Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Beware of Book Review-Haunted Week Day 8

 Haunted Week is hosted by Cheyenne at {This Girl Reads}

For the final day of Haunted Week, we are posting a review of a scary story of our choice.
I’ve decided to review the scariest book I’ve ever read.

“Can’t you see?...Bokanovsky’s Process is one of the major instruments of social stability!”
Major instruments of social stability.
Standard men and women; in uniform batches… “Ninety-six identical twins working in ninety-six identical machines!...You really know where you are. For the first time in history.” He quoted the planetary motto. “Community, Identity, Stability.”
Huxley’s vision of the future is, as Neil Postman points out in the introduction to Amusing Ourselves to Death, often overshadowed by George Orwell’s 1984. But as Postman points out, we do not appear to be on a path toward totalitarianism. Many of these regimes around the world have already fallen. Big Brother is likely easier to see coming than Huxley’s version, Brave New World, in which we are distracted by entertainment, pacified by mindless slogans, and utterly seduced by science.

Anyone who spends time with teenagers today, whether they themselves are a teen or not, can see the sort of passive indifference to learning that characterizes the denizens of the Brave New World, a world in which nobody protests when the collective works of Shakespeare are destroyed. And perhaps even more upsetting, today’s adults are often infantilized by video games, smartphones, reality TV…

Meanwhile, though, not everyone has given up thinking. Our ability to manipulate nature through science marches forward. It’s not all that difficult to imagine that today’s ability to alter genes to select a child’s gender or screen for genetic defects—or clone living things—will lead us to the ability Huxley predicts: The Bokanovsky Process, in which people’s destinies are determined by the state before they are even born. Some are born Alphas or Betas, and they are individuals, after a fashion, with jobs and a degree of free will. Some are Deltas or Gammas, who go where they are told, never asking questions because the ability to think has been taken away from them. Deltas, for example, are conditioned to dislike flowers. They are conditioned the way I trained my puppy to behave for cookies.
The architects of the Brave New World believe that they have perfected mankind, and created a world of stability and order.

In many ways, this notion of free will versus well-intentioned control is the theme of all science fiction. It was echoed in one of my favorite films, Serenity, when Mal decides to stay and fight the Alliance, to take a stand against a government that tried to use drugs in the air supply to keep the population calm:

“Sure as I know anything, I know this - they will try again. Maybe on another world, maybe on this very ground swept clean. A year from now, ten? They'll swing back to the belief that they can make people... better. And I do not hold to that.”
That’s the thing—the goal is always good on paper. But the drug meant to calm the population of Miranda in Serenity led to an army of murderous, cannibalistic Reavers. In Huxley’s version, they are out for good as well. When the Savage, who grew up outside the confines of civilization, asks why no one reads Othello anymore, he is told that it’s because there’s no need for tragedy anymore.

“Our world is not the same as Othello's world… you can't make tragedies without social instability. The world's stable now. People are happy; they get what they want, and they never want what they can't get.”

I don’t know about anyone else, but I’ll take the tragedy—I’d rather know what I’m missing. 

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