Brave New World

A sillier dystopian society than North Korea.

“‎"But that's the price we have to pay for stability. You've got to choose between happiness and what people used to call high art. We've sacrificed the high art.”

Mustapha Mond says this to John in an effort to explain that Shakespeare and literature in general have no place in a perfect society. John contests that there's nothing of greater value or pleasure than Shakespeare in Mond's society. Mond disagrees, claiming that art and the like only bring thoughts and contemplation and, as a result, misery. One of the main points of this new society is that is relinquishes such art for contentment and comfort. Compare this to present-day society, in which the population constantly chooses the freedom of thought and contemplation over guided contentment and guaranteed happiness.

Dystopian Ignorance

A dystopian society is marked by many defining characteristics. They are often ruinous, oppression and terror are widespread, and hopelessness is commonplace. However, there is one characteristic that is more subtle. The populations of dystopian societies are often forced into believe nothing is wrong, or genuinely can’t see a flaw in their ways of life. At first glance, this doesn’t sound like something that could describe present-day American society. But upon further examination, evidence of this trait can be seen more and more throughout today’s world. Though, many people rarely even take notice. A progressive society, in order to function as well as possible for its inhabitants, must focus time and effort into the elements of the structure that keep it up and running. Some examples are institutions like a government for order and public education systems to boost the population’s intelligence. Although America has both of these, there are related unresolved issues that are regressive to society, yet are rarely widely addressed. For example, according to the Huffington post, 32 million adults, which is 14 percent of the US population, cannot read (Crum). Yet, no one in America would dream of their neighboring revealing that they are illiterate. People would scoff at the notion. But it’s very real, and quite serious. In this supposed advanced society, over a tenth of its people simply are not literate. This seems like an issue that should not only be widely addressed, but taken very seriously. Still, many would be surprised to know this statistic, and probably would not have heard much about the issue previously. Even further, much of the illiterate population is so embarrassed by their illiteracy that they fear actually finding help and fixing the problem. A truly advanced society would not only most likely not have this issue, but would be actively taking steps to cure it, rather than ostracizing those it afflicts. Despite the severity of the issue, that statistic has actually been constant for the past ten years (Crum). So, why is this issue so underground? What is occurring that is keeping attention and effort away from this problem and others like it? Well, the dystopian ignorance of such matters comes from all of the distractions present in this supposed modern and progressive society. Instead of focusing on what will be the best for everyone, the nation is often concerned with its majority’s own immediate interest. Many would jump to disagree, citing all of the programs and processes that exist to make sure everyone has as fair a chance as possible to get ahead. What they would not do, however, is compare the price of Peyton Manning’s salary to that of say, a schoolteacher. For the year 2014, Manning’s salary has been cleared to rise to 20 million dollars (Jones). The common schoolteacher’s is dwarfed in comparison. However, it’s not a mystery as to why this is. Most people would probably know that this is because Manning is a professional athlete, and athletes make great amounts of money for numerous businesses. Most would also claim that this is a regular trait of a healthy economy and there’s nothing about it to cause worry. But is it not worrisome that a country is funneling such huge amounts of money into commercialism while the public education system is financially left in the dust? Could there not be a connection between the imbalance of focus of resources and the illiteracy rate of the country? It appears rather likely. Still, how many people in the country today will buy tickets to a football game? The argument cannot be made that society is choosing this fate for itself because the society never had the choice in the first place. It all comes down to who grabs a citizen’s attention first, and commercialism grabs much more attention from a much larger percentage of the population than awareness of public education and illiteracy. The most noticeable problem with the theory that American society is dystopian because of wide-spread ignorance and opinion manipulation is the common idea that Americans are free, so they cannot be controlled as long as they have their power of choice. But the presumption is that the people have choice, which they actually do not. The amount of exposure that the government and businesses put nationally into consumerism and commercialistic ideals simply trumps the notion that awareness will be a large enough force to contest that. There doesn’t seem to be a real-world example of soma at first thought, when in reality soma is just the instinct society has developed to become aware of issues and problems, but ignore them for more pleasant thoughts.

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“The Savage nodded, frowning. "You got rid of them. Yes, that's just like you. Getting rid of everything unpleasant instead of learning to put up with it. Whether 'tis better in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows or outrageous fortune, or to take arms against a sea of troubles and by opposing end them...But you don't do either. Neither suffer nor oppose. You just abolish the slings and arrows. It's too easy."

In the novel, this quote takes place during the intense debate between Mustapha Mond and the Savage. Mond has been contesting many of John's arguments and complaints with the fact that there's no reason to complain in this new civilization; everything is taken care of for everyone. John bitterly retorts that of course it is. He believes everything is far too simple and therefore meaningless. Because John grew up with literature, this civilization of suppressed emotion and thought is alien to him. He wants the people around him to start actually thinking and feeling for themselves, instead of following the rest of society's example. His words come from Hamlet, during a scene in which Hamlet is contemplating his own suicide. He is struggling to decide whether or not it is worth bearing the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune and taking up arms against a sea of troubles, when nobody else in the society seems to think anything is wrong. Though Hamlet is wrought with confusion and anger, everyone else has accepted his uncle's rule and does not wish to see anything wrong with the situation. So, he feels alone in his enormous struggle. This particular quotation from John is so fitting because of the similarities between himself and the character it comes from. John's problems are essentially Hamlet's; he's filled with passion and emotion, but has no one around him that can even slightly relate to him. John, like Hamlet losing his will to continue living, can feel his resolve to change this society slipping, as hardly anyone else wants it changed.

GMO Stance

The majority of the American population seems to not be taking kindly to GMOs. In fact, fifty-three percent of the population stated that they would not buy products that they knew were GMOs (A Collaborative Initiative). However, when looking at the facts, I don’t see much of a reason for such widespread skepticism. Realistically, unbiased from what the majority of the population thinks, I don’t have any issue with the creation or use of GMOs. It’s understandable that people would be so skeptical, though. The thought of tampering with life and creation is naturally foreign in an almost science-fiction to most people. It’s the kind of idea you see prominently in movies, and such ideas are often difficult to accept when they occur in real life. Some people probably even have religious biases against it. However, GMOs have actually been around for the past twenty years. Actually, seventy to eighty percent of the food we eat today contains at least ingredients that have been genetically modified in some way (The Facts About GMO). If there was actually a huge issue with the process, after 20 years, it’s taking quite a long time for the effects to show up. Still, over sixty countries around the world don’t consider GMOs safe and have multiple bans and restrictions on them (A Collaborative Initiative.). This is why I believe much of the negative response towards the subject might be based on influenced personal opinions rather than fact. For example, Many of the most influential regulatory agencies and organizations that study the safety of the food supply, including the U.S. Food & Drug Administration, the American Medical Association, the World Health Organization, Health Canada, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the National Academy of Sciences, have found genetically modified food ingredients are safe and there are no negative health effects associated with their use (The Facts About GMO). So, even though the citizen population is not easily swayed, the officials, whose actual job it is to make these determinations, think GMOs are totally fine to expand upon. It makes much more sense to me to trust the people getting paid to make these decisions, rather than the worries of an uninformed neighbor. Also, One in eight people among the world’s growing population of seven billion do not have enough to eat, and safe and effective methods of food production, like crops produced through GM technology, can help us feed the hungry and malnourished in developing nations around the world (The Facts About GMO). So, not only would bias restrict how much we can learn about genetic modification, we’d lose the practical uses of feeding the people who need the food the most. All in all, I just find more sense in supporting GMOs than being against them.

John in the present-day United States.

I actually believe John would thrive in our current American society. This is mainly because of the presence of computers and the internet. Although American society is far from perfect, and actually contains a few identical traits to the dystopia of Brave New World, the fact that John would have all the information he could ever want and connection to anyone in any part of their world means he'd have absolutely no problem getting all of his ideas and opinions and emotions out, he'd easily find many others who feel like him. This is exactly what he lacked in Brave New World; someone to identify with. As for his event, John would likely pull a page out of the first philosophers' book and hold vinegar tastings. They seem to fit his style; having a bunch of people gathered together, purposefully talking about unpleasant or negative topics and leaving bad tastes in their mouths, all for the emotion and passion that would take place. As for his guests, he'd likely invite a bunch of people via the internet to meet in the woods (a romantic, naturalistic setting) every week for his little gathering. Although that sounds much more sinister than I'm sure he'd intend, I'm also sure people would still show up.

Works Cited

"A Collaborative Initiative." The NonGMO Project RSS. N.p., n.d. Web. 04 Mar. 2014.

Crum, Maddie. "The U.S. Illiteracy Rate Hasn't Changed In 10 Years." The Huffington Post., 06 Sept. 2013. Web. 05 Mar. 2014.

"The Facts About GMO." The Facts About GMO. N.p., n.d. Web. 04 Mar. 2014.

Huxley, Aldous. Brave New World. New York: Harper & Bros., 1946. Print.

Sports, Lindsay H. Jones. "Peyton Manning Passes Physical, Guaranteeing $20M Broncos Salary in 2014." USA Today. Gannett, 03 Mar. 2014. Web. 07 Mar. 2014.