Brave New World 10: Where are we?


The novel is often held out as a cautionary tale of how society could fail, and a warning of what's happening in our own culture. Do you think that we're in danger of heading towards something like Brave New World? Is there too much emphasis on immediate gratification, conformity, and the suppression of difference? Is the current embracing of diversity just another element of instant gratification? (You can be whoever you want to be, so long as it's your personal choice and not wider than that.) Are Western metroplitans being treated like those in China, with great economic freedom in exchange for no political voice? Is the current rise of far-right movements, and their easy answers of blaming outsiders, another example of infantilisation of people?


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    Maybe as recently as 10 years ago, it felt to me like things might be heading in that direction.

    But now the 1984 direction feels more plausible. The oppression I can see in the world is much more direct than that in Brave New World, with fear rather than satiation employed to keep people in line.
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    Yes, I'm also seeing the trend go the other way. But there are a few pressures in the opposite direction that concern me, like the recent fervor to prevent 'cultural appropriation' which can (and has) been taken so far as to make it socially unacceptable to learn and adopt things from other cultures that are very worth sharing. It's one thing to complain about a group of people representing another group of people badly, and altogether another thing to say that cultural identifiers should not migrate across cultures at all.

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    I kind of touched on this stuff in my thoughts on your "what is culture" question... if anything else comes to mind I'll add it later!
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    There's an interesting and probably relevant row brewing at present in the Lake District National Park - it's not clear how it will develop, and there are both credible and incredible arguments bandied on both sides. Let me explain, while attempting not to take sides or prejudge the issue.

    The current senior management of the Parks Authority have interpreted government directions about national parks to mean that they should make Cumbria more widely accessible to as wide a range of population as possible, specifically including different ethnicities, levels of disability, and so on. They argue that the current difficulties of access (like steep hills, poor internal transport links etc) tend to dissuade particular groups within the UK population at large from wanting to come, and so are actively promoting a range of measures to target that.

    Their opponents (typically local councils and residents) argue that these moves compromise the integrity and appeal of the park, using slogans like "it's a national park not a theme park", and asserting that it should not be the role of the Parks Authority or anyone else to turn the whole country into a place where accessibility and appearance are largely uniform.

    So... the argument boils down to issues like "what is the function of a national park", "should such a park be uniformly appealing and accessible to all" and "who ought to decide what happens within its boundaries"? All of which, I think, are matters that Huxley might have considered relevant to Brave New World.

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