Aldous Huxley’s classic novel Brave New World predicted a dystopia that has somewhat come to pass. As Catholics, and as a democratic society, we need to re-examine Huxley’s world and seriously consider changes to avoid his outcome.
Huxley’s future world was set in 2540, but in a later work he remarked that we were moving toward his dystopia faster than he anticipated. Indeed, instead of 500 years, it has taken less than 100 years for some of his fears to come true.
Our Forms of Soma
For example, in Huxley’s world, people are encouraged to take soma, a happiness-producing anti-depressant and hallucinogenic drug. The purpose is to have a controlled population that is too mellow and satisfied to even think deep thoughts, let alone rebel.
In our current society, we have epidemics of opioids, fentanyl, heroin, and other addictive substances. People are trying to escape their problems with feel-good drugs.
We avoid guilt, responsibility and pain because it is believed that we shouldn’t have to “suffer.” That attitude results in a population not willing to make sacrifices for the greater good or take on the burden of leadership.
In the book, there is a caste system based on intelligence and fitness that separates the controlling classes from the laborers. In modern America, we have many types of divisions—racial, religious, political and economic–that have separated us.
For example, there is a huge gap between the rich and poor. According to Forbes, the top 1% of U.S. Households hold 15 times more wealth than the bottom 50% combined. https://www.forbes.com/sites/tommybeer/2020/10/08/top-1-of-us-households-hold-15-times-more-wealth-than-bottom-50-combined/?sh=745fc0945179
This situation is definitely out of line with the equity taught by Catholic social justice. We are supposed to take care of the poor and vulnerable, not amass wealth at the expense of others.
The most notable similarities to Huxley’s novel are in the areas of promiscuity and reproduction. Here again, we see conflicts with the Church’s teachings.
In the dystopia, small children are encouraged to have erotic play and taught the nursery rhyme “Orgy Porgy.” In our world, we battle pornography being pushed on children in social media and sex education in schools that is disturbingly similar.
Groups like Planned Parenthood provide elementary through high school curriculum that promotes the pleasures and “normalcy” of various sexual practices. Abstinence-only programs are actually forbidden in California schools.
In Brave New World, not being promiscuous is considered immoral. “Everyone belongs to everyone else” is the mantra that is taught to make sex meaningless. Friends ask each other, “Have you “had” [name]?”
Is that behavior any different from today’s hookup culture? I saw an interview with a college student who said she wasn’t sure what rape was since everyone slept with everyone else anyway.
Rejection of Family
Becoming attached to another person is scandalous among Huxley’s characters. Because “everyone belongs to everyone else,” family, monogamy and romance are repulsive ideas.
Our culture has seen a similar deterioration of families and abandonment of monogamy. In addition, the current epidemic of loneliness is a result of detachment.
It’s not state-ordered but partly the result of soma-like mesmerization from staring at cell phones and computers hour after hour. No family, no loving commitment, just cyber “friends” and media propaganda.
Certainly, the attitude toward pregnancy today is disturbingly close to that in Brave New World. There, the words “mother” and “father” are considered obscene and childbirth disgusting. Children are manufactured in labs and “decanted” from large bottles, not conceived naturally and born.
Abortion advocates describe pregnancy as a burden and the fetus as a parasite. So, is it much of a step to think it is acceptable and more efficient to manufacture humans, and while doing so, condition them for various levels of usefulness to the state?
Surrogacy, IVF and research to produce an artificial womb—aren’t these all coming from a very similar mentality as that in Brave New World? There women not chemically altered to be freemartins wear contraceptive-filled cartridge belts.
The dependence on and expectation of the use of birth control pills in our culture is much the same. I’ve heard women say that they were so used to taking their pills daily they almost forgot to have a child at some time. Parents have told me that having daughters means the eventual expense of birth control.
Improving with the Church
In 1925, Huxley visited the United States and was outraged by the promiscuity, self-absorption, commercialism and culture of youth he witnessed. It seems we haven’t improved in 100 years.
Needless to say, there is no God and no religion in Huxley’s dystopia. So is the Catholic Church old-fashioned or just wise enough to warn us about the dangers we are seeing around us? My opinion? Trust the guidance of the Church. I want to live in heaven, not a dystopia.