Books I’ve Read: Brave New World Revisited

I first read Brave New World by Aldous Huxley as a junior in high school. I was the only person in my class who absolutely loved it. I thought everything about it was fascinating. This was a world where everything we had ever learned to be taboo was completely acceptable and even encouraged– sex, drugs, designer babies, and mass discrimination, all under governmental control. I was floored. And I was extremely disappointed when we had to write a paper on Lord of the Flies instead. Yes, yes, the conch is a symbol of innocence and when it breaks, it signifies that their innocence has been lost. Groundbreaking.

I did enjoy reading the latter novel, but something about Huxley’s dystopia has stuck with me all these years. Occasionally, I’ll read an article about a scientific breakthrough or global leadership and see a scene from Brave New World in my mind. Talk about doing your job well.

But this isn’t about the original story, it’s about the author’s reflections decades later on if and how any parts of his creation are coming true. I saw it in a bookstore, Brave New World Revisited, and just had to buy it. After sitting on my shelf for a couple years, I’ve finally gotten through it. And once again, I am floored.

In Revisited, Huxley talks a great deal about dictatorships, propaganda, and controlling the population, themes that were laid on heavy in his novel. With these reflections, he has now seen the Great Depression, the rise and fall of Hitler and Mussolini as well as other dictators, and two World Wars; a second “police action” in full swing and civil unrest over Vietnam; and culture changing drastically with the Civil Rights Movement, the rise of “hippie culture” (in this case meaning drugs), and tremendous technological and medical advances– including birth control. Many parts of this landscape are the same factors that lead to the disturbing society of Brave New World.

This short but very heavy read is frighteningly relevant even today. More than anything, his analysis of how dictators (though really anyone in power or who would like to be) utilize media and language to gain, inspire, and mobilize followers against a perceived enemy makes me look at the current socio-political climate of the United States and shudder. Something written five decades ago with Adolf Hitler as the poster child for population manipulation should not be a reflection of current events, but as it stands in my eyes, this is the case.

I enjoyed reading how the author perceived his vision to be right or wrong, and the ways he worked in various philosophical and scientific ideas to support his analyses. More than anything, I was intrigued and a little scared at how science fiction of the past is slowly morphing into our present and future. There are definitely times where I wish we would consider the fiction of yesterday a warning against tomorrow. But alas, we do not seem to make the connection.

Would I recommend this book? On its own, likely not. But if you start with the novel, the essay is brilliant.



Young Adulthood Angst

This is most likely the shortest post I will ever write. And the whiniest. But these things need to be said, need to get out of my head and out of the way of my inspiration (and sleep).

Right now, I am simply frustrated. Frustrated by the newspaper. Frustrated with the Catholic Church and other opponents of free contraception for all. Frustrated with those against gay rights here in America and those against other human rights around the world. Frustrated with the state of the economy. And simply annoyed with politics– I’m tired of hearing about the election.

I’m angry with myself. I’ve let school become stressful because I get distracted too easily. I procrastinate like no one else, and need to fix that. I ignore my goals and slip right back into bad habits. I missed the deadline by a few hours on my first article for the student newspaper because I didn’t start working on it the second I got the lead. Of course, they still haven’t released the issue with that article in it, which adds to this mass of aggravation. And I’ve missed my personal blogging deadline.

I’m tired of putting effort into people and places that don’t return the favor. I’m tired of being told I’m too young, I’m too female, I’m too easily offended, I’m too hyper, too tired, too passionate, too quiet, too me. I’m tired of bothering other people for rides, tired of depending on other people for things I should be able to do myself– I’m not patient enough right now to appreciate the fact that soon that won’t be the case.

And right now, the most frustrating thing in my life is the fact that I can’t even open the window to get some fresh air and clear my mind. Because if I do that, it will simply get hotter in my dorm, though the heat is already on full blast.

This delightful cup of spiced chai tea is helping. And so is the Partridge Family (thank you, Pandora). A deep breath, a good night’s sleep. Things will look better in the morning.