I was at my dentist office reading a book while I waited for the dentist, and the hygienist looked at my book as I sat in the chair. “Brave New Word,” she said. “What’s that?” I was more than a little surprised. I thought everyone knew Aldous Huxley’s book Brave New World, in which he postulates a future, frightening Utopia in the year 2495, a date he considered so far into the future that anything he envisioned would be possible. His book was really a warning, and I thought it might be a good idea to see how prophetic he had been in 1932. Were his predictions accurate?
Changing Historical Dating – right on!
Huxley was so accurate in this prediction, I am forced to explain it for younger readers of this blog. It used to be that historical dates were followed by B.C. (Before Christ) or A.D. (Anno Domini – Latin for “the Year of our Lord”). All dates were in relation to the birth of Jesus Christ — or at least when they thought Jesus was born back then. Each year was either before his birth, (B.C.) or after his birth (A.D.) This form of dating has all but disappeared in favor of B.C.E. and C.E (Before Common Era and Common Era). Why did they change a form of historical dating that had been used for centuries? For the same reason that the birth of Henry Ford is used for dating in Brave New World — to ensure no reference to Jesus or God enters the conversation. If you can control the vocabulary, you can control the discussion.
SOMA – close, but no cigar…yet
The populace in 2495 is controlled in part by its ingestion of “soma”, a drug that induces pleasurable feelings. If something bad happens, and you are no longer happy, take some soma and you’re sure to feel better! Could the current growing legalization of recreational marijuana be a step in the soma direction? It’s certainly possible. The “savage” who encounters this Utopian culture is appalled that its inhabitants would rather be happy than free. Are we that far from exchanging our freedom for happiness?
State-sponsored, Sexual Orgies – not too close, and probably never
“Everyone belongs to everyone” is the motto in 2495. Anyone can and should have sex with anyone else — as long as that “anyone else” is willing. In fact, if someone “goes steady” for an entire four months, it’s considered aberrant behavior in this Brave New World. We’re not quite that far gone, are we? Our culture does assume that if boy meets girl, of course they will end up sleeping together — if not on the first date, certainly the second. How many movies and TV shows have you seen in which this is true? I’ve lost count. But we still marry and, supposedly, we are faithful. The group, state-directed orgies depicted by Huxley remain a figment of his imagination.
Private Helicopters — not in my lifetime?
Amazon drones aside, it looks like we won’t be able to hop into our own, state-provided helicopter to travel to our vacation spot.
Test Tube babies — who knows?
I was just listening to National Public Radio (NPR). NPR reported that scientists have expanded their ability to grow human embryos in a petri dish to a whopping 14 days. It might not sound like much, but it’s the longest they’ve ever done it. In Huxley’s Brave New World all humans (except savages) are grown in test tubes and designed for their future jobs by skilled workers. We can now grow clones that, while they aren’t perfect, can live. For the time being, test tube babies are simply a very remote possibility.
Programming Humans – a toss-up
Huxley imagined his future society would control its populace by repeating certain phrases and sentences to sleeping children. They would internalize these phrases and, in turn, live by them. Since our children live in our homes, there’s no way such a nefarious plot could succeed — but isn’t this goal what John Dewey hoped to accomplish with public education?
I supposed Huxley didn’t imagine his future society all that well. Of course, it’s only 2017….