Today is the birthday of English author Aldous Huxley (1894) (books by this author), born in Godalming, Surrey. He was the grandson of Thomas Henry Huxley, a scientist and man of letters who was known as "Darwin's bulldog" for his defense of the theory of evolution. Huxley wrote a few of novels that satirized English literary society, and these established him as a writer; it was his fifth book, Brave New World (1932), which arose out of his distrust of 20th century politics and technology, for which he is most remembered. Huxley started out intending to write a parody of H.G. Wells' utopian novel Men Like Gods (1923). He ended by envisioning a future where society functions like one of Henry Ford's assembly lines: a mass-produced culture in which people are fed a steady diet of bland amusements and take an antidepressant called Soma to keep themselves from feeling anything negative.
It's natural to compare Brave New World with George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four(1948), since they each offer a view of a dystopian future. Cultural critic Neil Postman spelled out the difference in his 1985 book Amusing Ourselves to Death:
"What Orwell feared were those who would ban books. What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one. Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information. Huxley feared those who would give us so much that we would be reduced to passivity and egoism. Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance. Orwell feared we would become a captive culture. Huxley feared we would become a trivial culture. ... In short, Orwell feared that what we fear will ruin us. Huxley feared that our desire will ruin us." (less)
Feel like we may be there in our world of Prozac and Ritalin and reality TV and tea parties and ..