A (not so) brave new world?
Yes. I just read Huxley’s brave new world. And while I was happy that I finally got around to reading one of the books that played a role in boosting counterculture, I was also left with a slightly bad taste in my mouth at the end of the story.
Some things about the book bothered me because they seem to quietly reinforce mainstream stereotypes… and coming from a book that otherwise criticizes mainstream culture so sharply, it seems to me rather insidious.
The way Huxley describes the reserve bugs me. It irritates me that a man so reputed for his sensitivity and intelligence could take such a crass view of brown skin culture. Why is it that he harps on the most basic and coarse rituals (such as the whipping) as being the essence and core of Indian culture? Why not speak of the way the shamans healed? The way they related to nature, read the temperament of the earth? Why not speak of how they had a strong sense of collective responsibility which meant taking care of each member of the tribe? Why not speak of their knowledge and traditions that respected spirituality and the dignity of life? Instead, to merely focus on them as savages, beating themselves after a chant-induced frenzy (what, as opposed to soma-induced orgy porgy?) , dancing with snakes (for crying out loud!!) smacks to me of contempt for the brown person. Which like I said earlier, is very disturbing in a book that speaks for changing the social system.Another thing I was pretty upset to come across in his book was his attitude towards women. The mighty man stands against the world, fighting for all that is pure and beautiful, and is toppled from his pedestal…. by a woman. How banal. Why make Lenina a scapegoat for John’s inability to live up to his own ideals? If his contempt for the Fordian order and belief in his other “brave new world” couldn’t stand the test of lust, why the hell dump all the blame on the object of lust? The man condemns her as a whore. He thinks she is the epitome of the sickening social order that has come to be… and yet longs for her. The author again subtly passes judgment on her alone. What does it say for John that he should see her as such a symbol and still yearn for her? Not much, in my opinion!
So even if this book is a first tottering step away from mainstream culture, it’s already asking for the old caste system to continue. We’d like freedom and art, but it’s not really important that these mere brown skins and women get it.... ?
Nope. Like I said. Disturbing. Maybe the book was starkly non-conformist and very progressive for the era that it was written in. Maybe the things I am uncomfortable about have a more contemporary context. Could be. But I think its important to hold up that book to sunlight and look at it keenly again.