Brave New World: Regressive Progress

More, newer, faster, better… these are the words that we have come to strive in achieving, science leading the way to a promising, more comfortable world. But how progressive is progress? What, in its rapid pace forward, does it leave behind? In the dystopian science-fiction novel Brave New World, Aldous Huxley challenges the increasing prevalence and influence of the evolving scientific and capitalist ideal, thrusting us into a world shaped and governed by scientific control and development, eliminating the need of emotional satisfaction.
“A squat grey building of only thirty-four stories.” In his opening words, Huxley transports us to the city of London AF 632 (After Ford, or AD 2540), in front of the Central London Hatchery and Conditioning Centre. Here we are presented a sterile, artificial world where science decides the future caste, purpose, and thoughts of the people, through genetic manipulation of categorized embryos, and the decanted and growing children’s subjection to hypnopaedic conditioning; values and thoughts specific to caste repeatedly played to them in their sleep. Following the World State’s permanently engrained motto, “community, identity, stability”, the notion of stability is reflected in the practice of ultimate conformity to societal values of frivolous sexuality, mass consumption, and homogeneity. When John the Savage, a man from the uncivilized land of Malpais, finds himself in the “…Brave New World! That hath such people in’t!” he is quickly horrified by a place where technical and scientific evolution had devolved humans to identical puppets, devoid of emotion, morality and a true concept of happiness and satisfaction.
Through Huxley’s portrayal of a hollow, mindless society, run by scientific control and engrossed with material satisfaction, we are bequeathed a prophetic view of where the results of industrialisation and mass consumerist culture will take us. By contrasting this futuristic society to the romantically archaeic Savage, we are revealed the repellent reality of how the growing reliance on material possession, and the use of narcotics to divert ourselves strips us of our capability to feel true emotions, and distance us from our moral values. As the acquisition of pleasure inducers, or discomfort reducers, as was represented by soma become more abundant and accessible (a gram beats a damn!), our need for moral reasoning and leverage to attach significant virtue to elation becomes reduced to insignificance, our need for quantified contentment surpassing the qualitative nature of taking the good with the bad, with time to kill. Through the growing mass commercialization of commodities, and improvement in medical and technical inventions, we risk becoming clones, by way of the amalgamation of capitalist culture and the rapid development of genetic engineering. We risk becoming devoid of individual personality, thought, and ultimately, devoid of freedom.
Brave New World provides the reader with an unsettling view on what we are putting at risk in our push for progress. While his portrayal of this World State may be melodramatic in its completely hopeless prediction of a future society, the relevance and urgency of his concerns to the changes of today’s society, compel the reader to both immerse himself in the surreality of the future, and praise that the future has not yet come.

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