“People are happy; they get what they want, and they never want what they can’t get. They’re well off; they’re safe; they’re never ill; they’re not afraid of death; they’re blissfully ignorant of passion and old age; they’re plagued with no mothers or fathers; they’ve got no wives, or children, or lovers to feel strongly about . . .”
~Mustapha Mond, Brave New World
One emotion. Happiness. At all costs. Would you forfeit your human rights, your free will, your creativity if you could feel happy all the time? How far would you go in the pursuit of constant happiness?
What stuck me the most about Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, is the concept of a society whose main goal is maintaining happiness. They believe happiness equals stability. And the World State takes furious measures to stay happy. Growing babies in hatcheries? Sure! Mass state-sanctioned drug use and recreational sex? Why not! Constant brainwashing propaganda? Definitely! Anything to avoid feeling.
When my grandfather died, I had never felt such extreme sadness in my entire life. I felt it in my whole body. It was horrible. Absolute despair, and pain I thought would never go away. Yet, even in the worst moments of grief, there is no way I would trade any of it away, if it meant not having had that connection with my grandad.
In contrast, citizens in Huxley’s World State don’t know love. Or connection. Or art. They know soma. They know feelies. And they know hypnopaedia. They use tools to avoid grief, jealousy, and sorrow. While their society might be stable, it is dull and artificial.
One emotion. Only happiness. Like painting in only one colour, or composing a song using only one chord, forever. That is definitely not for me. To me, it is the range of highs and lows, of shadows and highlights, and of all the notes in between, that make up a human experience worth living.
Responding to Huxley’s Brave New World, life in Mustapha Mond’s artificial society “blissfully ignorant of passion”, sounds to me like plodding through a monotonous desensitized existence in a beige version of hell.