The World State society presented in Brave New World is radically different from our own. However, it is fascinating to see some striking similarities and, at the same time, to see how certain things in our present culture have been totally done away with in the World State. Art, as we know it, no longer exists. However, the consumption of goods and services is at an all-time high, because people are conditioned to always want the new! The World State also greatly encourages, and actually insists, on the instant gratification of desires. Supposedly, the World State has also rid the world of religion, and yet ironically their high praise of Henry Ford is in itself a religion.
The Lack of Art, As We Know It
The first striking difference in Brave New World from our own society was the lack of art, or at least, art as we know it. In our society, we for the most part place a pretty high value on our art. While not everyone goes to museums, everyone appreciates some form of art – whether it is theater, movies, or music. As a culture, we generally value self-expression through artistic media. In Brave New World’s World State, such expression is not only discouraged, but it is in fact prohibited.
Art in Brave New World has been reduced to three things. First are the sensual “feelies,” a rather base concept for entertainment. They are basically composed of cheap, corny movies where you can feel people kiss and all that junk. The second is synthetic music, which in itself doesn’t sound bad, but it has no soul or human touch to it. It would seem the only real music is at their meetings to revere Ford, the Solidarity Services, which I’ll talk about later. Thirdly, there are the scent taps, which actually sound pretty fascinating. They’re somewhat like Glade air fresheners. However, nature itself is fairly ignored in Brave New World.
Many would agree that expression through art is an extremely important aspect of our society. Taking away art takes away a big part of the individual. Our society is certainly correct on art and how necessary it is. Some people may not like particular forms of art, which may itself cause dissent, and some art may be radical in nature, but artistic expression is a natural part of being human.
If we lose the ability to express ourselves, then we cut off the better, more fascinating parts of ourselves. Our ability to express what is wonderful about us would be so limited. It would come to the point where we’d become little more than animals feeling and touching each other living in a freshly scented world with the Sounds of Nature music selections playing in the background. Unfortunately, that’s what the majority of people in Brave New World have become. Most folks would rather have a little wider range of expression than that. Taking away artistic outlets from people denies human beings of an important right – to share their own perspectives on the Universe.
Consumption of Goods and Services
However, as different as the two societies are on art, it is safe to say that the World State and America are quite similar in their ideas of the consumption of goods and services. In both societies, novelty is a must. We in America are constantly bombarded to buy new things. We are convinced that our old things are outdated and therefore useless and should be thrown away. It is much the same in Brave New World; however, the major difference there is that the people have no choice. They’re hypnopaedically conditioned to consume what the State expects of them to consume, both in goods and services.
In America, we still have choices. We can choose to be thrifty. We can choose to be economical. We can choose to ignore aggressive advertising that tries their hardest to make us purchase on a whim. In Brave New World, such choices don’t exist. You have what you have what you are offered and you consume it. There are no choices to do otherwise. Having choices of what and what not to consume are tremendously important.
It can be disgusting how many needless things we consume, and how many still useful things that we throw away. But, at least we still have free will in what we acquire and what we do with it. We aren’t forced to replace everything when newer versions come out. They say in Brave New World, “The more stitches, the less riches.” It would seem to be a better philosophy, however, to use what you have until it completely outlives its usefulness. As much as Americans both consume and waste, ours is still preferable this to the World State’s system.
Self-Indulgence and Gratification
Pleasure and self-indulgence is a topic which can be debated over forever. America is crazy about it. The concept of instant gratification has been bred into so many of us, a lot of it almost by accident. Today, so many of us are truly spoiled by all the sources of pleasure and entertainment available at our fingertips. We are overwhelmed by all the things with which we can quickly amuse ourselves. It may not be a good thing that both our society and Brave New World’s are very similar in this regard. Of course, our societies are far from identical in this respect. Brave New World has it much worse. In our culture, we at least realize that there is a time for work and a time for play. Instantly gratifying a desire truly is, as Bernard Marx puts it in Brave New World, “infantile.”
Delaying gratification is something we Americans can at least well understand. As much as we may want a pleasure at a particular time, waiting for it usually makes the pleasure far more enjoyable. Always getting gratification dulls the entire feeling of pleasure after awhile. Pretty soon, the only source of pleasure in Brave New World is “soma,” the miracle drug. It gives you an instant holiday. Oh, how many of us would love such sudden instant holidays! But if we could take holidays whenever the hell we wanted, after a while, we’d take them for granted.
We take so many of our pleasures for granted in America as it is, but at least the majority of us don’t baby ourselves and become slaves to our pleasures. Unfortunately some do. A society with infant-minded people all with terrible cases of the “gimme gimmes” is a frightening thought. In effect, however, that is what the World State has done, and they keep giving the babies more candy.
The Role of Religion
Last, but not least, the role that religion plays in Brave New World must be examined. Not only are Americans so entrenched in religion, but the entire world is as well. Brave New World has supposedly done away with it; it has done away with God. But as is made so apparent through out the novel, the World State simply has put Henry Ford in God’s place. Instead of using God’s name in vain, they use Ford’s. The meetings in which they praise Ford, the Solidarity Services, are very little different from modern day church services. They seem to believe in the coming of the Ford, which seems very strange. If all is so perfect, what would the coming of Ford be for?
Human beings seem to have an inherent need for divine deliverance and salvation. These meetings for Ford are simply cleverly disguised church services. It’s often been said that religion turns your brain off. People don’t even realize what they’re doing. They’re worshiping Ford as their God. They’re made to worship his machine, the assembly line. They have in a sense created a “new” God. People in general seem to have an inherent need to worship something. Brave New World ’s deity has become Henry Ford and his assembly line. They are made to worship the Greater Being, the very social machine itself. Ford, unwittingly, was the forefather of this mechanized society.
True Humanity Cannot Exist in the World State
Brave New World ’s World State can basically be boiled down to an advanced form of Communism. Not only are people told what to do, but they’re conditioned to like it. Not only are they conditioned to like it, but they’re physically built to like it. It is an impressive, ingenious social machine. But just like in any machine, where’s the heart? They’ve all become servile to the machine and they worship it. At least we’re still autonomous beings, and at least we have freedoms – overwhelming as the bevy of choices such freedoms provide. You cannot live in Brave New World and be a true human being. The human mind has a need to grow. It can’t be kept idle and at an infantile stage of development, even for happiness’ sake.
Perpetual happiness isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be. The sharp edges of life are what make the moments of joy and happiness all that more special. Brave New World denies the individual the very right to be imperfect. Our imperfections are what make us what we are, human beings. We must all accept one another’s imperfections and learn to live with them. You can’t just throw all the unfortunate parts under the rug; without them, you’re not really alive. Honestly, is it not better to be unhappy and be your own self rather than be just another cog in a well-oiled machine that is little more than an everyday amusement park? Someday, you know the fun and games just have to come to an end.