A Brave New World & Definitions of Utopia

βœ¨πŸ“– A Brave New World (1932) by Aldous Huxley πŸ“–βœ¨

I once heard a story about farm chicken that seemed very profound. Farm chicken have everything they could ask for. They’re tended to, they’re cared for. They have all the food and shelter a chicken could dream of. Yet try and let one out of their cage home for a bit, and you will see they will probably run around chasing freedom, reading to leave all the comforts of utopia behind.

What is it that the chicken really wants then? Having a utopian environment where all their needs are met, or having an imperfect but free life?

Which one do humans want?

Little read in the sun!

I think this chicken story helps me set the stage well for this book review (albeit, it’s been a while since I read it, and the notes aren’t as fresh this time around). A Brave New World is a dystopian futuristic novel from the 1930s, which is often clumped together with the likes of George Orwell’s 1984. Unlike the latter, however, A Brave New World depicts a more utopian future, without suffering, and (if I remember right) without surveillance. The old and the new are separated not by forceful censorship like in 1984, but by branding one side of things as ‘good and modern’ and the other as ‘backward and yucky’.

Though different, there is one essential element that I see ties all dystopian novels together: erasing private life. In 1984 this was done through mass surveillance. In A Brave New World, this is done through creating children via artificial insemination and conditioning educating them in separate facilities, away from any resemblance of ‘family’. The way I see it, and the way I understand portrayals of totalitarian regimes, this is always done so that the sole authority on morality for people becomes the ruling party. If you have only one authority, you will only obey that authority. If, on the other hand, you take a more balanced approach, to mixing up how you obey society, government, family and religious institutions, then that makes things a bit more difficult for totalitarian regimes.

So, what’s the lesson I take from A Brave New World? I think for me, it’s nurturing different layers of reality and making sure I keep my private space private and sacred. This means actively checking in with myself about whether what I do or think is influenced by the media and by my perception of what’s cool, or whether it’s something I genuinely like. This also means guarding a private space in my life that can exist in peace outside of these societal pressures, be it by spending time with family or close friends. And that, I would say is the definition of utopia.

How we define our perfect environment is really up to us to decide. For me, it’s not so much about having no suffering and an all-uniform experience in life. For me, utopia is very much about having space, space to think, to be and to breathe. I think we can all benefit from making some space for ourselves to be free.

Rrita


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