Oh Brave New World…

Since I started to write about the boy-scientists (a phrase I will explain properly soon) in connection with the frequent reports and studies that are thrown at us every day, the misinformation and disinformation that comes out of certain branches of the scientific community and their unshakeable belief that us ordinary punters “cannot understand because we are not scientists,” it has occurred to me several times as I wrote of plans to put anti–depressants in water, to withhold medical treatment from those who self harm by having a cheese sandwich and a beer and to fiddle about with the genome to produce a perfect race, that I ought to do an article on Brave New World, Aldous Huxley’s 1930s novel of a technological utopia.
In common with Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty Four, forever imprinted on the minds of my generation because of the cover image of a military boot grinding on a human face, Brave New World was a novel that changed the way we viewed the world we lived in. In many ways it inspired aspects of the social revolution of the 1960s as people shrugged off the social controls that had imposed such restrictive conventions on western society.
Now of course the bright young things of the sixties are just boring old farts and people are tricked into conformity by promises of ever improving material benefits if they will only sustain constant economic growth. Consumerism has replaced patriotism in binding us into slavery.

Unfortunately I procrastinated too long. No less a literary luminary than Margaret Atwood has beaten me to the punch and written an excellent article about Huxley’s Brave New World with its compulsory drug doses, genetic engineering to produce social classes from A to E (Epsilon semi-moron aka chav) so reminiscent of toady’s ABC1 social classifications that have replaced the old aristocracy, upper and lower middle class and the much les stratified working classes. How like the modern world Atwood makes it all sound with a level of sexual liberation that deems it bad manners to refuse to have sex with anybody who offers, it’s genetically engineered “pneumatic” women, psychological manipulation, constant pressure to consume and deep suspicion of any sign of individualism.
The portrayal of the dystopic utopia is accurate though. We do seem to be blundering towards a version of that society. Messing about with nature is never a good idea.
You don’t have to take my word for it of course. Read Margaret Atwood’s article here.
Or better still, read Huxley’s novel of benign totalitarianism, Brave New World for yourself.
Even more chilling, Nineteen Eighty Four deals with the darker side of tyranny. With its Thought Police, Big Brother, Ministry of Love (where people who rebel againts the totalitarian regime are “re-educated” by the Though Police until they learn to love Big Brother again, its permanent war against a vague and nebulous enemy and the sinister Room 101 in the Ministry of Love, the novel presents an image of where we might be led if we reject the doubtful blessings of Brave New World.

“Oh brave new world that has such people in it” is a line from Shakespeare’s The Tempest. Often interpreted as a play in which Shakespeare abandom his gift for writing as he senses his talents will wane, it has also been interpreted as a metaphor for the supersession of the old, easy going, humanisticic society of rural England by the philosophies and values of the protestant reformation.Either interpretation could be correct and probably both are because Shakespeare was nothing if not multi-layered

Because some people feel recent blogs have painted a very negative picture of the sciences, I have promised to set the record straight by writing a post showing that I am quite a fan actually (as you would expect from someone whose career was in computers) It is the arseholes who approach science like a zealot approaches religion that get up my nose.

14 thoughts on “Oh Brave New World…

  1. Excellent read again Ian. ‘…tricked into conformity by promises of ever improving material benefits if they will only sustain constant economic growth. Consumerism has replaced patriotism in binding us into slavery.’ How more succinct could that be? Brilliant, people need to read this. They need to realise it so they can stop chomping away at the bit whilst grinding the planet to dust and ask what’s really important, what IS life REALLY about?

    Have saved Attwood’s for later reading (4th millenium?), and Huxley had some very interesting thoughts. The Art of Seeing was the only book of his I’d looked at, but he certainly seemed to see intricacies in life. Good post Ian, liked the use of the last line to bring us back to equilibrium!

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  2. I was always a big fan of Steve Martin’s non-conformist oath:

    “Repeat after me, I promise to be different, I promise to be unique, I promise not to repeat things other people say” :))

    It’s even funnier hearing a stadium full of Americans repeating that back to him without even realising the irony.

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  3. ‘Boy scientists’ – I love that phrase! And yes, there are certain ‘scientists’ who would probably enjoy reviving the inquisition if they could (and who’s to say? They might one day!)
    Excellent post!

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