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Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
You Are Not a Robot
What makes a person a human? What makes a human an individual? Many say that it’s the brain that separates the human race from animals. But what about all the times we have overcome due to passion. All the times laws were changed and wars were won because of anger. All the times few were brought together because of sadness. All the times life was made a little easier because of laughter. All the times a life was saved, an evil was beaten, or a life was created because of love. Single out an emotion, make it the only known thing, the only goal, and never change...and you’ve created yourself an inhuman robot. “Well, I’d rather be unhappy than have the sor tof false, lying happiness you were having here.” (John Savage, Brave New World, 179.)
Making happiness (or any other emotion) more important than the truth can rob someone of who they are and their full potential as a human. The truth allows us to explore the world, see it in different ways, analyze better, and even do the same to ourselves. They may rob us of happiness but that emotion must be replaced with something else, whether it’s anger, sadness, or laughter. These emotions are what make us beautiful individuals, set us apart from any other species, and make this world as beautiful and diverse as it is.
The novel is Brave New World by Aldous Huxley. The questions is: Is happiness of an individual or of a society as a whole, more important than the truth? At first glance this question might seem as a straight shooter. A group of people make read it once and instinctively know which side of the room they would stand on. But get two groups talking, take a moment to actually think about how you came to your answer and suddenly the questions isn’t so simple any more. Brave New World (BNW) is the story of a futuristic London so far ahead of our time that cloning humans is the normal and having parents makes you an outcast. Also so technologically advanced that the government keeps tabs on every single person doing every single thing at every single minute of every single day. Not to mention the mass produced drug called SOMA, distributed by the government as their way of keeping their citizens happy and never wondering what the truth is. And here we are, would you want the truth? or would you want nothing but to feel happy all the time?
Happiness is a beautiful thing. It’s probably one of the greatest feelings this world has to offer. Many of us search for it our entire lives and many have found it and would do anything to hold on to it. Even the Declaration of Independence gives us the right to the pursuit of happiness. (Allow me to be rhetorical for one moment). But were our forefathers looking for happiness or were they just looking for justice and freedom where happiness would have just been the result of either? Should happiness be a reaction or should it be a permanent state of mind? And for those of you on the other side of the room, why does the truth even matter to you?
What gives us purpose? What makes us different and yes, even special? What makes a loved one important to you? What gives a person purpose?
Emotion is what sets us apart. “Of course it does Actual happiness always looks pretty squalid in comparison with the over compensations for misery...And being contented has none of the glamour of a good fight against misfortune...or a fatal overthrow by passion or doubt. Happiness is never grand” (221). Differences within a person is what makes them who they are. A society can make themselves happy. They could all be happy all the time and then everyone would be happy working, would be happy spending money, would be happy making this incredibly smooth running society. But what is the purpose of a society of robots? A society of animals that feel nothing but one emotion all the time? Suddenly the society doesn’t look so special anymore now does it?
A young boy has just started his high school career. He’s doing everything right to be as popular as possible. Upperclassman accept him. They hang out with him and show him a good time. He accepts the drug as a rite of passage. He takes it because he believes he has nothing to lose, he wants to be popular, and he wants to see the reactions. He’s told it’s not really a drug, it’s completely natural. He’s told everyone does it. He’s told it’ll make him feel amazing.
The first time is amazing. Absolute euphoria. A time outside of time. New worlds are opened to him and everything is changed. Turns out the drug is easy to come by. Frequent use is the correct term to now describe the freshman.
His views have changed. His world has changed. Even his taste in music and arts have changed. But other things have suffered. His mind for one, is not as quick as it used to be, it has clouded thinking, and it has transformed. And if he’d only stop he’d see what it’s been doing to others. His loved ones. They’ve asked him to stop. But his argument is that as long as he’s happy...where’s the wrong?
Fast forward. Our freshman is now a junior. Nothing has changed much. Except this summer he was able to stop. He put down the drugs, had his moment of clarity and is now completely clean. It’s been awhile and now he’s not expecting a lot to be different. But it is. Relationships that he thought were fine are now dead. Grades he didn’t use to care about are now disabling him from getting into college. And now his mind is so slow and deformed he’s unable to think mechanically anymore. Math skills are forgotten. And he tries to reach out to his passed loved ones but they don’t trust him anymore.
He’s dulled, stupefied, slown down, and now alone. Nothing would give this young man more relief and happiness than to have it all stop. To just meet the end. Now if the authorities were informed they would do all they can to keep him from taking his own life. But why would they do that? If it’s what he wants and it’s what he thinks would make him happy, why stop it?
Why we don’t want someone to fall into a drug binge and why we don’t want someone to take their own life is because we know it’s wrong. Every person is born with a sense of right and wrong. Where it comes from is unknown, but most of the time it’s elaborated by a religion or a experiences or traditions we hold. But we do know what’s right and we do know what’s wrong. Lying is wrong. And not living in the truth is no way to live life. Because if you’re not experiences all emotion and knowing what is going on then you’re not living life. A piece of your humanity is taken.
In BNW, our protagonist, John Savage, is an outsider. This society of machines and clones and drugs and no emotion is unknown to him. He grew up on a reservation outside of the World State. But when visitors from World State come to the reservation John is given the opportunity to go back with them to World State and be taught everything about their society, which at first is all that John wants. John’s mother decides to join him. John’s mother once lived in World State and has wanted nothing more to go back.
As John learns more and more of how this callous and heartless society functions John grows more and more disturbed by his findings. These people are conditioned to be within happiness all of the time. Since birth they are conditioned to love their jobs, love their caste system, love their drugs (which also make them happy and euphoric), and love all the sex they can have. No has a mother or a father as they are all clones. There are no goals, no emotions, no passion, no regrets, no guilt, and no life.
John sees right away all that is wrong with such a society. When he comes back for his mother, he finds her lying on the bed lost in a high. Pills of SOMA are kept at her bedside so that she can reach for a few whenever she starts to come down from her binge. And that’s when you’ll start to understand why truth is more important than happiness.
Because it’s not happiness that makes life such a beautiful thing and the most cherished thing on Earth. It’s the diversity we live for. It’s the diversity that we love someone for. We honor a generation because they were different, we cherish a past society because they were different, and we love someone because they were so different is so many ways.
When a society falls, whether it’s because their colonies conquered, they had bad luck with their crops, or maybe it was a complete mystery; we’ll still miss them because they were different. We’ll miss Rome, not only for their democracy but also for their sports and entertainment, and also for their art and the way they loved. We’ll miss the society because they were different and because they changed things and made an impact.
When someone leaves our lives, whether it’s because they move away, they want nothing to do with you anymore, or even if because they die; we don’t grow sad and uncomfortable because they’re gone. We miss them, long for them; grow sad, and grow uncomfortable because we’ll miss every single part of them. We’ll miss every bit of their personality. We’ll miss them for their quirky sense of humor, how beautiful they were even when their eyes were filled with tears and their hearts were filled with despair. And John will miss his mother because he loved her.
So choose any way you feel is right. Choose a drug, choose a job, choose a sex partner, choose a color, choose a sport, choose a clone, choose lies, choose happiness. But as for me I will choose the truth. So that I will experience every single emotion I can, so that I can take my life and mind farther than it’s ever gone before. So that I can live life to the fullest. The boy is now a senior. And he chooses to never be a robot ever again.