Sunday, July 11, 2010

My Issues and Agreements with Aldous Huxley's Brave New World

The novel Brave New World by Aldous Huxley is a story about a utopia (or dystopia) in which people are decanted instead of born, where there are five different castes in which people are predestined to enter and stay their entire lives in. This world is one of efficiency, of stability, and most importantly of the inability to think for one's self and to decide. It is one of (in my opinion) three "utopian" novels, the other two being 1984 by George Orwell and Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. It deals with a vision in which society will be completely desensitized because of the onslaught of technology.

I have several issues with some of the ideas that Huxley proposes in his novel. The first is how polyamory vs. monogamy is viewed in the said society. For happiness' sake, the painful wait that one had to go through to know whether his love wanted him or not was abolished. If one wanted another, one could have him by knowing that nobody was nobody's, or rather that everyone belonged to everyone else. At one point, one of the main characters, Lenina has been dating a man for four months, when her friend, Fanny, exclaims that such a thing is a really unhealthy thing to do since it's not socially accepted. This situation puts a horrid twist on romantic relationships. By portraying a world in which you can choose to have sex with anyone you want, Huxley portrays a world of absolutely no choice-you must have sex with more than one person, and frequently, or you are considered a freak. My problem with this is how Huxley envisions polyamory. It's not about "everyone belonging to everyone else" at all. Everyone belongs to themselves. The only difference is that instead of having a relationship with one person at a time, it's more than one. Polyamory doesn't just mean "Oh, so if I want to fuck that chick and I want to fuck that other chick too, I can". You can, but that doesn't mean they want to. And that's called rape, and rape is bad.The basis of a relationship is not just having someone sexually. It's also having someone emotionally. The loophole in Huxley's theory is that even if you make everyone available sexually (somehow, magically, the concept of rape doesn't exist), it doesn't mean that they're available. Think about it. If your boyfriend cheats on you, and you are angry, why are you angry? Is it because he had a sexual affair with someone else? Is it because he literally put his penis in her vagina? Is that what's angering you so much? No. What's angering you is the fear that you have that he might actually have emotional feeling for that other woman because of his action towards her. You are angry and fearful because if he does feel something towards her, that might mean that he doesn't feel anything towards you anymore, so he will leave you. You may also be angry because he betrayed your trust. All of this is not sexual at all, it's emotional. It's not really about the sex at all. It's about what may come with it. In a romantic relationship, emotions are highly tied in with the act of sex. Huxley destroys the ability to have a meaningful relationship with anyone by eradicating emotion in order to make everyone happy so they don't have to suffer feeling the stress and pain of that emotion, which leaves only hook-ups and friends with benefits. What's left is the sexual desire. And sexual desire is usually not monogamous. So basically, if you have a relationship that is full with emotion and sex, that's a-okay. If you take away the emotion, you're left with sex. People usually want to have sex with more than one person if the emotional connection is taken away. There's not just one attractive person in the world. So there you go. You've got polyamory.

Wrong. Polyamory is not just about the sex. It's also about the emotion. It's not based on sex at all. It's based on the emotion, just like monogamy is. There is jealousy in poly relationships, just like there is in mono ones. They are not shallow and sex-filled, they are just as painful, stressful, and unstable as monogamous ones.

Which takes me to my next point: sex. In this "brave new world", children are precocious and frequently play erotic games. They are taught about sex from a young age, which would be a good and great thing in this present world. However, in Huxley's vision of the future, sex is only a game. After Lenina decides to start dating another man, the one she picks is disappointed that they had sex on the first date. He insists that they "went to bed infants-instead of being adults and waiting." She asks him if it wasn't fun though, and he replies "Oh, the greatest fun." My question is, if children are taught about sex and are allowed to explore their own bodies and know the risks and dangers of it, does that mean that the act is childish? If teenagers nowadays are having sex with condoms and on birth control, does that mean that it's bad? (Of course, this is in Huxley's world, not in ours.) Of course it does! We should wait for...what? Marriage? No, because one can't marry in that world, monogamy isn't really allowed. So what should they wait for? The sky to fall? That sounds like a good idea. I would understand why it would be infantile to engage in the act of sex if children didn't understand what sex was, got pregnant, and then had to get abortions behind their parents' back for fear of angering not only the wrath of God, but the wrath of the whip also. Also, they should only save their virginity until marriage wait, that only happens today? Sorry. Because you know, in a society where children are taught about the consequences and know how to protect themselves, that would actually be a healthy society. Not in Huxley's mind, though. Another thing. Why can't sex be fun? What is it supposed to actually be like? Oh. Right. Full of emotion. And since emotion doesn't exist, that's just not possible.

I have a motto about sex: Sometimes sex is just sex, and sometimes it's something more. Hook-ups and friends with benefits are perfectly fine. Having relationships where sex is tied in with emotion is also fine. Guess what. Both are perfect and having the choice to choose which one you want would actually be the utopia. There is nothing wrong with only having sex for the fun of it. The world will not turn into Huxley's nightmare because people are being a little less conservative and having a bit more fun than usual. However, with that fun and with the increasing amount of sex comes a knowledge and a protection that his nightmare actually had. (One point to the author). The one thing about sex that society must be careful about is informing and protecting. That is all. There will always be those who want to have deep relationships and there will always be those who won't. With the choice to choose, there will always be a balance. I also don't believe that engaging in casual sex decreases the value of the act of sex itself. However, that is for another long-due post. Raincheck.

However, I do agree with the conversation that the Savage has with Mustapha Mond about religion. Mond says that "God isn't compatible with machinery and scientific medicine and universal happiness. You must make your choice. Our civilization has chosen machinery and medicine and happiness." The irony is that there was no choice made. There was no decision to get rid of God. And there's absolutely nothing wrong with making that long as you actually make it. The Savage asks "But isn't it natural to feel there's a God?" "You might as well ask if it's natural to do up one's trousers with zippers...People believe in God because they've been conditioned to believe in God." To me, it doesn't matter what's natural and what's not. It's what's right and what's truth and what's not. What's natural is not necessarily what is true. And personally, I don't believe that there would be a better world without belief in a god. I just believe that it would be one if people weren't so sure that this god of theirs condones homophobia, misogyny, war in the name and/or because of religion, and various other concepts that are truly immoral. I think this world could use a little shaking up of ideals and values. And I honestly think that if you did that, the world wouldn't become devoid of emotion, it wouldn't become immoral, and it wouldn't become one without choice. It would just become one with less issues.

The major idea I do agree with Huxley on is that lack of choice makes for a horrible society. You have to have the ability to choose where your life goes, not be predestined in a caste or looked down upon because you believe in something else. There must be a bit more tolerance and acceptance in this world for opposing beliefs and the ability to choose between them. Monogamy nor polyamory is bad, they're just different ways of conducting a relationship. Having fun in sex is not bad, nor is viewing it as a highly emotional concept. Just know what could come of it and use precautions. And religion isn't really all that bad. Just calm down a little. The world won't blow up if you let gays marry or adopt. And the world won't blow up if you let your women have equal rights. It'll just become a bit better.

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