Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Our Brave New World

Inspired by the countless references by Neil Postman and others I have decided to read Huxley's (1932) Brave New World. I've actually become quite obsessed with it these past few days and have gone so far as to watch both movie versions of the book. The older one, which I believe was originally a 1980 mini series, is probably closer to the book although neither stays completely true to Huxley's text. One scene from the film struck me as quite powerful, more so than it did in the text:



"Recent implies past. Improvement implies progress. And if the present is perfect then there cannot be any progress."

"Of Course."

"And even the word why--why, that's the most dangerous of all. It raises the whole question of purpose."


Does this sound familiar? Prescribed training sessions? Scripted lessons? Society which holds consumption up as the ultimate virtue? This is indeed where we are headed in this country if we let our current education policies run their course. In the book, the future "Other Place" is a place which has eradicated art, history, family, and emotion and replaced it with standardized people who serve one purpose, to drive the economy through consumption; and in so doing endlessly indulge themselves in an orgy of shallow pleasures. Isn't this the kind of values and ethic portrayed to us on television, in the movies, and on billboard advertisements. Have you watched much television lately? To what purpose is this reality TV but to condition people into thinking there is a different norm to which they ought to aspire to?

It is good to buy things:



It is bad to keep them:



So, it is better to just clean house and throw it away:



And it is cool to be promiscuous, uneducated, and just endlessly party:



I mean, don't those kids look happy? And to boot, they are all famous. They didn't get an education, what a waste of time. No, they are revered because they are good consumers and completely self-indulgent.

Besides, education will only bring you misery. Just look at how teachers are treated. Teachers have education and they don't get paid very much and are continuously being degraded. And besides, the news tells us that most teachers are ineffective and grossly overpaid for their work. No one likes that. Nope, you are better off trying to become famous like Snookie or the Situation and spend all your time having fun.

As for being original and creative, that's overrated and unnecessary because now we have talent shows and karaoke. Places where original work is not valued (skip to 0 min 47 sec):



or to put it more elaborately:



I think Huxley had us pegged.

In the book, the character Bernard Marx makes this statement, "what would it be like if I could, if I were free—not enslaved by my conditioning."

We should ask that of ourselves as well. First, we must become aware of our own conditioning (not an easy feat). Then, we must have the capacity to imagine life differently. But then, if we reject our conditioning we risk banishment, don't we?

Any ideas on how to do this?

1 comment:

Joe Bower said...

I enjoyed the connections you made between seemingly disconnected ideas.

Your post reminded me of something I read a while back about Huxley being right and Orwell being wrong. Have you seen this comic? http://www.acceleratingfuture.com/michael/blog/images/Amusing-Ourselves-To-Death.jpg