Thanks For All The Murder, Shakespeare

“I’m one of the very few. It’s prohibited, you see. But as I make the laws here, I can also break them. With impunity…”

What is culture, if not the stories and works it creates and venerates? The global society in Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World is disturbing in their absence. In this day and age, more than 600 years after the rise of Ford-who-is-Freud, there is no society, no culture, as we know it. Perhaps this is why this society seems so diseased and inhuman because it does away with so many things we privilege. The entire body of Shakespeare’s work is proscribed (if it can be found at all), but his name is one among the many which lie forgotten. There is no Beethoven anymore. In this world without artistic triumph, there are instead “feelies” and soma by which humans – if we can even recognize them as human anymore – are manipulated to feel feelings which they no longer experience in any way we’d recognize. The rebels we expect are nowhere to be found, at least in part because the society we see indoctrinates its constituents from before birth – well, before decanting, anyway. There is no hidden sect of desperate librarians stockpiling old masterpieces, their desperate fingertips scrabbling through unseen ruins for a lost Rowling or Wells. We’re presented with an author, Heimholtz, who is desperate for a return to that old-time angsty composition, but he isn’t the bold rebel quoted above.

Even worse, that’s no rebel at all; in fact, as one of the ten World Controllers who stand at the apex of the Brave New Society, it could be argued that Mustapha Mond is The Man they warned us about in the ’60s. All the same, only he – and John, naturally – have any awareness of these subversive texts. There is an astonishing hypocrisy to this, an incredible injustice which somehow seems out of place when contrasted with the forced horizontal equality of the strictly-controlled social strata.  Why, then, does Mustapha Mond read Othello? In a strange way, his hypocrisy is absolutely crucial. His status as a World Controller demands knowing just what humanity had to sacrifice, what had to be pruned in order to cull those unwanted ideological branches. For him, it has been 600 years since the Brave New Society did away with these things, and to understand how it must be guided, he must understand the things they no longer keep. It isn’t about privilege, not as we know it. There is a duty to this knowledge. In the Brave New Society, knowledge is power; Mustapha Mond must know what it was to be a human before the golden era of Ford. To create and maintain a perfect culture, perhaps part of the cost is knowing that the beautiful things we treasure, the pieces of art we venerate, are fuel – were fuel, to our boy M. M. – for a fading, ailing, self-destructive culture.

~B. Guarino

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~ by breonmguarino on January 26, 2014.

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