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A Brave New World is Pending
In the March 6 issue of Science News, J. Raloff wrote "If pregnancies early in adulthood reduce a woman's lifelong risk of developing breast cancer, could short-term hormonal treatments that simulate aspects of pregnancy do the same thing? A new study suggest that the answer is yes."
Reading that fast-forwarded my imagination to a horrible future, one described in Aldous Huxley's "Brave New World," where women of the future undergo surrogate pregnancies. In the book it was for mental reasons, but now, there's a physical reason to do such a hormonal treatment.
How many other predictions will come true in the next, say, 20 years? Already we have television, airplanes, submarines, cyberspace and virtual reality. Is the next step a measurable move toward Utopia? Will we all live with perfect health? Will we stave off death so effectively that we are killed for population control reasons at the old, old age of 60? Will we lose sight of the goal of a long, productive life, abandon it for a long, forever young life (making aging a disease, because drugs to enhance the here and now build up to a painful later)?
I'm all for advancement in medicine. My own father, an oncologist and hematologist, deals with ground-breaking new procedures and medicines on a daily basis. But to air out my cautious side: if the government ever starts worshiping Henry Ford, outlawing Shakespeare, instituting mandatory sterilization of certain groups of people, encouraging and perpetuating class divisions and distributing drugs to solve potential conflict, help me out by saying "STOP!" really, really loudly.
Then again, this government does revere Henry Ford in a way. If a big car company wanted something done that was contrary to the desires of a community, my bets are on the car company. This thorough encouragement of big business and the tradition of such can almost be seen as worship.
While Shakespeare hasn't been outlawed anywhere (as far as I know), teaching Darwin's theory of Natural Selection is banned in some school districts. J.D. Salinger's "Catcher in the Rye" is banned in some school districts.
Ruth Sherman, a white teacher in a black and Hispanic neighborhood in New York, left her job in fear for her life over a book called "Nappy Hair": some parents (who of course, hadn't read the award-winning novel and for the most part weren't her student's parents) thought it was racist and divisive.
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What about sterilization of certain groups of people? I'm not talking about Nazi Germany, either. In many countries sterilization of people in mental hospitals was standard practice. Instituted persons considered idiots were sterilized as most recent as the 1960s in France.**
In "Brave New World," Huxley envisioned a society divided so accurately that the Alphas always had managerial positions and the Deltas always did manual labor under unkind conditions. He even went so far as to say that these lower classes were conditioned to enjoy a workplace that someone like you and I (first world men and women who by and large haven't been subject to things banned in the United Nation's Declaration of Human Rights***) would find inhumane.
If you think this aspect of a possible future is horrible, unbelievable, and fantastical, I invite you to cruise down to Compton tonight. What do you see? A people oppressed by society, by the capitalist system, by prejudiced people, by people out to exploit, by themselves, by the drugs they see everyday. You try telling me that with a little American Work Ethic and some education that any former gang member in L.A. or Detroit or wherever could make it out and get the type of life that we enjoy without a second thought. Or maybe you have to experience the pain and horror of waking up every morning in a high-rise shack just to go to school (taught by people scared for their life) or to work (for barely any money, probably not enough to meet this month's bills, again). You try waking up every morning with a chronic cough from the nicotine you're addicted to, or with a hangover from the cheap whiskey you're also addicted to, or from the crack cocaine that's as easy to access and be addicted to as the other two. You live like that, and compare it to the Deltas in "Brave New World," and come tell me which you think is better.
Drugs are so common in our society. Every school kid hears "Say no to drugs" and it gets so old. It's hard for kids to differentiate between marijuana and Valium, and in the basest sense, there is no difference. Many of us are slaves to drugs, be them chemical or psychological. A man who is addicted to doing his work all the time is just as maladjusted as a junkie or an anorexic. Huxley described the Brave New World's citizens as being placated with drugs. Only outsiders could even notice that people couldn't live without the Soma, and couldn't recognize their need for it. While almost no one would dispute that a 500 pound person is probably addicted to food, it seems to be too much to ask for that same insight about a person who indulges infrequently or with less obvious after-affects.
The government, through its various agencies, has the power to prescribe behavior-enhancing drugs (such as to committed persons). It also has the power to regulate behaviour-changing drugs. And when the government starts to regulate behavior like it did during prohibition, it's time to take a long, hard look at who is actually ruling.
Books like "Brave New World," Ray Bradbury's "Fahrenheit 451," H.G. Wells' "The Time Machine" and George Orwell's "1984" have insight into possible futures. It's important to remember to continue to read books like this, and write books and publish our fears and predictions so that it won't come true. Every citizen needs to be diligent in maintaining human dignity and ensuring all human rights for all people, because the future has been guessed at, and it could happen that way, and it's not very nice at all.
And it's easy to say that. That cleans my hands of further responsibility. I wrote this and got the word out to a few people, so technically I've done my part in not allowing the U.S. government to become fascist. But it goes deeper than that. Every day I'm bombarded with the violence and stupidity and injustice that the media feels is necessary to communicate to me. I know there's a lot more out there than what I see. But it's futile to pretend that I could change things. I know I'm not about to start a human rights movement. I just feel bad that what has been started in the past hasn't been followed through by everyone. I think there's just too many people to form a front against a problem. That's why we have wars. It'd be nice to imagine that aliens are going to land and we'll kick their asses, like in Independence Day, but that's just a fantasy. All I'm going to do is notice how I'm addicted to sex and drugs and what have you, and notice how my choices have been limited by others, and notice how my life doesn't suck that much, and rather than just being grateful, I just hope I'll eventually feel obligated to give something besides advise to someone that has less than me.