Slaves of Ignorance: An Analysis of Aldous Huxley's Brave New World
No community is perfect. Fictional or real, a perfect society has never developed and never will. Realistically, the most people can hope for is a healthy and effective community. Citizens must be aware of their environment and rational in deciding which sacrifices to make for the sake oft he greater good; no community can thrive that does not accept these truths. Aldous Huxley exemplified his opinion on this matter through the satirical Brave New World. By writing characters to act foolishly in a way that would frustrate the reader, Huxley made it clear that he believes keeping citizens unaware and irrational is not the way to develop a healthy community.
Sacrifice is an essential part in creating and sustaining any community- healthy or not. In Brave New World, even Mustafa Mond has to make sacrifices. Without covering up his secret love for science, he could corrupt the entire system. Leaders tell Helmholtz: "It is better that one should suffer than that the many should be corrupted" (Huxley 148). To deal with the situation, Helmholtz chooses relocation to a miserable island, hoping that the reality of it will provide inspiration for his writing without disturbing the condition of the World State. Sacrifice is crucial to any and all communities. Without personal sacrifice, we would be back in the stone age, killing our brothers and children over a pathetic piece of meat.
No healthy community can exist without awareness. Between Lenina's constant recitation of hypnopaedic sayings and Linda's hysteria from lack of soma, we can see that suppressing the desires and instincts of a population will not result in a healthy community, regardless of how effective it may be. In his interview, Huxley shared this piece of advice: "Don't be taken by surprise by your own technological advancements" (Huxley). Soma seemed to work well in the World State to numb the minds of citizens, but the addiction snuck up on people and they all became slaves to the drug.
We also see the adverse affects of unawareness from Bernard's point of view. Private thoughts in the novel tell us, "Bernard had suffered all his life from the consciousness of being separate..." (Huxley 67). He's losing his mind because he is aware of how unaware the people around him are. He wants to set them free from the fog of unawareness, but they're obliviously repeating "I drink to my annihilation" (Huxley 81).
Efficient communities involve everyone sacrificing something as well as doing something to contribute. The epilipsons only get a specific regime of soma and they have to work before they receive it. They make a sacrifice. The Savage would quote: "... value dwells not in particular will..." (Huxley 236). They are taught to enjoy making a sacrifice, but it is a sacrifice all the same. Sacrifices may be anything from accepting a social class to getting dressed in the morning.
Huxley especially made a point of the value of sacrifice through Lenina's private thoughts and the way she countered them with hypnopaedic sayings "... Everyone works for every one else. We can't do without anyone..." While her sayings were excessive and eerie, Huxley would agree with them. We cannot have a healthy community if we don't have a complete community.
Those in power are constantly trying to brainwash subjects to do things they normally wouldn't enjoy- and they are succeeding! In Brave New World people are convinced that they love to do miserable work and be in their specific castes. Leaders of the World State go so far as to openly admit: "The greater a man's talents, the greater his power to lead astray" (Huxley 148).
In any community, we need to be aware when we are being trained by those in power to enjoy things. We see this even in our daily lives, especially through the internet. Huxley's terrifying prediction is coming to life through the internet and social media. People are using social media websites such as Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter, and Skype to talk to people they don't even like and be "in school" when they are sick and their body should be resting rather than trying to fit into society's expectations incessantly. Society is addicted to the internet but all it brings them is frustration... Our community is unhealthy largely due to peoples' addiction to the internet, yet we continue to sign in day and night, unaware and apathetic of the destruction being caused to ourselves.
Blissful slavery is slavery all the same. People in power strive to bypass the rational and natural instincts and beliefs of those under their control and influence. In the World State, Bernard gets told to watch his step. He is reminded that he needs o be a good member of his caste- an outstanding example- perfect in every way. The Director goes so far as to say to Bernard: "I am not at all pleased with the reports I receive of your behavior outside working hours. You may say this is not my business. But it is. I have the good name of the Centre to think of" (Huxley 98).
While the American version of blissful slavery isn't as obvious as the hypnopaedia in the World State (or maybe it is...), it does exist and we are all falling for it. We sit in front of TVs, iPads, phones, laptops, and mirrors all day long. We learn to love uncomfortable shoes because they make us feel beautiful. "Pain for beauty" suddenly gives us bragging rights and we become blissful slaves to our own miserable clothing. Countless hours sitting in front of the TV do absolutely nothing productive for most of us. We spend hours flipping through channels, knowing we don't really want to be watching TV, yet we let the social media trap catch us once more; we are made a seemingly blissful slave all over again.
The key to a healthy, effective community involves a degree of sacrifice; sacrifice both limited and guided by individual awareness and rationality. Especially in a democracy, it is assumed that citizens are aware of the present issues and the characteristics of the people they choose to vote for. Because of that, it is also assumed that they are making intelligent and rational decisions which will lead to a country with what everyone has agreed will be the most productive and sustaining leaders. If we become blissful slaves, our country will be destroyed. This is what Huxley warned us about.
Huxley, Aldous. "Huxley Interview 1958-FULL." Online Video Clip. Youtube. Youtube, 24 May. 2011. Web. 3 Jan. 2013
Huxley, Aldous. Brave New World. New York: Harper Collins, 1932. Print.