Brave New World By Aldous Huxley

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Brave New World is a story which describes a fictitious utopian world that is unimaginable yet faintly possible given the technologies available to the ruling powers of that time. It is a world where human beings are created, literally, by an existing authority right from the beginning; a place where people grow up with an extremely skewed perspective of how the world should be like. Neither do these ‘products’ of society have an opportunity to learn about any other world views, nor do they ever come across any experiences deemed as negative, because their paths of life are already decided for them before birth. As such, they grow up to become happy and contented beings with what they have been prescribed for life.

Brave New World was written in a similar fashion to George Orwell’s 1984. Its plot brings out the role of the authority in not just advocating, but also controlling what the population does and how society should function as a whole. Societal morals and the governing laws and regulations are determined by a minority with the same set of vision for such a society. Any forms of behaviour deviating from these rigid ideals would be deemed as antisocial. Both books took such forms of governance to the extreme, with 1984 focusing on the acts of Big Brother’s iron hand and Brave New World focusing on the potentials of science and technology in genetically manipulating different breeds of beings to satisfy the different needs of society.

Nevertheless, a stark difference stands out between the two novels. While George Orwell’s forecast gave a dim and overcast outlook of a society that suffered from the constant suppression and fear of an omnipresent dictator, Huxley’s exposition leaned towards a more optimistic view of how ignorance could bring about bliss in society as long as outliers are promptly dealt with to prevent mind contamination. Orwell forewarned that individuals could lose their minds and souls if they were to be stripped of their personal thoughts and opinions; Huxley portrayed a carefree society filled with happy beings who are satisfied with life because they are conditioned to be unaware of other available options in life. In addition, each individual leads a life they desire (or so they think) without the restraints of family commitments and woes. They truly believe in the visions of the higher order and hence commit fully to their roles. This contrasts strongly against the much repressed individuals in Orwell’s book, all of whom seemed ready to revolt at any given opportunity.

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Brave New World effectively brings out the superficiality of a carefree and orderly (artificial) population to caution readers about being mindless, manipulated and manhandled at the expense of society’s well being. Huxley fiercely questioned the true meaning of happiness and whether an orderly and highly controlled society is capable of embracing it. Notwithstanding that, his portrayal of such a society seems a hundred times more optimistic than that of Orwell’s. After all, a lie is always more merciful if it is effected flawlessly right from the beginning. At the very least, Huxley’s characters could grow up with a consistent lie without ever encountering any painful contradictions. Orwell’s characters did not enjoy such luck and had to deal with the perpetual pain of trying to reconcile contemporary societal demands with what they themselves believed and wanted.

It is understandable if the ideals of Huxley’s imaginary world are desired by nation leaders all over the world. Human beings are born with an inherent sense of greed and desire to fulfill their own needs; different individuals have different needs and desires. If it is even possible to unify these needs and wants, then policy- and lawmakers would have an easier time at work; societies would need to deal with lesser conflicts since everyone is contented and habour a similar mindset, albeit artificially manifested. But there is always the BIG question to ask: who’s to decide how a society should function? Decision makers could make mistakes too. They are human beings after all.

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That saying, genetically modifying the DNA makeup of embryos is no longer an impossible feat. While IVF babies were thought to be unnatural and ‘playing God’ in the past since the procedure involves selecting embryos with the strongest and best genes, they are already a common breed among the current generations. A recent article described how scientists in China are already progressing further to experiment with the modification of genes of IVF babies in the laboratory. Though with no avail, such attempts might not take long to obtain a breakthrough, given the rapid medical advancements in today’s society. These scientists cite the correction of life-threatening or defective genes as justifications for their attempts, which is supposed to help ease the heart palpitations of the naysayers. But as with any scientific and medical inventions, there is never a blur line that cannot be crossed. Who’s to know what we should expect in the future generations to come? Perhaps a utopia-like world in which to live, like what Huxley predicted or what was envisioned in the 1997 sci-fi movie Gattaca. Hopefully, by that time, I will no longer be around to witness the ultimate repercussions to mankind.

Well, as much as the Brave New World tries to describe a possibly ‘better’ world with ‘more capable’ human beings and a ‘more peaceful’ and ‘better functioning’ society, it does not take long for one to realise that this world contains an unfortunate and inevitable truth – that equality can never exist, not even in a fictitious novel. There will always be social classes that are less prestigious and more disadvantaged than others; there will still be jobs that are deemed as belonging to the lower ranks in society and that will be looked down upon. No matter how much advancements we make in society, be it scientifically or medically, there can be no advancements that can ever render a solution to eliminate the presence of social inequality, or so it seems. This has remained an inconvenient truth especially in the first world nations. The ugly legacy will most likely stay with many more generations to come, genetically modified or not.

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