Sunday, December 31, 2006

Brave New World

“…actual happiness always looks pretty squalid in comparison with the overcompensations for misery. And, of course, stability isn’t nearly so spectacular as instability. And being contented has none of the glamour of a good fight against misfortune, none of the picturesqueness of a struggle with temptation, or a fatal overthrow of passion or doubt. Happiness is never grand.”

-Brave New World by Alduous Huxley

In the not-so-distant future, ‘mother’ is a smutty word, promiscuity is a social norm, and what passes for religion is having an orgy (orgy-porgy, Ford and fun, kiss the girls and make them One) every fortnight. A powerful anti-depressant is distributed freely (one cubic centimeter cures ten gloomy sentiments) among the masses. The brave new world is thoroughly stable: politically, economically and most important of all—emotionally.

In Huxley’s world, babies are created in factories. Each embryo is predestined to become an Alpha, a Beta, Gamma, Delta, or an Epsilon Semi-Moron. Alphas are engineered with beauty and intellect, travel in helicopters and have eight different eau de cologne scents running from the taps; the Epsilon Semi-Moron is semi-human in appearance and does the most menial drudgery. Nobody is unhappy; indeed, no one is capable of being unhappy. With intensive conditioning from birth to control desires and emotions, no one is capable of yearning for what is not, and will never be, given.

This bovine contentment is blood-chilling because it is inhuman. If what is human is equal to struggle, passion and misery, then, happiness for an indefinite period of time is inhuman. Of course the premises for what is human are no more than hasty generalizations, assumptions. Still though, for many of us it is truth.

Who does not want to be happy? The mere fact alone that it is considered as the highest intrinsic good implies that it is a rare achievement. Like god or beauty or truth, happiness has been the topic of countless debates among the philosophers simply because its nature and attainment cannot be compressed in a universal handbook for all. For Plato, the moral person is the truly happy person; for Aristotle, one must attain virtue, or excellence, first before achieving happiness; for Lao Tzu, it is gained through the recognition and acceptance of nothingness; and so on. Whatever the philosophers say, however, there is an intersecting point: happiness is achieved through some form of struggle against the status quo.

In Huxley’s brave new world, ‘happiness’ is achieved by genetic tweaking and Pavlovian conditioning. After the initial major struggle against what is human, against passion and instability, the world is considered a stable place eradicated of war and hunger. I believe that such a future is not impossible; just improbable. It has its merits. However, there are two questions which must be hurdled: what man or woman would be willing to give up his or her humanity for a future of stability? And once achieving such future, will he or she give up to the stagnation that is bound to follow?

I am taught not to ask rhetorical questions in a composition and then give no answers. But I have no answers now, although the questions must be asked.

Brave New World is considered an anti-utopia, or a negative utopia. Its other famous siblings, so to speak, are: Samuel Butler’s Erewhon, George Orwell’s Animal Farm and 1984 and Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver's Travels. Interesting tidbit: Butler and Huxley are English, Orwell is British, and Swift is Anglo-Irish. So what the heck is it with their part of the world that makes them concoct such miserable futures? Good question. It will be the day when a Filipino writes an anti-utopian novel.


We’ve got more than enough misery for all, such spectacular, picturesque, grand misery.

Happy New Year.


Anonymous bigbaddie said...

I think Filipinos would rather write a shiny happy utopian novel since we all want a nicer and happier Philippines right now. Writing something bleak and depressing might actually be considered as non-fiction. Haha!

Happy new year to you too, miss gloomy pants. :D

10:16 AM  
Blogger lizette said...

dont miss-gloomy-pants me, i rarely wear pants anyway---skirts more often so dont get any ideas. XP

Filipinos are by nature optimistic, so I'm not counting on the anti-utopian novel to be coming anytime near the future, although there MIGHT be one already. anyway, happy new year to you, mr. comics! hah.

10:24 AM  

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