Brave New World
The two philosophies expressed through the characters of John, the savage, and Mustafa Mond in Huxley’s ‘Brave New World’, although starkly in contrast, compel the listener to consider them as solutions to the ongoing problems that the human race faces in terms of social organization and harmony. While John’s world view supports the current state of human society and upholds beauty and truth, Mustafa Mond believes that the Fordian system of controlled consciousness and comfort is the solution to the previously experienced and inevitable conflicts that arise due to human nature.
The debate that ensues between John and Mond highlights the benefits and the limitations of both these philosophies, but Huxley, although doing so without any overstated bias, shows John’s theory to be more comprehensive and essentially, more human.
Several passages in the 16th and 17th chapter put forward the questions that inevitably spring up in the reader’s minds and answer them through the voices of John and Mond. The latter says, while discussing his choice of staying in the Reserve rather than going to the island.
“I’m interested in truth, I like science. But truth’s a menace, science is a public danger. As dangerous as it’s been beneficent. It has given us the steadiest equilibrium in history…But we can’t allow science to undo its own good work. That’s why we so carefully limit the scope of its researches- that’s why I almost got sent to the island. ” (Huxley, p 253) Mond refers to the Reserve as the “steadiest equilibrium in history”. The system present in the Reserve in many ways parallels the Feudal system in Europe or the Caste system in India.
As theories, they function with economic efficiency but the major problem arises when they are confronted with the issue of human nature. Since the distribution of intelligence, strength or skill cannot be controlled, both the Feudal system and the Caste system eventually failed. 2 Mond and the Fordian system attempts the bypass this issue by controlling the process of reproduction itself. The life inside the bottles is twisted or nourished according to what purpose it will serve; whether it will be an Alpha or an Epilson Minus Semi Moron.
While this is an efficient system (Mond mentions that each class is happy with what they are made to do), it is a cruel one which seeks to do nature’s job and equally important, deliberately robs the life of its right to be born equal. One can argue about deformed or handicapped children that are born in nature, but these are not conscious decisions, they are merely a part of the cycle; just as the nature of one’s death is. On hearing Mond speak of this system and its perfect balance, one begins to wonder if such a setup is what humankind deserves for its blatant disregard for life in all its forms.
After all the wars, the violence and the greed, do we really deserve anything besides the regimented Fordian system? Are we capable of enjoying freedom or independence without social organization going to pieces sooner or later? The answer to this question is found in John’s philosophy. When confronted with the question of religion, John recalls “mesa lying pale under the moon” (p 256) and responds to Mond’s explanation of why God is non-existent in the Reserve by saying, “God doesn’t change” (p 256).
Despite Mond arguments of how people change and do not require God anymore, the fact of the matter is that the cycle of life is continuing outside the reserve. God or Nature is creating and destroying regardless of what is happening on the Reserve. The Fordian system commits the same error that science and humankind have made for centuries; trying to break from the natural cycle instead of respecting it. Mond brings up the example of people turning to God only when they are old and “less obscured by the images, desires and distractions” (p 259). 3 This kind of religion needs to be abolished, for it is shallow and meaningless.
On this count, Mond is absolutely right. When John asks him whether it’s “natural to feel there’s a God”, he replies that nothing is natural, but rather, conditioned. Here’s where the Fordian system fails, and does so by mirroring what is assumed by science. The reason why John recalls being “quite alone, in the night” or “thinking about death” (p 262) is because as we introspect, we began to realize that science can never answer these questions. As the Fordian systems testifies, they can only control them through conditioning which is essentially a tool of science.
John is right in asking the question, “Haven’t they used his pleasant vices as an instrument to degrade him? ” The people living on the Reserve are degradations when compared to the natural cycle of life. While the Fordian system might be temporarily effective, it ignores what is essential. John explains the core of his theory: “If you allowed yourselves to think of God, you wouldn’t allow yourselves to be degraded by pleasant vices. You’d have a reason for bearing things patiently, for doing things with courage. I’ve seen it with the Indians. ” (p 263)
The Indians or any other tribal society is a perfect example of how humans can live in harmony with their surroundings without degrading the value of life and trying to run the cycle themselves. The Fordian theory does some very good things by abolishing organized religion and trying to create a unified consciousness but the route to doing is wrong. The answer to social stability doesn’t lie in attempting to get rid of what you don’t like or what seemingly interferes with your existence. The right way stems from fostering virtues like patience and courage.
4 As John mentions when talking about the story of the Girl of Mataski, “Most of the young men simply couldn’t stand the biting and stinging. But the one that could- he got the girl” Mond’s reply exposes the void in his philosophy: “there aren’t any flies or mosquitoes here to sting you. We got rid of them centuries ago”. The Fordian existence, while efficient and comfortable, is a degradation of natural life. The way forward is to harmonize our existence with our surroundings. The unity that we seek can only be found if we live by beauty and truth.