep certain books from others - that those in charge have access to all of them. The censors believe that they alone can handle the information within. The masses simply cannot understand them, and those who might understand may be attracted to them, and then might not like the new things the controllers want them to like.

In the end the propaganda of the Brave New World isn't so new. The same rhetoric has been around for centuries, and still continues today.

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