London, the year is a.f. 632 . Your life consists of three things, sex, drugs and violence. Although an inconceivable thought, it is not far from our present culture. In 1932, Aldous Huxley finished a novel that can now be seen as a social foreshadowing that circulates in the bloodstream of contemporary American culture. Sex, drugs, and total social perversion; Brave New World is a racy novel that, for its time, was nothing short of a prophecy. When Huxley wrote this book, little did he know that his fictitious novel would become a desensitized reality. In our everyday lives we can see reflections of social conditions in Huxley’s novel. In 1932, teenagers weren’t even discussing sex. Drugs were not a socially acceptable thing (prohibition made this even worse). And the moral values taught by families did not consist of excessive exposure to death. When did America begin to harbor this kind of social terrorism? How did American culture become so blind to the social conditioning of premarital sex, excessive drug use, and the acceptance of everyday violence? The answer is Media. In this essay we will explore the similarities of Huxley’s dystopian society and our Culture, then we shall uncover how our society is being conditioned just as in 632 a.f.
Today, media (specifically television) is America’s form of Huxley’s social conditioning. There have been countless studies published in hundreds of different magazines depicting the relationships between television and its influence on child development. In 1950, 18 years after the publication of Brave New World, only 9% of American households owned a television. By 1965, at least one TV was in 92.6% of American households. Today, at least one TV is in 98.2% of American households (Statistics from Television Bureau of Advertising, 2001). The media is all around us, nowhere is safe from Media’s mass influence. Media can be anything from magazines to political cartoons, as long as there is an idea presented to the viewer. Through these facts, can we conclude that the way to control people’s thoughts is by controlling the media?
“The author’s mathematical treatment of the conception of purpose is novel and highly ingenious, but heretical and, so far as the present social order is concerned, dangerous and potentially subversive. NOT TO BE PUBLISHED.”
(Page 180, “Brave New World”)
Socrates once said, “Evil is caused by lack of knowledge.” In the above quote, Mustapha Mond does not want to decondition the thoughts of his people, so he refuses to publish reports by a man named Bernard Marx. This is a classic example of how, through the use of power, one can control someone’s thoughts. In Huxley’s novel, when children sleep they are subject to something called hypnopedia. Hypnopedia is the process of controlling one’s thoughts through constant repetition.
“The director pulled back the switch… A hundred and twenty times three times a week for thirty months. After which they go on to a more advanced lesson.” (Page 27, “Brave New World”)
These hypnopedic lessons are repeated 120 times a day, three days a week, which means 360 repetitions per week. 51 weeks to a year, totaling 18,360 repetitions in a year. This goes on for 30 months, which gives us a grand total of 45,900 repetitions over two and a half years.
In our society an average child, starting at the age of three, watches at least 25 hours of television a week. That means by the age of four the child will have already watched over 1300 hours of television. By the age of 18, the average American child will have seen over 200,000 acts of violence, witnessed 40,000 murders, and have watched over 20,000 hours of televisions and will have spent more time watching television than sit in school. With this similarity how can we not see our fate? We are being socially condition by the controllers of media.
For further exploration of how media can change a person’s opinion, I picked up two Newsweek magazines at random and found two articles that interested me. The first one entitled “How to Build a Boy” is an article written about problems parents face raising a boy. Upon reading the article, I noticed a few statements that struck me as interesting.
(When talking about gunplay) — “They don’t mean it to have harsh consequences. It’s a way for them to connect.”
(Judy Chu, in research for doctoral dissertation on human development, information from Newsweek – May 11, 1998, “How to Build a Boy” by Barbara Kantrowitz and Claudia Kalb)
This statement, although perhaps without intent, has just attempted to sway my opinion. How we view everyday issues is how we see other people viewing everyday issues.
In the second article, titled “Science Finds God” I found this quote…
“’Why is there something, rather than nothing?’ Sandage began to despair of answering such questions through reason alone, and so, at 50, he willed himself to accept God.”(Newsweek — July 20, 1998, “Science Finds God” by Sharon Begley)
I was drawn to this article simply by the title. This article could have a magnanimous effect on society if all the media sources in the world would have ran this article with that title. Science is the last frontier to keeping religion separate from state. Although this article was simply about how an astronomer changed his views on life because of science, just a quick look at the cover might spark the idea that science can prove there is a god. In both of these articles, there are countless examples of thought control. People want to be lead. Media is the tool that people use to change thoughts.
The primary similarities between Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World” and George Orwell “1984” is thought control. In 1984 the government is in a transitional phase, working to control everyone’s thoughts. Huxley’s novel picks up where Orwell’s left off, the government is already past this transitional phase, and they already have begun to control people’s thoughts through a process called conditioning. In Huxley’s novel children are no longer raised by their birth parents. Instead, children are decanted through something called Bokanovsky’s process. Starting at infancy, children are “conditioned” to think and act in accordance with their social class.
“All conditioning aims at that: making people like their unescapable social destiny.” (Page 15, “Brave New World”)
In Huxley’s novel conditioning is much more extreme in our culture, although there are uncanny similarities between the two. Huxley gives countless examples of social perversion in his book. From excessive need for soma to the societal eroticism, we can see that the world is nearly upside down. Although if you compare our generation’s beliefs to the beliefs of Huxley’s generation, you can clearly see that our world might look to them as “Brave New World” looks to us.
“The best utopian — Or anti-utopian — fiction is not really about the future; it is an indirect [or perverted] view of the present.” (Frank N. Magil, author of “Masterplots”)
Through the use of media our generation is being conditioned on how to think. Television media has unlimited examples of violence, sex, and drugs. “Brave New World” is just a perverted view of the present.
“A gramme in time saves nine… Remember, on cubic centimetre cures ten gloomy sentiments… A gramme is always better than a damn,” (Page 89, 90)
These are the most specific example of how repetitious conditioning works. In “Brave New World”, soma, a drug taken for sadness, is the most common cure for any of life’s problems. Here Lenina Crowne is insisting that Bernard Marx take soma because he appears to be depressed (unheard of in their society). Lenina was conditioned to crave soma whenever she was feeling even the slightest amount of sadness. In our society we receive very similar messages. With the constant repetition and over exposure to desensitizing television our generation is blind to our problems!
“…higher rates of television viewing are correlated with increased tobacco usage, increased alcohol intake and younger onset of sexual activity. (“Facts About Media Violence.” American Medical Association, 1996.)
The media is the wax that incorporates itself between the cracks of our minds. I am not saying we cannot control our thoughts just that we don’t make the effort to.
Mustapha Mond is one of ten world controllers in “Brave New World”. He alone chose not to publish the essay written by Bernard Marx because he did not want to decondition his blind society. Mark Twain once said, “Censorship is saying a man can’t have steak because a baby can’t chew it.” Mustapha Mond is evil. He deliberately held back the knowledge that could potentially set free the people of “Brave New World”.
“He picked up his pen again, and under the words ‘Not to be published’ drew a second line, thicker and blacker than the first…” (Page 180, “Brave New World”)
Socrates was only partially right when he said, “Evil is caused by lack of knowledge.” A better statement would be “Evil is caused by lack of knowledge and excessive ignorance.” Media is a very broad word that can be standardized to one meaning, Power.