Monday, 9 December 2013

Happiness in the modern age according to Huxley

Life in the age of technological advancement has changed the meaning of happiness to an extent one could never have imagined before!  With the society undergoing drastic sociological changes, it is inevitable that our values also undergo changes. When my students ask me why they should read poetry,  it speaks volumes about how  interests have begun to change down the times. Poetry, in its purest form is now viewed as being superfluous and a hobby for those who are without anything better to do! The same may be said of the classics, Shakespeare is quaint, and Wordsworth was a gentleman who had enough spare time to write a poem about Daffodils, imagine writing a poem about Daffodils! Well one cannot blame our youth for their changing beliefs about the most desirable and valuable things in life.
The society is steadily moving away from the values and  moral values of yesteryears because of the fact that our lives have been very strongly affected by the technological advancements and the internet that are threatening to  turn us into the very machines that are at present serving us. With greater importance being given to a machine like efficiency, output, and infallibility, it is but natural that we should distance ourselves from the things that distract us from our duties and tasks! Take for example, religion, in a dialogue that takes place between the Savage and Mustafa Mond, in Aldous Huxley’s, “Brave New World”, the former asks the Controller if he thinks there was no God, and the Controller replies that, ‘In pre-modern times he manifested himself as the being’ described in the Holy Scriptures, while in modern times of Science and Technology he ‘ manifests himself as an absence’ In the  novel, ‘Brave New World’ by Huxley, God has been replaced by machinery, medicine, and happiness. The argument posed by The Controller is that the people in his world have no need for religion because they are no longer alone! In this rather brilliant book, Huxley paints a modern world, well ahead of his times where vices  such as those of promiscuity are deliberately introduced into the society so that people do not have the time to think of God. Happiness in the ‘Brave New World’ is brought out by regular consumption of ‘soma’-an intoxicant which induces a feeling of joy, happiness and well-being. With advances in medical sciences, no one grows old, and illness are all things of the past, so people no longer need to call upon God to pray for forgiveness!
The similarities between today’s world and the distorted world in Huxley’s ‘Brave New World’ are somehow rather startling and they indicate a world which is based on the philosophy of conformity, a world which is spiritually sterile, devoid of poetry and  classics! Are we then headed to a world which frowns upon creativity, individuality, a matrix like existence where happiness is synthesized and fed to people to induce an artificial  sense of happiness? In a world that is steadily getting commercialized, we are steadily becoming victims of propaganda techniques necessary because we drive the economy through our purchasing power. The more we purchase, the more the economy grows, and being subservient to the greater well being of the nation, (where Commercialism is the new religion and the Economy is its disciple) we might as well forget about saving for the rainy day! The very idea of an egalitarian society, one proposed by Karl Marx in “Dass Kapital” seems to describe the very times in which we live. Capitalists and Imperialists might rant against Socialists and Communists, but the fact remains, ultimately they are all one and the same, and they believe in  a society which is egalitarian, a society where everyone is equal, (although imperfections continue to exist) with division of work being made according to abilities and capabilities. The impact of existing circumstances, commercialization, technology and globalization are all leading us towards a society built on the concept of conformism. To conform is to accept that one is not different from others and one is equal to others. This is a  society where there is no scope for individualism (as this would mean that you were trying to be greater than others).  Life in such a society would be highly claustrophobic(to those who like to profess religions, read poetry and even dream) because the very concept  of happiness is subjective and private  and in the ideal state this individualism is seen to be selfish and anti-society as a whole. So we are headed exactly to a Socialist and Egalitarian society where the state provides you with employment, health care, and your children belong to the state and even you belong to the state. This would be a world devoid of arts as art would be seen  would be seen as being detrimental and distracting to the process of nation building. Religion in its purest form would be seen as being quaint and fantastic, and so it would be relegated to the archives. The state would be the religion, the Chairman would be god, and his muscle-men would be his disciples. Of happiness, well your happiness would be subservient to the communities happiness and you have no right to be more happy than your neighbours because you live in a welfare state which cares for you so you owe it to the state to curb your happiness lest it appear to be a selfishness on your part.
The world today, is becoming more and more commercialized and this has resulted in the need to conform to the popular trends  imposed on us through propaganda techniques.  You need to change your one year old car, not because it is not advanced enough, but because it is good for the economy if you keep buying newer products not because you need them, but because market forces have created an artificial need for new products. A world that is being increasingly being driven  by market forces, where the purpose of life is to drive machine of Economy, individual happiness is steadily being driven by propaganda and as such is subservient to the common good. If religion and the classics are are  not good for the market, then it is but natural that they will be done away with, and this goes for creativity individuality and the very idea of thinking differently from others. If you don’t conform to the popular trends then you might as well be like the Savage in Huxley’s, ‘Brave New World’, an out cast who doesn’t fit in the society, a square peg in a round hole! For what right do you have to be unhappy or depressed when happiness is something that is provided to you in the form of ‘Soma’ pills to be taken at regular intervals? If happiness could be synthesized and swallowed as pills then surely the very meaning of happiness will have undergone a great change. But then, surely, isn’t the world headed towards this possibility, repulsive though it may seem?

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