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.

 

Books I’ve Read: 13 Reasons Why


I have a habit of adding books to my reading list and only getting around to them when someone decides to turn them into movies and tv shows. This is no exception. I heard about 13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher months ago on another WordPress blog (I would link, but I can’t for the life of me remember what blog it was!) and immediately added it to my growing list, then never picked up a copy. Fast forward to the future, and I finally got my hands on the book now that Netflix has made an original series out of it.

I have not watched the series. I wasn’t going to start until I finished the book. But I don’t know if I want to watch it now. I don’t think the series will be able to compete with the power of this book.

Synopsis: High school student Hannah Baker committed suicide. Before she did, she recorded 13 stories on tape and sent them posthumously to 13 people explaining how their words and/or actions contributed to her decision. Clay Jensen is on those tapes, but he has no idea why. And so he spends the night listening to this story to which he only knows the end, following the path that leads to it.

This story is dark. No ifs, ands, or buts about it. If you’ve ever been bullied, heard rumors, or really even gone to high school, this story might sound familiar. And that’s why it’s so powerful. Everything in it is real, plausible, believable, because these things have happened to us, or to someone we know, or we’ve read a news story or heard someone speak on the issues in this book. And while this story is set in high school, it could have happened in college, or at work, or across several settings. It’s relatable. And it hurts.

I will provide a trigger warning. If you have been bullied, or sexually assaulted or harassed, or are suicidal or know someone who is or has killed themselves, this book might not be for you. But it could be a good tool for reaching out to people, for helping them understand your struggle or the struggle of others, and just how impactful words and actions can be, long after the fleeting moments in which they occur.

Would I recommend this book? I cried and wanted to stop reading because it broke my heart, but I had to find out what was on those tapes. So yes, I think you should read it.

America Is Not Free.


I am a patriot. I love living under the Red, White, and Blue. I love patriotic marches and songs. I tear up at the great things America has been and done. I am grateful to the soldiers that sacrifice so much. I’m proud of the ideals and the opportunities and the liberties that we have represented to the world for so long.

That’s why it’s hurting so bad to be an American right now.

We loudly proclaim to be the land of freedom and opportunity, equality and diversity. Then what do we do? We call for illogical limitations or deregulations that end up hurting more than helping. We demand closed borders  and the deportation of “foreigners” and refuse to fund programs that aid and better our society. We want to unite as Elitist Patriarchical Vanilla Believers who don’t want to help anyone who can’t/won’t help themselves or don’t fit into the mold we’ve created. We claim this to be the vision of our founding fathers but we’ve twisted and corrupted it seemingly beyond repair.

We have liberties we can take advantage of. But we are not free.

Freedom would be a government and society that allowed everyone the complete control of our own bodies, free from criminalization or judgement of how it’s used or packaged. Freedom would be understanding, compassion, and respect for all human life, regardless of race, creed, gender, sexuality, education, or economic status. Freedom would be a system of green, sustainable practices which helped rather than harmed the planet. Freedom would be complete affordable access to education, healthcare, housing, and food and water for everyone. Freedom would be equal rights and opportunities and pay across all spectrums. Freedom would be the combination of empathy and knowledge in coming up with solutions rather than governing with greed and personal bias and reintroducing or creating more problems. Freedom is living completely without fear of discrimination, starvation, bankruptcy, homelessness, disease, violence, incarceration, or limitation.

True and complete freedom is Utopia, Eden before the Fall, the Marxist doctrine on paper, a post-apocolyptic society that has actually learned from the past, perfection that can never truly be reached.

But we could at least try. We could attempt to do what is right not from a religious or economic standpoint, but from a humanistic one. We could take care of people rather than criminilizing, marginalizing, or dehumanizing them. We could put our money toward better education, better health care, a better food industry, more renewable resources, and redistribute the wealth. Do we really need to spend billions of dollars on weapons and debates that lead nowhere, or worse, backwards? Is it really wise and equitable in the grand scheme of things to have resources and power controlled by such a small group as they are right now?

Call me a liberal, a dreamer, a hippie, delusional, blasphemous, whatever. But I think we can do better– at this point, that shouldn’t be surprising.

So tell me. What’s stopping us from being the America we were originally supposed to be? Why are we stopping ourselves from truly being the land of the free?