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Category: 09. 4/16 Brave New World

What determines happiness? 

Many people believe they have a clear idea of what happiness is, and exactly what they need to do in order to achieve it. However, countless are misguided in their beliefs. Although many would think that wealth, power, and stability constitute happiness, this is certainly not the case. Brave New World portrays a perfectly controlled society, meant to eliminate the horrors of conflict, instability, and unknowns such as death. Sounds perfect, right? Not quite. Despite its surficial benefits, it is clear that this society is far from perfect in terms of happiness and human mental well being. The society of Brave New World has stripped its inhabitants of the privileges that help define happiness as well as those that determine humanity itself.

Brave New World creates a society designed to be perfectly stable and orderly, creating and conditioning its inhabitants to function practically as robots. It attempts to make everyone equals by creating large groups of identical twins, and genetic classes of people designed to fit into certain roles in society. However, this only reinforces the division between groups by creating classes that determine a person’s genetic makeup and everything about their life. People are denied liberty and basic human rights in the creation of these classes.  And even further, people are deprived of individuality, by being created as twins and conditioned to have the same beliefs. Everyone is forced to conform to the strict order of society, and no one can have any personal opinions or character. Bernard struggles with this throughout the novel, as he feels different from everyone else and is alienated because of his attempt to express his personal opinions and general discontent with society. People are not able to form true human relationships in this environment.

Yes, the people in Brave New World claim to be living happy lives. But this is only because they do not know what happiness really is. Their society has been confined so much that they are not able to experience true human emotions, such as love and happiness. And even their superficial perceived happiness has its limits. The people rely strongly on their daily dose of soma to keep them going, as evidenced by the riot that occurs when Bernard begins throwing the soma rations out the window. They are craving fulfillment that they are not able to achieve under the constraints the the World State society.

Brave New World shows us that human happiness depends on true human connections. Without individuality and opinions, there can be no meaningful connections between people. Yes, the people in Brave New World are social, but they have been deprived of the humanity necessary to form real relationships. And without these bonds, they are not able to experience true human happiness. They believe they are happy, but looking in from the outside it is clear that what they are experiencing is far from the true human happiness we know. In a world so stabilized that there are no individual opinions or personalities, people have no true basis on which to connect. Yes, there is no conflict and no horrors experienced by the inhabitants of the World State, but there is no love and happiness either.

 

Brave New or Same Old?

The further back we look, the simpler life seems. To the prehistoric human, it was no more than living from day to day, keeping a full stomach and looking out for anything that might want to fill its stomach with you. As we advanced, society became more complex, one had to think about his crops, about his relationship to the landowner, his neighbors and so on. It gradually got to where we are today, where we are for the most part the same as our ancestors from tens of thousands of years ago but have made our lives unimaginably complex compared to theirs. However, what is the consequence of this complexity? Is it happiness, or are we just distracting ourselves from what we truly want; making our lives unnecessarily complex by polishing essays at 3 AM in the morning?

I think it’s reasonable to say that most people today would not want to go back and live in a pre-civilized society, why would they? With all the comforting aspects of modern life, we would definitely be miserable if those were taken away. This, however, is oddly similar to the contrast between the “Savage Reservation” and the “World State” from Brave New World. One is a society in which many problems of the past are not even in the back of people’s minds, but I would still argue it is not one that is objectively better for everyone.

Just by looking at the complexity of modern life, it is no wonder we live in a stress epidemic. We are constantly under pressure to perform and give 110% in order to be successful. However, what is meant by success? Is it directly proportional to happiness? Definitely not. This is the easiest to see in developed countries amongst the upper classes. The number of anti-depressants being prescribed are at a record high, and we are currently living in an opioid epidemic, one which is primarily affecting successful people in developed countries. Therefore, a society which removes the need for living a day-to-day life for most people does not necessarily lead to happiness. However, neither does one without the comforts of modern life.

Most of us would not even have the skillset required to live in a society 200-300 years ago, let alone even further in the past. However, the same statement holds for those that were born into those times. It’s a common theme amongst people that we strive towards achieving certain values, however, we are still most fond of what we grew up in. Happiness and fulfillment in humans is not an objective goal. Different cultures have vastly different values and strive towards those as their definition of success. Therefore, is it really on us, outsiders from neither the Savage Reservation nor the World State to judge the morality of their society? Just as John wasn’t too impressed with the “civilized world”, I am fairly certain none of us would agree to live in either of the communities from Brave New World.

 

Was Aldous Huxley trying to tell us something and if so what?

Carter Liou

4/24/18

STS 112 – WA

 

In Aldous Huxley’s novel, Brave New World, the context of the story is set in a dystopian-like future labeled the “World State.”  Naturally, this fictional society differs in many ways from our own, and Huxley distinctly describes the points where our world and the World State diverge.  While these differences, such as how babies are genetically engineered through artificial wombs, or how infants in different castes are classically conditioned in different ways, may seem quite obvious to the reader, what is not as evident are the ways in which the New World society mirrors ours.  Through the idea that this future New World shares the similarities with our current society, Huxley is ultimately warning us of the harmful effects that expansion and development of a capitalist ideology can impose on society.

 

While in modern society we are forced to sacrifice certain aspects of our lives to conform to certain norms, in Brave New World, the sacrifices that are made are far more extreme.  In Huxley’s dystopia, the ruling body, under Mustapha Mond, pursues a society driven by absolute consumerism by ultimately sacrificing certain human values, that in today’s society, might be seen as essential.   The first value that Mond believes must be sacrificed are personal relationships that produce emotions or feelings of passion. For this reason we see that the citizens of the New World do not have parents, lovers or children.  Ironically, in the real world family is essential and often acts as a primary support system, in the World State that job is given to Soma, a recreational drug, that alleviates any pain the user is experiencing. While in our current world this concept seem unimaginable, in the eyes of Mond, the restriction of personal relationships lead to an economic stability in society.  

 

Another sacrifice is that of equality.  It’s true that today we are not all born equal, but in the western world it is believed that even if one is born into poverty, that with hard work and dedication, one can climb the socio-economic pyramid.  In Brave New World this idea of the American Dream is nonexistent.  People are born into a certain caste (Alpha, Beta, Gamma Delta, and Epsilon) and will remain is such caste for their entire life.  This is ensured through the treatment of the embryos, fetuses and infants in different castes. For example the Gamma Delta, and Epsilon embryos are shocked into form 90 identical embryos, but the Alpha and Beta embryos are not.  During the fetal stage, the lower castes are given alcohol and deprived of oxygen to ensure lower intelligence, and during infancy.  The lower classes are also dissuaded from the pursuit of knowledge.  For example, the Delta class is classically conditioned to fears flowers and books through a series of repeated shocks whereas hypnopaedia is instilled in the Alpha and Beta castes.  This may seem diabolic, but Mond explains that inequality is crucial for the stability of their heavily consumerist society. In this way the castes know their role in the larger mechanism that is productivity of goods and services.

 

The debate between capitalism and communism was prominent during the twentieth century, when Huxley wrote this story.  Is it then safe to say that Huxley is intrinsically communist? Not exactly. For a decent portion of the novel, we the readers, identify Bernard Marx as the protagonist of the novel.  The fact that Bernard exemplifies an outcast who envies his friend makes him inherently human, unlike all his brainwashed counterparts. While Berard defies the system by bringing John to the World States, he does so not to expose the defects of society, but rather for his own personal gain.  It should be noted that his last name is clearly hinting at Karl Marx, one of the leading figures in communism, and although he opposes the corruptness of the World State, he does not do so for the right reasons. Is this sense Huxley’s view can be seen as one that stresses moderation over extremity.

A Dreadful New World

Chase Holding

4/24/18

Professor Fleming

STS W1

A Dreadful New World

 

 

In Aldous Huxley’s novel Brave New World, he describes a society that strives to make everyone and everything equal. While many stories about a Utopia discuss stricter government policies and a lack of freedom, this story goes as far as genetically modifying humans. Another interesting part to this society is that every time someone feels strong emotions or is uncomfortable with something, they take a pill that makes them mentally trip, and in turn relax. As expected one of the main characters John, quickly realized that this life is superficial and inhumane. A society like this strays away from human nature and attempts to recreate emotions that are only possible to feel in ones natural element. One may relate this society to our world and question: Are the changing mindsets in our 21st century society altering the human nature that keeps our society functioning? Continue reading

The Benefits of Backward Biological Thinking

      Many people believe that the government and higher powers should not be able to influence the actions and liberties of biological beings; they believe it is immoral and cruel. However, even in our current society, many animals, humans included, have their liberties restricted and their actions and biological systems controlled. From genetically modified chickens to China’s one-child policy, there are and have been establishments controlling the biology and liberty of living beings. From a moral standpoint, many people are disturbed by these actions. However, limiting and modifying the biology and abilities of animals has undeniable benefits, such as reducing the human population, increasing food availability, and protecting endangered animals. By modifying biological systems through genetically modified organisms(GMOs), and establishing policies that limit population, there could be undeniable benefits for both society and the natural environment.

        Genetically modified organisms(GMOs) can provide food for those in need and can increase the well-being of the environment in doing so. Humanity has exceeded its carry capacity, resulting in famines and food-insecurities across the globe. Currently, nearly 800 million people across the globe are suffering from starvation (borgenproject.org). While food waste is largely to blame for this situation, a lack of available food across the globe is also a major cause of the crisis. Furthermore,  in an attempt to supply food to the growing population, many species are being over-hunted, particularly fish. Genetically modified organisms could allow for more efficient food production by increasing the size of the product and increasing its yield. For instance, genetically engineered salmon have recently been approved for consumption. Being far larger than traditional salmon, these fish not only provide more food for people, but they also decrease the draw and necessity of hunting natural salmon. In this way, a natural species is being preserved, and more food is made available to the public. Furthermore, an increasing number of crops are becoming genetically engineered, allowing for larger plants, pest resistance, and other desired traits. However, there is a serious controversy over the environmental ethics of GMOs, and there are concerns that GMOs will not be able to adapt to pest mutations. While these concerns are not unprecedented,  at their roots GMOs have serious potential to increase food production and have already proven the capability of outperforming natural crop varieties. Using genetic engineering, pesticides can be rendered unnecessary, which would greatly improve environmental health. Furthermore, due to the potential increased yield of GMOs, more land can be devoted to preserving natural habitats that would otherwise not exist if they were converted to farmland (nytimes.com). If more species and plant types were genetically modified, the potential food increase and preservation of species would be drastically increased.

        Enacting policies that would limit the number of children women can have would be highly beneficial for the environment and society. As a result of our ever-growing population, we are consuming more resources, namely fossil fuels, which cause climate change. Furthermore, the increasing human population is resulting in famines and food-insecurities across the globe.  If our population were to decrease, emissions and consumption would naturally decrease alongside, lessening environmental destruction. Many people argue that it is inhumane and ineffective to limit the number of children women can have. However, what is more important, the right to have more than one child, or the right for countless species to continue to survive on this planet, humans included? If people were only permitted to produce one child the environmental benefits would be incomparable. The single best way to decrease environmental degradation is decreasing the world’s population (ES118). If policies were enacted like the one-child policy in China,  there would be no death or pain involved in the reduction of the human population. Furthermore, if the population did decrease by this means, starvation and general consumption would decrease, causing existing humans to be able to use essential resources that they may otherwise not be able to have. Decreasing birth rates would cause no physical damage to anyone or anything; instead, it would result in vital environmental restoration and would improve the well-being of the human race.

        Biotechnology and biological control inevitably bring up the moral question: Is it okay to alter natural biology, and will its benefits outweigh the ramifications it could have on society? Controlling biology could drastically improve the well-being of our society and the world. However, research needs to be conducted on the dangers of specific technologies and policies that would control biology before they are implemented. With the pressing environmental crisis and climate change, humanity needs to come up with new solutions if it wishes to save the world from further environmental degradation. Biotechnology and policies regulating childbirth could solve this problem by increasing food production and decreasing the human population in a manner that avoids suffering.

Sources:

https://vittana.org/24-advantages-and-disadvantages-of-gmos

 

https://greengarageblog.org/13-main-advantages-and-disadvantages-of-gmos

 

http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMhpr051833

 

https://borgenproject.org/how-many-people-are-starving-around-the-world/

 

https://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/20/business/genetically-engineered-salmon-approved-for-consumption.html

 

ES 118 Lecture

 

The Detriment of Utopia

In “Brave New World” we saw a programmed happiness ultimately being a horrible way to live. We saw the discovery of a lack of truth, and we saw complete control of the state. We saw happiness obtained by strict structuring and no flexibility. So what we actually saw was more of the brainwashing of the population, rather than complete happiness. But what if happiness had been achieved through peace and understanding. What if our “happiness index” did eventually max out? Would this be better than the dystopia of brave new future? No doubt. However, is the achievement of utopia really goal?

Imagine living in a world where there was no conflict; it is a world we strive for. There would be no war, no discrimination and no hate. In this kind of society there would be a strong welfare to ensure that no people were struggling with poverty. There would be accessible travel across the world, and our doors would be open to any visitor. There would be no conflict and no competition. We would have reached what might seem like maximum progress. But would this make people happy? I do not believe it would.

I do not mean to be cynical, nor do I intend to argue that people enjoy hateful things. However, it is human nature to compete and improve. We pick favorite sports teams and stand by them ruthlessly. We enjoy every game or match and cheer at fights and victories alike. It is interesting and provides people with a goal, and sort of purpose. Competition also pushes people towards progress. Look at  the space race in the 60’s! Without Russia’s motivation, would the United States have landed on the moon when they did? Or would we be years behind in the technology we have aquired? On a smaller scale, competition in athletics as well as academics pushes young athletes and students to work hard and discover their limits and abilities; a runner rarely runs their fastest time without their competitor on their heels. Competition can be fun, healthy, and incredibly beneficial. Without it–no matter how peaceful–people would not be pushed to their limits, and therefore would not reach their full potential. Collectively this would lead to a peaceful society falling further and further behind.

Additionally, while I am in no means pro-conflict, and truly believe that conflict can and should exist without violence, society would be held back without any sort of disagreement. To specify: To be without conflict, would mean people never argued with each other, never challenged each other, and never pushed for more, or better information and understanding. If people took everything at face value there would never be doubt, nor accusation. There would also never be righting of wrong information or actions. Professor Fleming encourages his students to challenge everything they hear, and ask questions rather than believing everything they hear. This is the only way to ensure the furthering of our understandings of life, and progress our society forwards–scientifically, technologically and even socially.

Although I would never argue in favor of violence, hate, or the disrespect of others, I think inevitably, finding complete peace could be detrimental. Even if this peace was achieved virtuously rather than programmed by government, without challenging each other, and pushing forwards, we will never learn more nor improve. I believe a life like that, no matter how calm, is not a happy one. A clear example is that of the 50’s housewives. No matter how affluent those women were, they were unable to find fulfillment in the consistent lives of cleaning and cooking. There is overwhelming evidence that even the most prosperous needed more than peace; they needed purpose in their lives. The only way to achieve that is to have a meaningful impact towards the progress of society. To learn, and educate in order to push forwards. Peace is not calm, coherency, without conflict and competition. Peace, as an ideal, is an open-mindedness towards the progressive evolution of science, technology and society.

How humane is humanity?

If we were to compare and contrast the society of the 21st century to that of the 20th century, would we be satisfied with how we have turned out? What if people who lived in the 20th century viewed our society today? Would they be proud of what we’ve become, or would they look at us in disbelief?

The society expressed in Brave New World can be paralleled with these questions. In this novel, it is not allowed to have free-will and to experience any feeling other than happiness and stability. The inhabitants of the Fordian society in London are created with machines that fertilize eggs and fetuses grow in bottles, engineering people to look a certain way, bringing them into the world with a social pre-destination. Throughout their lives, the members of this dystopian society take a drug called soma that reduces/eliminates any feelings of unhappiness. By distributing this drug to the members of the society, the government can social engineer the society by placing members in certain social conditions, including their place of work, without them getting upset and revolting. This idea of eternal happiness seems to be wonderful; you never have to know what it feels like as long as you continue to take the drug, and who wouldn’t if it meant such beneficial effects?

The main problem with the distribution of soma is that the society also does not have relationships within it. There is no “love” allowed, no ties after two people hook up, something that is highly occurring in this society. Instead, these people are conditioned to think of sex as being recreational and meaningless, while relationships are fluid and changing. Having parents is not common because having children is a life event that does not take place in this society, instead the inhabitants of the society are created by engineering. To many people even in today’s society, the idea of having sex without regard as to who it is with and no repercussions resulting from it sounds like their ideal way of hooking up; the intercourse is completely meaningless and its purpose is for pleasure to both parts involved. It is true that they don’t have to go through the pain of childbirth nor the pain of heartbreak and divorce, but they also don’t get to feel what it’s like to fall in love or to hear your child laugh for the first time. The absence of any feelings other than happiness and joy leads to the members of this dystopian society to miss out on many parts of life that those of us in the real world look forward to in our lives.

This society may seem great in aspects, but it was shown to be horrifying when an outsider lived in it. A man named John, also know as Savage, was the product of sex resulting in a child, the father being one of the major government officials of the society. John and his mother lived in a different society, one where there was no soma and he felt all kinds of emotions. He was brought up learning religion, associating sex with violence, and knowing the true extent to what death is.

John had the chance to become a part of this society by taking the soma and doing the necessary treatments. But when he tried, he realized he would rather continue his previous life style. Through out his stay in this London, John met a woman named Lenina who was a soma-taking member of the society. Their interactions showed the great difference between a human being and someone who was created by engineering and takes a drug for eternal happiness. Despite her slowly catching feelings for John, Lenina viewed sex as meaningless and wanted to partake in the activity with John. But for John, sex was not associated with meaninglessness, but instead with relationships and involving women who had to be “won,” not women who throw themselves at him. When Lenina did so, he reacted in anger, threatening to kill her, and this sparked the beginning of his resentment of this society. John viewed the society as having such a horrifying social system, that he decided to kill himself rather than taking any part in it.

This book offers a viewing of society from an outsiders point of view while also viewing it from those living there also. John viewed the society as being corrupt in the sense that the people should have free-will and should feel every emotion, not just the good ones. The Controller, named Mustapha Mond, is a man that controls the World State, similar to what a government would be. He has seen both the real world while also taking part in controlling this dystopian world, and he prefers the latter. Mond is a believer in the stability and comfort of society, maintaining social order with both high and low pre-destinations for the members. The comparison of these two characters and how they view the society differently could be compared with how people in today’s society could view that of the 20th century.

Looking back 50-100 years ago, would our ancestors have been proud of us for having nuclear bombs and for racism and prejudice still being a social concern? Would they have agreed to legalize gay marriage or to accept the global warming that is occurring? Would our ancestors be satisfied with the fact that we communicate by tiny electronic devices and send meaningless emojis to people? The answers to these questions are unknown, but I do believe that their reactions to some of these instances could be similar to John’s reaction to the Fordian Society. After being somewhere that you are so used to, where everything seems so normal, any change to that style of living could cause an abrupt burst of emotions that some people may not be able to handle. John could not handle the dystopian society, so he took his life rather than be apart of it. Do people of today’s society not do the same? Some children are placed in a variety of foster homes, each with different environments and lifestyles. Do all of these children survive or reach adulthood as a sane person? The idea of Brave New World brings up many social concerns and many abstract views from the characters, with one of its biggest being the hope for a humane society. Is this novel much different from our world? It is possible that many of the events that take place in this society could happen one day. Will we look onto this society from the outside the same as John did, or will be give in to things like peer pressure and self-desire, omitting our self-control and giving our freewill to the government?

 

 

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