A Brave New World
Utopia or Dystopia?
Brave New World Quote and Explanation
This quote is uttered by Helmholtz during a conversation with Bernard, referring to his need for something more in life. Helmholtz has a large mental capacity, and he feels it is being wasted with the minimal expectations of society. He longs to make a difference, to pierce the world with his words and expose the shortcomings in the world. In dystopian society, words and books are heavily censured. Lower classes, specifically the Deltas, are conditioned to dislike books and reading. The knowledge that can be gained from reading books gives too much power, so it is heavily discouraged by society leaders. Without information from books, people have to believe whatever lies they are being fed, with no other information to be able to refute it. This is why, in America, slaves were forbidden to read, as the knowledge could have been used to rise up against leaders and secure their freedom. Words are powerful, whether used for good or bad.
Our Dystopian World
Technology has taken over our lives. Almost every task is done for us by some kind of machine, from washing laundry to communicating with friends. Everyday, new inventions are created to make our lives easier, and while the convenience is nice, it ultimately makes us even more dependent upon technology. If all technology stopped working, most people would be clueless and have no idea what to do. Cell phones are particularly important, providing different applications and instant communication with peers. Our modern society looks much like our ancestors predicted; the only thing missing from the picture is flying cars, and we're not too far off from those. Dystopias are controlled by technology, much like modern life. The dependency on innovations is one element that makes our society dystopian.
Another dystopian feature of our current world is the expectation of conformity ("Dystopias: Definitions and Characteristics," 2006). In modern society, everyone is expected to blend in, to not stand out from the crowd. Conformity is encouraged, with people who choose not to conform being ostracized and outcasted. This is especially true with young adolescents attending school. Everyone is expected to master the same material and learn in the same way, with standardized tests measuring levels of intelligence. Not everyone is good at the same things, but all are expected to succeed on the same tests or risk being labeled as a failure. In Brave New World, characters not conforming to societal standards are regarded cautiously, particularly Bernard and Helmholtz. Everybody is supposed to enjoy the same things and relish their predestined place in society. This expected conformity is a common element in dystopian literature and adds another facet to the argument for our world's nature.
A third characteristic of dystopias is the constant surveillance of citizens ("Dystopias: Definitions and Characteristics," 2006). The Patriot Act was passed following the events of 9-11 and was designed to provide the FBI a way to monitor possible terrorist activity online without obtaining a search warrant ("What is the USA Patriot Act," 2010). Although intended to keep America safe, this Act allows the government to see all online activity of citizens, taking away privacy. Edward Snowden recently caused an uproar with his releasing of classified documents from the NSA detailing all of the information collected from citizens, including phone tracking and internet activity (West). It is common in dystopian stories for the government to have constant surveillance of its citizens, tracking every move. While our world is not quite like this, the government has the power to track everyone if so desired. This unnerving fact gives greater sway in the argument that our society is a dystopia.
A typical dystopian society and our country share quite a few characteristics, some being expected conformity, constant surveillance, and dependency on technology. It is difficult to think of our society as dystopian, as the term is typically reserved for post-apocalyptic worlds in the future. The scariest thing about a dystopia is that the people often don't see the wrong in society; they remain blissfully ignorant to the true nature of their world as its all they have ever known. Our world could be a dystopia without our conscious awareness. The shared characteristics can speak for themselves.
"When he is drunk asleep, or in his rage/ Or in the incestuous pleasure of his bed..." (Hamlet III, iii)
The novel Brave New World contains many references and parallels to Shakespeare's works, including the above quote. John feels a deep connection with the character Hamlet, and finds inspiration from the story to try and kill Pope, one of his mother's many lovers. This connection between John and Hamlet is just surface level; there are other deeper connections. Both protagonists have had their fathers removed from their lives, with Hamlet's father murdered and John's father unknown until the near the end of the novel. Both also have incestuous mothers and dream of a world beyond their own. A difference between the two heroes is that Hamlet has the freedom to express himself, while John is restricted in his society as the stock of books is limited to ones approved by the government, which does not include Shakespeare. John and Hamlet were both incongruous with the worlds that they were born into, ultimately relinquishing their lives to search for happiness. The words in the world were not enough.
Argument For GMOs
When shopping in a grocery store nowadays, almost every food found in the produce aisle is a GMO. Genetically Modified Organisms are beings that have been genetically engineered to contain new characteristics not found in nature (Duvauchelle). GMOs have become increasingly common with scientific innovation, designed to be resistant to disease and grow in different climates. While there are a few drawbacks to the prominence of GMOs, they are doing more good for our world than harm.
One significant benefit of Genetically Modified Organisms is the ability to raise productivity ("Weighing the GMO Arguments: For," 2003). By genetically altering growing conditions and harvest yields for crops, farmers can use less land and gain more profit, benefiting the world economy. Crops previously able to grow only in specific climates can be changed to grow in other areas of the world, increasing food diversity in third world countries. The increased crop harvest and income for farmers helps the world economy and brings us one step closer to solving the problem of world hunger. Besides increasing profit and decreasing land use, genetically modified crops have longer shelf life, meaning that less food goes to waste due to spoilage. Improving the efficiency of farming has many benefits, helping the environment and the economy.
Another major benefit that comes from the usage of GMOs is a healthier environment ("Weighing the GMO Arguments: For," 2003). Plants' genetic makeup can be altered to make them insect resistant. This decreases the number of harmful pesticides sprayed into our environment, which are traditionally used to repel insects but are harmful to nature when spread. The reduced usage of pesticides not only reduces environmental harm, but also improves the health of farm workers worldwide. Pesticide, when ingested, are harmful to human health. The addition of an insect resistant gene does not harm consumer health; it helps the health of the world.
A third positive effect of Genetically Modified Organisms is the addition of more nutritious staple foods ("Weighing the GMO Arguments: For," 2003). By inserting genes into staple crops such as wheat and corn, we can not only increase their nutritional benefit, but also improve taste. Citizens of third world countries missing certain vitamins in their diets can receive such nutritional benefits from the foods that they were already eating. This will improve the health of citizens and reduce rampant disease worldwide.
The usage of GMOs is becoming more widespread for good reason: the positive effects outweigh the negative. Not only are Genetically Modified Organisms increasing the health and well being of populations, but they are also helping to protect the environment at the same time. As time passes and knowledge increases, more and more effective crops are being designed. We have the power to alter genes and characteristics; we may as well use it for the betterment of the world.
Dystopian Hero in Today's World
Friday, March 7th, 4-7pm
Forest Park, GA, United States, North America
Forest Park, GA
Duvauchelle, Joshua. "Pros & Cons of GMO Foods." Livestrong.com. Livestrong.com, 13 Jan. 2014. Web. 03 Mar. 2014.
"Dystopias: Definitions and Characteristics." International Reading Association, 2006. Web. 27 Feb. 2014.
Huxley, Aldous. Brave New World. New York: Harper & Bros., 1946. Print.
"Weighing the GMO Arguments: For." Weighing the GMO Arguments: For. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Mar. 2003. Web. 05 Mar. 2014.
West, Angus. "16 Disturbing Things Snowden Has Taught Us (so Far)." GlobalPost. Global Post, 9 July 2013. Web. 03 Mar. 2014.
"What Is the USA Patriot Act." What Is the USA Patriot Web. Department of Justice, 25 Oct. 2010. Web. 02 Mar. 2014.