“Brave New World” – A Book Review

I think it’s interesting that the 20th century became the age of the dystopian novel. That would seem counter-intuitive, given the dramatic advances in technology and wealth and prosperity that the greatest of all centuries brought us. But, then again, it was also the century of Chairman Mao, Stalin, Enver Hoxha and Pol Pot. And Hugo Chavez, lets not forget about Hugo Chavez (though the effects of his utopianism are only now rattling a world order which had thought it had seen the last of the idiocy).

It is said that Aldous Huxley wrote “Brave New World” as a parody of H. G. Wells’ utopian novels. If so, there’s certainly nothing funny about “Brave New World”. In his seminal work, he might have set the table for all dystopian writers to come – although that assertion is not settled, as there were a few before him already experimenting with the genre, if a genre it really is. “Brave New World” is set in the distant future when the world, under the careful management of a world government, controls its population through social engineering and drugs – and fear – leaving them happy (not joyful) but in the end banal and empty. Cogs in a machine, but not in the “Hunger Games” sort of way, our dystopianism in the 21st century has taken quite a dark turn indeed. “The 100”; “Resident Evil”; heck I even wrote a dystopian novel about socialist Venezuela in the not-too-distant future; I titled it “The Burning of San Porfirio” but it should probably have been titled “The Starving”.

The lesson I got from Huxley’s masterpiece is that attempts by man to organize society to utopia will ultimately fail. A lesson I wish today’s utopians (often called “Democratic Socialists”, an Orwellian construct if ever there was one) would learn once and for all, so we can move on. Jesus once said “The poor you will always have with you.” This was not a condemnation of an angry God against a rebellious world, nor was it a recommendation to abandon our efforts to fight against war and misery. It was a reminder that, though we have the best intentions, we cannot succeed and our salvation is to be found in the struggle. A reminder that humanity is fundamentally flawed, and so too our solutions must be. And a call to the only utopia which exists, which will be in heaven. Huxley’s book surprised me in that it was deeply religious and the protagonist – the only man to stand against the planners’ ‘perfect order’ – did so because he wanted to suffer, to struggle, to feel uncertainty and sadness; because you have to feel these things if you will ever feel joy, victory and achievement. And he wanted to believe, to fill that place in his soul with something greater than himself and his petty carnal urges; to sit alone and contemplate ‘so great salvation’ and the savior who brought it to us.

There are many planners today, who believe we are only one technocratic “fix” away from a new utopia. They are part of the 9.9% – James Burnham’s ‘managerial elites’. They are dangerous, because while they believe they are creating Huxley’s “World State” where people are free from work and hunger to have limitless sex and take drugs with no hangovers; we now know from our experiences in the 20th century that their efforts will end in Gulags, death marches, famines and mass exodus. Humans are a messy lot; and a spontaneous order governs our behaviors which produces tremendous bounty but only if set free – any attempts to harness it, to plan it and to control it (and us) will lead to catastrophe.

To you, read “Brave New World” and think about the planners in your own life. Because there is a day coming when they will re-emerge in America, for they are already among us, and we must be ready for them.

About Joel D. Hirst

Joel D. Hirst is a novelist and a playwright. His most recently released work is "Dreams of the Defeated: A Play in Two Acts" about a political prisoner in a dystopian regime. His novels include "I, Charles, From the Camps" about the life of a young man in the African camps and "Lords of Misrule" about the making and unmaking of a jihadist in the Sahara. "The Lieutenant of San Porfirio" and its sequel "The Burning of San Porfirio" are about the rise and fall of socialist Venezuela (with magic).
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4 Responses to “Brave New World” – A Book Review

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