Happy thoughts

by Aldous Huxley

I regard life as a piece of photography. Whenever a good artist is behind it, harmony between light and shadow will suffice. Its motives will feel real, textured and worn — like fine leather, glistening with wetness from rain and mist, or dry and creased in shadows below. Joy and hope will shine, contrasted with deep chasms of grief: the tale of a complete person is told only when all of the delicate frontiers between flesh and shadow are visible.

Having said that, if the dark thoughts could, in a moment’s notice, be quenched by chemical-induced bliss, people would lose their contrast, their richness, their sharpness. A pill capable of providing hope, consolation and reassurance, would toss our entire humanity to the trash, and the photograph of us would be an atonal mess.

The year is 2021. How many ‘happy pills’ are there, at the reach of our hand? How many dopamine-releasing, AI-recommended rushes of instant purchase can be commanded? How many gambling venues, gambling-inspired gaming, clickbait-y articles, pornography sites, celebrity-culture reality TV are available, and all the cornucopia of social media spiraling relentlessly until we surrender?

Enter Soma, the pill for all, that will rid ourselves of taboo emotions, and provide a sense of happy and stoned bliss. Thank our Ford, creator of society, in this Anno Ford 632.

In Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, people are mass-produced. Their eggs are fertilized in incubators, like assembly lines, and then subjected to stress-inducing procedures to make the egg divide into up to 96 identical twins. The most mistreated of which are, therefore, engineered to be inferior: as their mental faculties are lacking, they’re easier to keep in line, to do physical work and simpler tasks. They are the Epsilons.

On the other end of the scale are the Alphas — intellectually superior, higher quality, destined to be lords on the top of society. Their day-to-day existence has zero worries: they play games, they watch feelies (films with sensorial stimulation) and engage in sexual affairs where true intimacy and emotional connections are non-existent.

Children are conditioned to engage in erotic play early on, and to fear literature and nature with shock therapy. During sleep, mantras are repeated ad nauseam to instill upon them the limits and rules of their thought and class prejudices. In a World State devoid of art, science, history and religion, people go about their lives without partners. Mothers and fathers are taboo thoughts of older times, and now, sexual promiscuity is the norm.

John, a natural-born from a ‘Savage Reservation’ in New Mexico, has a mother. He also has deep feelings, which he can translate to language with the help of an old copy of ‘The Complete Works of Shakespeare’. John, or ‘The Savage’, as he became known, will experience first-hand the World State and all of its miserable Soma-induced repression, and John, most inappropriate of all, will fall in love. John’s uniqueness will become our very window into this bleak reality.

One can’t help but feel wounded by reading a book like Brave New World, and that my reactions to books like these age me like carbonic dating. My innocence is laid bare by my ineptitude to grasp it, so dense its concepts, so all-encompassing its scope. Maybe after a most-deserved future return to George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, I will come back to these words with fresh eyes. But one can not be let down by the eeriness of Huxley’s predictions, and how close to home they land, almost 90 years later.

Happy thoughts, Guilherme. Happy thoughts.

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