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To What Extent Can True Happiness Be Possible With Limited Freedom? (Brave New World)

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Category: Book Reports

Autor: anton 19 March 2011

Words: 1682 | Pages: 7

Imagine, you were talking to your best friend about how you were feeling that day, and some how the word got to your boss about you are being too emotional outside of work hours, and you are now about to be send to an island with “like-minded” people. The last thing you feel is happy, but you are not allowed to be unhappy, because you grew up without this emotion, so instead you inject pills to better your mood. This is the environment that Aldous Huxley presents in Brave New World, a futuristic society where humans are bred in bottles and have been manipulated to fit a certain criteria, or “conditioned” from the time they are embryos. In this new society, emotions, religion and culture are sacrificed for social stability. People are not allowed any knowledge of the past, and everything is only explained to the most basic of truth. The freedoms we enjoy today are almost completely abolished. Naturally, we associate happiness with the ability to do whatever your want in life, so if we didn’t have this ability, can we still be happy in life? In the novel, it seems to be achievable on the surface, but when you look deeper, it shows that human beings respond to their environment in different ways. The reason that the citizens of this new society seem happy is a relative thing; they have little experience with mental pain. The society they live in is loveless, and they are rather unintelligent.

The citizens in the novel have been conditioned by the state ever since they were embryos. The state has manipulated every single aspect of development of these new babies, therefore, giving them every chance to build a “perfect” society. During the conditioning of these babies, the state got rid of mental pain altogether. These babies have no idea what pain actually is. However, you can ban the knowledge of pain, but you cannot ban the conditions that cause it. In the case of Bernard Marx, this condition came in the form of harassment about his physical appearance; and for Helmholtz Watson, it was finding life and work meaningless. These conditions are uncontrollable by any external force, and no matter how hard the state tries to eliminate the causes of pain, for example, making everyone look the same and fill the lives of these people with materialistic processions, it still does not account for one or two odd individuals. Also the state encourages many pointless activities to take the mind of its people off mental pain. One that I found to be the most interesting is being sexually promiscuous. In our current society, sex is a symbol of love and passion, and in this new society, it is almost a status symbol, which means, ultimately, it is a competition to see how many people you can sleep with. This is a genius way of making an activity of much pleasure so common, it is sure to distract the pain away from its people. I think that distraction is the key of making its citizens forget about their personal troubles, which would never make the citizens experience a true sense of unhappiness for a particularly long period of time. How could one understand something that one has never experienced? They cannot. Another way of escaping the negative aspect of life for the people of Brave New World was a drug named soma. This is somewhat an anti-depressant, which makes the users go on a temporary high. However, it is taken like a common food item, and everyone is encouraged to take it, and most people do, on a regular basis. Most people do find comfort in escaping real life for a short period of time, and gradually they become dependant to the drug, like the addicts we have today. Unable to deal with mental pain by themselves, they depend on the drug to make the pain go away. From my point of view, these people are fooling themselves into thinking that not being able to feel pain equals happiness, when true happiness is far from that. In this sense, the people of the Brave New World are very sheltered so that they could never experience pain. I personally think that true happiness is possible after one understand sorrow, because that is the only way that you can realize that you have to appreciate happiness so many more.

John, the “savage”, was provided as a different aspect of a changing society. He understands pain, suffering, and isolation, as he had much experience with the subject when he was younger and growing up on the reserve. Also he is the only one in the novel with a relative, his mother, which brings up the point, does family cause people to become more able to handle emotion? We saw that John valued his time with Linda, his mother, very much, and we could have concluded that he was happy when he was with his mother. I think the reason that the people of this new society are so cold, even if they were not conditioned is that there is a lack of love. We have all been loved by our parents, either we like to admit it or not. This love has made us more acceptable to other emotions, especially happiness. It is seen as dishonorable to have to do with anything associated with family, or parenthood. We see this when John greets the director as his “father”, the director put his hand over his ears, and he was extremely humiliated. If you take away one’s ability to love one’s own child, it is taking human instincts away from someone. I think this is one of the biggest sacrifices, and somewhat a weakness of this utilitarian utopia. Not only this, the ability to reproduce is also taken away by force; young women have their ovaries removed at a certain age to avoid pregnancy. This is taking the possibility of family love for these people. No matter how you love, it is a positive thing, and you are at your happiest when you are in love. Love is a way more powerful as an anti-depressant than any drug will ever be. Sexual intercourse can be a result of love, which definitely can produce happiness. However, in the novel, being sexually promiscuous is encouraged and taught at a young age but it is also a social norm. This, in a way, is limiting the freedom of choice, but instead, it is preventing the individuals spending a long period of time together, therefore, preventing the development of an actual relationship. Which means no one will be able to fall in love, therefore, no one will experience the joy of love.

One of the first things I noticed when I started to read the novel is that this new society is quite stupid, and extremely immature. From what I can gather, this is a result of the state trying to eliminate opposition, which can cause social instability. For example, this quote by the director of the fertilizing center is the representing attitude of the state, "Just to give you a general idea," he would explain to them. For of course some sort of general idea they must have, if they were to do their work intelligently–though as little of one, if they were to be good and happy members of society, as possible. For particulars, as every one knows, make for virtue and happiness; generalities are intellectually necessary evils. Not philosophers but fret-sawyers and stamp collectors compose the backbone of society.” This also had another effect on the society, the dimwitted individuals are much happier that those who are have more brainpower. For example, Helmholtz, and Bernard are two individuals that have express an intelligence level that is greater than the average citizen, but they both have experience mental pain. On the other hand, Lenina, who is rather obtuse, enjoys her life perfectly. This is very reasonable, for better or for worst, people that are considered to be intelligent think, and often over think. In the case of Bernard and Helmholtz, they slowly begin to wonder about their meaning in life. This is not encouraged by the sate or taught during conditioning, and we see that only the intelligent ones feels that they need more. This can lead to unhappiness quite easily as the individuals gradually becomes more unsatisfied. In our society today, these thought are very common, but since we have the freedom of speech, we are able to talk about it openly, either with a psychologist, or a friend who can make us feel better. However, the society in the Brave New World is a very restrictive about voicing your issues, causing these feelings to be confined to the individuals, which can lead to depression. On the other hand, characters like Lenina, who lives a simple life of work, play and lust, just does not have these sorts of trouble. I think I am really torn on this subject. It is very desirable to live in a state of mind that is so carefree, however, what is the point of living a pointless life? I think this is a factor of happiness that really depends on the individual, and they have the ability to choose which ever they want, and not be decided by the state.

Happiness is hard to obtain, even when you live in complete freedom. However, it is achievable with no freedom. It really depends on the individual’s point on life, and how they interact with it. If you can sit around doing drugs all day and be happy about your life, then it is your choice. Others want meaning and purpose to this one life that we have to live, and if they can be happy after they have found this purpose, by all means, do it. Even if the individuals of brave new world are loveless, unintelligent, or afraid of emotion, all because of a enforced societal norm created by an all powerful state, they can still find happiness in their own right.

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