I was resistant to the western canon of literature as a youth. Much of it was required reading in school. But, because I was a rebel or had a general non-interest in reading, it escaped me. What a difference few decades make! A voraciuos reader now, I find books like Aldous Huxley’s science fiction novel Brave New World, fascinating!
This futuristic (cautionary) tale of a dystopian (or) utopian society, depending on your perspective, is prophetic in many ways. There can be an argument made for both sides. The book describes a world free of war, disease, violence, grief, mental disease, alcohol and drug addiction. The trade-off is a genetically produced society without monogamous love, family, spiritualism or individual freedoms. Ambition and creativity are frowned upon and extinguished. No personal identity (really) as you are born into a pre-destined class system to do your life’s work. Sometimes you cant help but think, this smacks of Marxism!
I sort of backed into reading Brave New World through my research and development on origins and history of the counterculture movement. Huxley has been called the “spiritual father” of the hippie movement. Aldous Huxley’s science fiction novel was published in 1932, but he wrote another one in 1954 which became essential reading for the 60’s counterculture movement.
It is titled “The Doors of Perception”. (Can you guess which rock band got their name from that?) It chronicled Huxley’s 1953 experience on the “psychedelic” natural substance mescaline. He would continue ingesting psychedelics (including LSD) all the way up to his death November 22, 1963 (same day and 3 hrs after The John F. Kennedy assassination).
A Prophetic Novel
Purchasing the novel today, you will receive both “Brave New World” (1932) and “Brave New World Revisited”(1958). The latter touching on his views, reflections and prophecies of the original novel. Many times he makes heavily biased critiques & comparisons to “1984” by George Orwell (one of his colleagues). World overpopulation, drugs, advertising, politics, dictators, brainwashing and other very controversial topics are discussed and how they will affect the future of mankind. Words of warning from his view in 1958.
Brave New World encourages us to keep a close check on our individual freedoms, autonomy and free will. Make sure we are in control of them. Although this tale is melodramatic and an almost unbelievable fantasy, it unveils the bleak side of World Control (and/or) dictatorship versus democracy and freedoms we take for granted daily. Would it be enough to spark the idealists, poets and artists of the early 60’s to drop out and try a sustainable society of their own? Yes, I think Aldous Huxley’s science fiction and other potent literature, music and art of the period had a great influence on what became the counterculture.
Will Society End Up Like a Brave New World?
Many people you query will say, it’s already here! I’ve heard it. Well, I think thats a nice sentiment (if not an exaggeration) on their part. Even though (since Brave New World) we have discovered cloning and test tube babies, it is doubtful things will ever reach the scale and magnitude of the fictional World State’s Hatchery and Conditioning Centre. A baby factory where new borns are brought up with no family ties or values and conditioned by state behaviorist technicians. After thorough brainwashing as youths, they’re integrated into predestined jobs and class system. It’s not in harmony with what I call “The Way of the World” or Natures Way.
It is a very humbling experience being human. Part of that is because we make mistakes and (hopefully) learn from them. How is one to learn and experience life if everything were perfect? And is that life worth living? It paints a bland, gray and uneventful existence to me. Aldous Huxley’s science fiction novel comes off dystopian, evil and corrupt but the society of a Brave New World will never know. They weren’t condtioned that way, so it’s utopia to them.
Important Links You May Enjoy:
The answer to the question is… not many! If you’ve seen the movie “Saint Misbehavin’: the Wavy Gravy Movie”– you know what I mean. Wavy Gravy (Hugh Romney) is an activist and defender of peace, basic human needs and humanitarian causes. He spread the word around the world in a group called The Hog Farm dressed as a juggler, a clown in a caravan of psychedelic painted buses in the 1960s.
As a matter of fact he wrote the song called “Basic Human Needs” (the existence of certain universal needs that must be satisfied if people are to prevent or resolve destructive conflicts – International Journal Of Peace). Wavy Gravy was always an apostle of peace and love and still is to this day. He also works very hard at it. Wavy says, “some people tell me I’m a saint, I tell them I am a saint misbehavin’”.
Hugh Romney (Wavy Gravy) was born in East Greenbush, New York and grew up in Princeton New Jersey. He would take walks with Albert Einstein, be roommates with Bob Dylan (while writing A Hard Rains Gonna Fall) and become a beat poet in Greenwich Village. He became the poetry director at the Gaslight Café (New York City) and was instrumental in introducing jazz and poetry there. He was so popular he began opening up for acts such as John Coletrane, Thelonious Monk, Peter, Paul, and Mary plus many others.
At some point Wavy becomes part of an improvisational group from San Francisco called “The Committee”. He and his wife Bonnie Jean are living outside of Los Angeles in 1965 when a neighbor (recovering from a stroke) offered a mountaintop spread rent-free in exchange for slopping the hogs. Thus was born The Hog Farm commune and will be Wavy Gravy’s headquarters for everything else to come. There would be many humanitarian bus tours, tours with Ken Kesey & the Merry Pranksters, also an MC and member of the support crew “The Please Force” at Woodstock along with The Hog Farm.
All in all, the movie covers his life and work pretty thoroughly (including iconic friends and colleagues from the 1960s). I came away feeling that this was a very good man and serious about making the world a more happy, safe and peaceful place to be in. It is also a history lesson about how the 60s really did change the world and we feel it still today.
The scope of his goodness is much more than can be covered in this post. If you’ve never heard of Wavy Gravy or are interested in learning more, it will be well worth your time to see what’s behind this cosmic clown and all that he’s done. Pretty fascinating.