Here are some thoughts on Huxley’s dystopian (utopian?) vision in relation to our world, provided by Matthew Polinski:
In lecture Dan mentioned Huxley’s (or someone else’s?) ideas on repressed societies. It was mentioned that Huxley posited repressed societies do not notice how repressed they are, or maybe that they are at all repressed. Brave New World certainly has a repressed population. How repressed are we in Canada and Western Society as a whole? Do we notice it?
While reading Brave New World a certain passage connected in my mind to an article I had read on a recent current event. In lecture this connection grew deeper roots. Here is the passage from Brave New World and the passages from the article that made me consider repression in our society that may: (a) Be noticeable; (b) Be right under our nose–perhaps we can even smell it but do not ever take clear look at it and consider it; (c) we may not sense our repression at all or that we willingly concede it.
“In the end,” said Mustapha Mond, “the Controller’s realized that force was no good. The slower but infinitely surer methods of ectogenesis, neo-Pavlovian, conditioning and hypnopaedia…” (Huxley 43, Polinski’s emphasis)
In “Unmournable Bodies,” published in the wake of the Paris attacks earlier this month, Teju Cole writes
Rather than posit that the Paris attacks are the moment of crisis in free speech—as so many commentators have done—it is necessary to understand that free speech and other expressions of liberté are already in crisis in Western societies…. The U.S., the U.K., and France approach statecraft in different ways, but they are allies in a certain vision of the world…. Heresies against state power are monitored and punished. People have been arrested for making anti-military or anti-police comments on social media in the U.K. Mass surveillance has had a chilling effect on journalism and on the practice of the law in the U.S. Meanwhile, the armed forces and intelligence agencies in these countries demand, and generally receive, unwavering support from their citizens. (Cole n.p., Polinski’s emphases, Dan’s ellipses)
Cole, Teju. “Unmournable Bodies.” The New Yorker, 9 Jan. 2015. Web. 22 Jan. 2015.
Huxley, Aldous. Brave New World. Toronto: Vintage, 2007 .
(Dan here again. Matt draws interesting and provocative connections between the practice of conditioned docility in Huxley and surveillance in today’s secular democracies (among other states). What do you think of this comparison? Is it fair? It is accurate? What is the link, if any, between “unwavering support” from the citizenry and surveillance on those very same citizens by their government? How is this acceptance bought or, if you prefer, sold? To bring back a question I asked in the first lecture: is our society closer to Huxley’s or to Orwell’s in 1984? Or are both comparisons unhelpful? If so, what future fiction better approximates our present?)