Was Huxley Right? Essay, Research Paper
When the skunk becomes scared, he releases an offensive odor to impede the progress of the person or thing. Many authors use much of the same idea to combat what they dislike or worry about. In this case, yet another writer has used the idea of having a perfect or Utopian society to contrast it with his/her own world. Aldous Huxley, the author of Brave New World, saw in his own society that the amount of freedom was being diminished and so he created a society in which the inhabitants had virtually no freedom due to the power of the World Controllers and technology in order to contrast it with his own. He was correct in his prediction that freedoms would diminish, but was wrong in the fact that he believed that people would not fight back.
Informational privacy, defined as the right to control the access of one’s personal information, is virtually absent in the present society. For example, information about people’s entire lives is compiled onto government databases and is used to watch their lives. Huxley believed that the government could view a person’s entire life and daily activities and in his fictional world, the World Controllers do exactly that; they control the world by controlling every aspect of every individual’s life. Huxley writes about the effects of this controlling,
The world’s stable now. People are happy; they get what they want, and they never want what they can’t get. They’re well off; they’re safe; they’re never ill; they’re not afraid of death; they’re blissfully ignornat of passion and old age; they’re plagued with no mothers or fathers; they’re so conditioned that they practically can’t help behaving as they ought to behave. (pg. 149).
Huxley goes on to show the exact method of control that the World Controllers use. “In the end…the Controllers realized that force was no good. The slower but infinitely surer methods of ectogenesis, neo-Palonian conditioning and hypnopaedia (pg. 34).” Huxley knew that the government would soon be able to completely dictate a person’s life. Today, the government has compiled a database of photos, incomes, social security numbers, criminal records, bank records, phone records, and receipts for millions of people. According to Richard A. Spinello, consumer records are filled with on-line purchases, hotel receipts, phone and mail orders, along with bank records, bankruptcy records, real estate records, business and court records, student loans, and credit history. He also believes that if we eventually move to an electronic currency or digital cash, it will add every single purchase to these databases.
This wouldn’t be so bad if these records were confidential, but the records are leaking out of the government and into other people’s hands. In Huxley’s world, each person knows everything about someone else just because of what social class they are and who their sexual partners are, but regardless of how they know, Huxley believed that people’s lives would no longer be secret. Today, government records are available to private companies and even people surfing the internet. According to Lori Ringhand, Lotus, a computer company, developed and planned to sell a database with names, addresses, incomes and computer preference of about 120 million people for only about $700.
Not only is informational privacy diminishing, but medical privacy is also at risk of being extinguished. In Brave New World, Huxley predicted that people will eventually be conditioned to accept death and therefore the government could have a eugenics program very easily. A simple rhyme taught to children is, “Ending is better than mending (pg. 33)” meaning that instead of fixing any health defects, it is better to just die. Here, Huxley’s prediction is quite correct in that the government can control or access a person’s medical history in that the Medical Information Bureau (MIB) has compiled a database of past medical records of millions of people in the United States. Richard A. Spinello states that this database will eventually contain genetic information as it becomes more and more obtainable, and this will then be available to HMO’s and pharmaceutical companies. He also believes that when hospitals hold free clinics, the information gathered there goes on record for future reference without the patients knowledge. Huxley was absolutely correct when he predicted that there would no longer be a strong sense of privacy both medically and informationally and this has come true today.
A freedom specifically designated in the Constitution and one that is very important and for many people, yet is decreasing, is the freedom of life. The freedom of life includes the freedom to live a healthy life and therefore when the government denies this freedom, the people lose the first amendment. An example of this is how the Army has in the past tested deadly diseases and chemical weapons on its own soldiers without theirconsent or knowledge. At the end of World War II, the Nuremburg Code ceased the testing of weapons or diseases on humans, yet there were many exceptions In 1975, the army gave LSD to 16 members of a missle unit to see if they could perform their tasks as well. Also, they wanted to see how LSD would effect the soldier’s ability to play volleyball when the soldiers being tested didn’t know that there were tests being done (Jones). Next, Huxley believed that in the future the government would be able to completely control a person’s life which includes deciding when they would die or convincing them that dying is useful to the community. Linena and Bernard are duped into not fearing death because they believe that they are useful after death and they say, “Fine to think we can go on being socially useful even after we’re dead. Making plants grow (pg. 49).” They are so conditioned to not fear death that at any time the government can take a life without upseting anyone.
Today, another way that the freedom of life is denied for many people has been with the testing of diseases. The U.S.government subjected U.S. soldiers, who thought they were testing clothing, to cruel experiments with mustard gas which ate the skin of the participants. For 40 years, U.S. Public Service doctors gave 400 black men syphilis and did not treat them and yet again, the men didn’t know that the disease was given to them (Jones). The response of the government: “In order to preserve our way of life some people, unknown to them and unknown to us, are going to give their all for the good of all.” (Jones) Although there aren’t any actual medical tests on the people of Brave New World, Huxley showed the lack of freedom in a different way. By not giving the people a way to prolong their life and by not allowing them to die on their own, the government is further destroying the first amendment.
Although this treatment is cruel and inhumane, it is even worse when the government does tests to the general public without their knowledge. The government has tested the effects of bombs and different chemicals by secretly releasing them into the atmosphere around populated areas. From 1945 to 1962, 250,000 troops were ordered to witness blasts from atomic bombs at close range and with no protection from radiation and of course, they did not receive compensation. Also, 100,000 civilians received some, but not as much exposure to the radiation. (Jones) In 1950, the army secretly spread harmful bacteria over some cities in order to study its effects. (Jones) In Huxley’s world the government secretly sterilizes some people while making others unsterile and therefore they are denying some of them their natural physical capabilities. Due to the increased preservation of medical records, anyone can access the records of someone else and this is another example of how privacy is decreasing in the modern age.
This is a growing problem that people are very aware of and many are trying to fight back to regain some freedom but with little success. To regain freedom of privacy, some people have petitioned the government to legislate laws to protect the citizens. Huxley’s character John Savage revolts against the society because he realizes how little control each person has, yet this is only because he was a visitor. Throughout the book the people of BNW do not revolt and one may say Huxley was wrong in his prediction but actually he was right. This is because he believed they would not revolt because of their conditioning by soma and hypnopaedia. Today, there are people trying to stop the acquisition of personal information yet it is not making much of a difference. In 1974, the Privacy Act gave individuals the right to correct the personal info and prevents it from being used from other purposes by federal agencies, yet it does not apply to businesses. (Spinello) According to Lori Ringhand, 71% of people believed that consumers have lost all control about how much personal info about them is circulates and is used by companies. Also, 58% agree that federal freedom of information laws have gone too far in letting individuals and businesses get government records, so obviously the efforts are not exactly paying off to stop this fraud.
In order to combat the further relinquishing of privacy rights, there are organized groups that inform others about the growing problem. Huxley did not believe that this would happen and thought that the people would be so conditioned not to fight back unless they were in danger of losing something they needed such as soma. When the Savage tries to rally the rest of the citizens of the world and was throwing soma out the window, “they stared at him with a blank expression of dull and sullen resentment in their eyes (pg. 144).” Today, there are devoted groups designed to protect the rights of the people including the ACLU. To keep the government from obtaining too much personal information via the census, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has developed their Project on Privacy and Technology. As Kathleen Taylor, the executive director says, “Our organization agrees with the necessity of a basic count to establish voting and representation rights, but believes that more detailed questions about the household and its occupants should be optional (Broom).” Many people are trying to prevent the decrease in privacy, but it is too late for many people who are only now finding out about their past experiences.
More and more people are realizing that they were duped into having tests done on them by the government without consent and these people are trying hard to get compensation, but without much success. In Huxley’s world, the government had all power and could easily do tests on the inhabitants without them bei