In II Corinthians 11:13-14, Paul warns mankind against “false apostles, deceitful workers, masquerading as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light.” This Biblical quotation perfectly embodies the predicament of the characters in Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. In Ford’s utopian-esque world order, the leaders of society have bought into the false hope of embedding absolute peace throughout the framework of civilization. Subsequently, they devote their lives to the reconstruction of society, using any and all means necessary to see their plan succeed and therefore portray a classic dystopian scenario (Sisk, 2019). Huxley’s writing in Brave New World, though partially exaggerated, allows the audience to reflect on elements of the modern world such as propaganda, humanism, morality, use of narcotics, and insipid entertainment, thereby showing the decline of society through an attempt to perfect it.
When reading the novel, the reader must come to understand that some of the events exist as hyperbole, so they don’t completely align with reality. For example, despite the depictions in Brave New World, the general populace still admires and places great value on the importance of loving romantic relationships, and viviparous birth continues to exist as the standard avenue for human copulation. Capitalist countries still permit workers to climb the ranks of career fields and social standing, communities continue to view diversity as a virtue, and countless numbers of people face sadness and heartache throughout portions of their lives. Simply put, even though some messages in Huxley’s novel do not accurately reflect the current world, the audience can still discern the truth which exists as a warning within the dystopian-themed story.
Possibly the most widespread connection to modern civilization in Brave New World comes through the World Order’s use of propaganda that plagues the social classes by transforming its citizens into mindless, preconditioned robots. One connection from the indoctrination seen in the novel to that of today’s society exists in the conditioning of the youth. When Linda explains her methods of raising her son John to Bernard, she states that “it wasn’t [her] business to know [general knowledge]… [When] a child asks … how a helicopter works or who made the world — … what [can she] answer if [she is] a Beta and [has] always worked in the fertilizing room?” (Huxley, 1932, p. 122). Since the purpose of humans in the society of Brave New World abides in carrying out the jobs assigned to each person, there exists no reason for the citizens to know any more than absolutely necessary. Because of this, the population lacks a strong understanding of any important issue outside of their scope of training.
A comparative mindset has infiltrated the American education sector, with supporters advocating for public school students to learn only the topics that will benefit them most in their prospective careers (Thomas, 2016, p. 4). Brian Shumate, the Medford school system Superintendent and an ardent supporter of these so-called career pathways, advocates for this course configuration so that “instead of kids taking a random set of elective [and core] courses [in high school], [they can] take a focused set of courses in an area that interests them.” Therefore, if a student wishes to become a doctor, he can take medical classes instead of a four-year fine arts program and a senior year history class, and if a student wishes to become a musician then he can be exempt from a fourth year of higher math, history, and science. In response to questioning, Shumate states, “if [one wants] to fix the graduation rate, [he has] to make the high school experience relevant.” Even though career pathways, resembling the predestination system in Brave New World, seem beneficial in preparing students for a future job, these programs completely undermine the purpose of high school: to raise up citizen-leaders by training well-rounded students who can think critically about the world around them. If a whole generation matures knowing only what will benefit them most in their future careers, then civilization will take another step in the direction of the novel. Similarly what happens in Brave New World, eloquent politicians can easily subjugate the uninformed citizen voters and, by giving the shrewd this power, society unknowingly sentences itself to a life void of personal freedom.
With more than just planned career pathways, school systems around the world have a tremendous impact on the formation of upcoming generations. According to Times writer Elizabeth Dias, the American education system begins impacting the youth early on in the brain’s formative years, with “nearly two-thirds of mothers with children under age 6” sending their children off to daycare programs during the week. In addition, as journalist Simon Jenkins explains, primary and secondary schools of China “line up 100 15-year-olds and drill math into them for [much of the] day” (Bolton, 2015, p. 6). Like in the society in Brave New World, largely government-controlled education systems possess great preeminence in the lives of students; thus, powerful bureaucracies have the power to indoctrinate youth to fit molds of what they consider as socially appropriate, which is often-leftist mindsets. For example, in the United States, a standard American history class in a public school has slowly transitioned into a beacon for politically-correct and anti-Western heritage information. In 2015, Oklahoma State Representative Dan Fisher exposed the AP College Board’s anti-American bias and threatened to rid the Oklahoma public school system of the AP U.S. History course after the College Board publishes “a revised [course] framework that harps on ‘what is bad about America’ and fails to teach ‘American exceptionalism’” (Conway, 2015, p. 8). Just as schools in Huxley’s novel taught students a single perspective on topics such as sexual morality, American schools give students a single viewpoint on fundamental subjects such as American heritage. In effect, the education sector has the power to sway the way the youth view certain topics and consequently construct a politically-correct society where only a single, centralized worldview exists. By indoctrinating the younger generations into thinking a certain way about debatable issues, the now-omnipotent leaders of society are able to stay in power, free from the worry of uprisings against their policies and platform agendas. In other words, according to journalist Michael Conway, the leaders of education know that to keep like-minded politicians in power, it would benefit them for citizens to “avoid pursuing truth for the sake of satisfying… national [myths]”.
In our modern era, a school’s dominion over its students’ lives parallels the education system presented in Huxley’s novel. With its rigorous schedule, school exists as little less than a home away from home, as shown when the novel states that “rosy and relaxed with sleep, eighty little boys and girls lay softly breathing” in a classroom (Huxley, 1932, p. 27). Subsequently, assuming the role of parents in a home, the educators in the futuristic school system attempt to teach their students right and wrong, both in actions and in thought. One such example deals with the presentation of those who continue to live life in isolated communities apart from the mainstream society. When Bernard and Lenina decide to visit one such community, they have to symbolically pass over an isolation fence and travel across a “frontier[, both of which separate] civilization from savagery” (Huxley, 1932, p. 105). Like in the modern-day world, society attempts to wall off those with conflicting and so-called dangerous viewpoints in order to protect the propagandized social balance. As shown when Democrat Presidential Nominee Hillary Clinton states that “half of Donald Trump’s supporters belong in a ‘basket of deplorables’ characterized by ‘racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, [and] Islamaphobic’ views” (Reilly, 2016, p. 23) due to their support for a southern border wall, those who neglect to fall in line with political correctness are condemned as figurative savages.
Another connection between the novel and reality is the praise society gives to a humanistic lifestyle. When Lenina and Bernard discuss their ideas of passion while aboard Bernard’s helicopter, Lenina advises to “never put off till to-morrow the fun [one] can have today” (Huxley, 1932, p. 93). This humanistic motto perfectly embodies the hedonistic mindset of today’s youth. Just as Lenina transforms Benjamin Franklin’s famous aphorism into a hedonistic statement, pleasure-seekers within the American youth transform their idea of fun to include hedonistic aspects once labeled immoral. According to New York University sex researcher Zhana Vrangalova, in 2016, “eighty percent of college students [have sex] outside committed relationships,” stemming from “increasingly lax social mores,” a normalization of “alcohol-fuelled parties,” and the general acceptance of “potentially violent frat culture” by American college students (Konnikova, 2016, p. 16). Modern-day society continues to place great emphasis on Epicurean ideals of self-pleasure and the “virtue” of twisting good judgement to fulfill fleshly desires, and doing so takes away emphasis on morality (Holmes, 2019, p. 1); just as in Brave New World, the “bread and circuses” mentality sweeping America leaves the population in moral and intellectual complacency, setting their minds on an unattainable life of pure bliss.
Just as in Brave New World, the widespread use and acceptance of drugs in America represents another facet of the humanist mindset embedded within modern culture. When Bernard and John discussed societal issues with Western Europe World Controller Mustapha Mond, Mond explains that due to the evolved state of his civilization, if “anything unpleasant should somehow happen [to a citizen],… [there is] always soma to give [that person] a holiday from the facts” (Huxley, 1932, p. 238). Drawing parallels with modern culture, the citizens of the World Order continually search for a shield from reality so that they can abide in a state of everlasting contentment. This so-called snowflake mentality has the power to create gritless societies out of even the most industrious segments of the world, and it has likewise begun to affect America. As Republican Jeb Bush pointed out during his 2016 Presidential Campaign, “a large number of Americans, white as well as black, are choosing not to work, because they can live lives of leisure thanks to government programs” (Krugman, 2015, p. 2). Because this demographic has the key to slothfulness given to them, whether it be through government handouts or the euphoria created from illicit drugs, the lazy willfully take part in finding an out to life’s hardships instead of facing them. However, when larger issues arise, those in Brave New World transition to higher doses and citizens of modern society increasingly subsist on the more powerful, mind-altering substances. It was reported that “the land used to grow [cocaine and heroin in Columbia exceeded] 422,550 acres by the end of 2017” (Casey, 2018, p. 6), but when even the effects of cocaine are not enough, addicts turn to fentanyl, which “is around 50 times stronger than [its counterpart] heroin,” with “some new strains [being] up to 10,000 times stronger” (Connolly, 2018, p.1). Unwilling to view their actions as harmful, inhabitants of both societies decide to continue living in blissful ignorance of their ongoing plight, and eventually turn themselves into little more than those chasing the shadow of absolute serenity.
As part of the cultural shift described in Brave New World, many inhabitants of the new World Order increasingly advocate for insipid forms of entertainment. One such example, the “feelies” transitions the purpose of its productions away from complex plots as it tries to satisfy the shallow desires of the viewer. When Lenina takes John to one such feely, John comments that “the plot of the film [is] extremely simple” since it relies on sensations rather than a normal storyline (Huxley, 1932, p. 168). Similarly, modern movie producers capitalize on the shallow, base desires of their audience by releasing films such as the Saw series, The Ex List, Red, Bruno, and My Best Friend’s Wife. The producers realize that, unlike in previous eras, modern-day society places a higher value in intense action, violence, and sex scenes than in actual meaning behind the storyline; therefore, being capitalist, the production companies satiate the requests for vapid entertainment and consequently act as catalysts for the degredation of intellectualism.
In particular, the violence presented within modern entertainment gathers a widespread following, just as violence also intrigues those in Brave New World. In the novel, when word spreads of John committing self-harm in a location secluded from civilization, the populace of New London flocks to his outpost to see the spectacle for themselves. Upon finding him, “in unison, and on a slow, heavy rhythm, [the crowd chants] ‘We — want — the whip … We — want — the whip’” (Huxley, 1932, p. 256). The sanguinous desire of the mob mentality reflects the ignoble mindset of a utopianistic society devoid of a moral compass, and directly correlates to the thirst for blood in movies, shows, and video games that plagues much of the modernized world. As reporter Scott Bonn comments, the emphasis on violence within entertainment “almost always [involves] one particular type of crime: murder. Often, too, the focus is on exotic, bizarre and especially grisly or disturbing incidents of murder” (2016, p. 23). Lusting after fleshly desires, people throughout the world have begun to embrace themes of violence and brutality in the entertainment industry, allowing governments to assume the role of an omnipotent savior and gain control of the populus, such as what happens in Brave New World.
Through Huxley’s writing in Brave New World, the audience can reflect on elements of the modern world such as propaganda, humanism, morality, use of narcotics, and insipid entertainment, thereby showing the decline of society through an attempt to perfect it. Even though there exist some discrepancies between modern-day society and that of the World Order, the novel still presents its details as a warning to the reader. By trying to create a utopianistic world, the elites attempt to control every aspect of human life, putting themselves in a God-like authority and consequently helping bring about the downfall of the world once cherished. The beginning of the end of societies across the globe, from the Roman Empire to the Greek City-State to the Han Dynasty, is always signified by the degradation of the line separating right from wrong; once this line is blurred, it becomes difficult to ever transition back.