Monday, November 10, 2008

Brave New World: The Book Versus The Reality

Once again Coeur d'Alene, touted as a great place to live in a myriad of publications, has made dubious regional headlines. Two out of four school board members voted to ban Aldous Huxley's "Brave New World" yet are giving consideration for a police request to bring high powered rifles into the schools "just in case". The book issue will be readdressed at the next meeting when a fifth member will be present. Whew!

One of the dissenters put it this way, "I find, from my own level, it is extremely repetitious and it drives in the sexuality issues and other civilization's issues to almost ad nauseam and I find it's balance is extremely lacking." This sentence, if you can call it such, delivered by a member of the school board. It's even more frightening then the rifles.

The attempt to ban books in this community is nothing new. The people making the determination is indicative of the mind set of decision makers throughout the community. Informed? Open? Not nearly often enough.

It made me realize there are a great many parallels between the world of Huxley's future and our present. If I had more respect for the intellect of the person who made the above statement, I'd fear that he too sees the parallels and wants the book banned to prevent students from "catching on". However, I do not.

"Brave New World" depicts a world society controlled by a powerful few. All have been created in a lab according to a strictly predetermined caste system. Existence revolves around material comfort and drug enhanced recreational sex.

As in any good story there are the heros and heroines. Those whose test tube formulas didn't work exactly as planned. As a result they grew into the malcontents with ambitions far exceeding allowable limits.

The characters lives get intertwined and the story more complex than I want to get into here, but in essence, a foray into the "other place" brings about an awakening. Each in their own way, the heros ultimately face judgement from the head honcho who acknowledges the flaws of the world he rules but decrees that the loss of freedom and individuality are a small price to pay for stability. Some suffered exile while the last ultimately committed suicide. Don't rock the boat! Don't question! Accept. Smoke something funny, sit back and enjoy.

On a less futuristic scale it reminds me of how our city and county government are run. The Alphas. Those who cater to their every whim be it right or wrong. No discussion. The Betas. If one tries to engage in discussion one is demonized. The malcontents searching for honest answers. They themselves sometimes get fuzzy, bogging down on process rather than reason.

When the President of North Idaho College writes that there is no evacuation plan for her school which sits akin to a waste water treatment facility where chlorine is stored, that they depend on city and county officials to effect such in case of emergency, I wonder.

Where these very same public safety officials have neither the manpower nor the equipment required to evacuate the high rises they insist on building, I wonder.

Where the prosecutor's office was under investigation for pornographic e-mail circulation, I wonder.

Huxley wrote this book after a visit to America back in the thirties. He was disturbed by what he saw; what is now the "me" generation. An obsession with materialism and promiscuity of mind and spirit. Back in the 1930s!

"Brave New World Revisited" was written by Huxley almost thirty years after "Brave New World" as non-fiction. In it he considered whether the world had moved toward or away from his vision. He concluded that the world was becoming much more like "Brave New World" much faster than he anticipated. Not a comforting thought. Not to worry though. If you can't read it you'll have nothing to ponder.

However, if your curiosity has been aroused you might like to read both. Then you can determine if life imitates art or just the opposite. I'm sure the library has copies. And the book stores.


Margie's Musings said...

I don't believe in censorship. I believe that in the venue of parents..not school boards.

Anonymous said...

I'm always sad to read stories like this. These are the kind of people I dealt with regularly as a children's librarian and I soon gave up trying to reason with them. Can't. Be. Done. [sigh]

Rinkly Rimes said...

I've never read the book, I'm ashamed to say. You've whetted my appetite.