Thursday, January 22, 2009

Brave New World

The novel Brave New World by Aldous Huxley is a compelling tale of future society, which is controlled by a totalitarian government that challenges the very idea human individuality. The book takes place in the period of “AF”, After (Henry) Ford, in London, England after The Nine Years War has revolutionized the way the world is run. In this time period of science and technology, humans are no longer born, but manufactured, given lessons as children through hypnopaedic sleep teachings, categorized into five social castes, and given soma pills that take them on happy mental vacations to relieve them of the stresses of everyday life.

The first of the main characters is Bernard Marx, a lower class Alpha who fails to compare to other Alphas in physical stature. He is rumored to have had alcohol in his blood surrogate, making him physically inferior for his social caste. He does not possess typical views on life and questions traditional views on all aspects of life. While on a trip to the Savage Reservation in New Mexico, Bernard meets a primitive man named John. John is an outcast from the Indian culture he is living with. He and his mother Linda return with Bernard to London to experience this ‘brave new world’. John does not fit well in modern society, having all his worldviews derived Shakespearean plays. John soon becomes quite a spectacle because of civilized people’s curiosity towards savages. Meanwhile Linda is considered hideous because of her physical appearance and her motherhood.

At the other end of the spectrum from Bernard is Helmholtz Watson, a professor at the Emotional Engineering College. Watson is the pride of the Alpha class, having superior physical attributes. However he wishes he could make more of his writing and use his time in more worthwhile ways. He and Bernard Marx form a friendship based on their dissatisfaction with society. The last important character is Lenina Crowe, the average, typical Alpha female. Lenina’s views on sex and soma are model opinions of the World State. She is deeply attracted to John, but merely on a sexual basis, while John wishes for a deeper relationship and eventually rejects her.

The modern world portrayed in this novel really is a sad indication of what our world might become someday based on our devotion to science and technology. Even though many scenes in the book can be quite shocking, it is not that far out. The World Controllers (government body) often resemble ideas of communism, the German culture in the years of Adolph Hitler, and the feudal period of the Middle Ages. The communism is supported by such hypnopaedic lessons as “Everyone works for everyone else”. Plus it is no coincidence that Bernard Marx’s character is modeled after Karl Marx, one of the founding fathers of communism. The process by which imperfect embryos are discarded in the cause of manufacturing perfect ones is really an alternate form of Hitler’s genocide. The five social castes are similar to the Feudal Age hierarchy, except that instead of nobles, clergy, and peasants, social classes are represented by Greek letters.

The new methods that are used to control the world populations go to rather sad extremes in order to maintain control and keep everyone happy. One of the most popular techniques is hypnopaedia. Through this process people are conditioned from infancy into late teenage years to accept their social class and deal with many other aspects of life. While giving students a tour of the Hatchery and Conditioning Centre in London, the DHC (Director of Hatcheries and Conditioning) explains the brainwashing procedure he likes to call conditioning. He shows the students an occasion in which Delta infants are electrically shocked while looking at flowers and pretty picture books. The goal is to mold their instincts to associate these images with terror and pain. Other lessons in caste awareness teach the kids to identify the classes by the color they wear and their function in society.

Another tool the World Controllers use to manage the planet is the limitation of books and science. Since these things stir emotion, and emotion can lead to instability, they are withheld from the people. Instead the World Controllers institute shows called feelies to provide a source of entertainment. Similar to movies, feelies give the people a source of artificial happiness. After John and Lenina attend a feely together, Lenina emerges from the show bubbling with excitement and joy. On the other hand John is rather disappointed, describing the show as horrible and ignoble.

The people have been censored from all knowledge deemed to old or too hard for them to understand. Near the end of the book World Controller Mustafa Mond discusses with John the type of books the people are allowed to read. John is shocked that the beauty and truth of Shakespeare and Othello’s writing is forbidden to the people. Furthermore the identity of God has also been removed from the information given to the citizens. Instead of God people follow Ford. Since the book was first written in 1932, the author chooses Henry Ford to be the new world symbol for the AF years. Mustafa Mond explains how God has not changed, but the people do. This therefore requires a new supreme being for the people to follow.

Brave New World is a compelling story of what the world may someday become because of our desire for science and technology. Some consider it a warning, while to others it is only science fiction. It makes one wonder if the future of our world will ever go to such extremes to ensure happiness. Abolishing our individuality to conform to society? Ridding ourselves of all past famous literature? Taking antidepressant pills everyday to keep ourselves content? Anything is possible for the future, but only time will tell.

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Friday Night Lights

Friday Night Lights, by H.G. Bissinger, is about a classic example of a small town in Texas, a town called Odessa. Odessa is a town like most Texas towns, it was founded because of its oil, every body seems to know each other, and the Hispanics and Mexicans coming over the border have flooded it. But there is one more thing about Odessa. This is football.

Odessa has one of the greatest high school football programs in the country. Students from other states come to Odessa, just to get a chance to play, or watch a football game at Permian High School. Despite the great legends Permian High School has earned over the years of its football, there are also consequences.

Football is the only thing that brings the town together. People live for Friday night. Every player has his own life, but the center of it is football. Each of the players has their own peppette, a high school girl, devoted to them. These girls make a huge sign to put in the player’s yard for the season, posters for the game, cookies and other sweets, and they put on huge pep rallies every Friday morning. For almost every single Odessa Resident, if there weren’t a football team, they wouldn’t have anything to live for.

This town may sound unreal, but its values are extremely important to the residents. Once you are out of high school, your life just drags on, until you have children, and once again you can relive the Permian High School glory days of football.

High school football was the absolute most important aspect in the town of Odessa. Money was spent around it, the football coach was paid $48,000, while the head of the English department, with a master’s degree and twenty years of experience was paid $32,000. The football coaches were given brand new computers almost every year, while the school had just received its first computer. $70,000 was spent every year for chartered jets to a football game at Midland High School, which was 500 miles away from Odessa.

Racism was also a huge dispute in Odessa. Ever since the desegregation of schools, there had been problems in Odessa. Although a black or Hispanic football player would be given the same respect on the football field as anyone else, off the field, things were usually different. Black and Hispanic families were often treated with racism. Odessa had been rated one of the towns with the highest murder rates of blacks and Hispanics.

Academics were also another factor much less important in Odessa than football. Most of the time, teachers would teach for the first ten minutes of class, and then for the remaining forty minutes of class, they were given time to basically do whatever they wanted. Teachers along with the students thought nothing could top the Friday night game. There was no academic probation for students, if they couldn’t even reach the bare minimum. Many of the players had the knowledge of a twelve year old. Trying in school didn’t matter; performing on the football field was what mattered. If the football team did well, the town was content, despite its low scores on standardized tests. If the football team did bad, more emphasis was put on forgetting the test, and working on plays and getting ready for the next game.

In conclusion, this book goes to show that although high school football can be a great experience for a high school student, it shouldn’t be the center of a town. But it is in some towns still today. It is a terrible example for a town to be okay with the way schools don’t care about it’s student’s grades, only about whether or not the football team will win the state championship that year. A town in America shouldn’t revolve around the Friday night-lights.

In the book, Friday Night Lights, I learned a lot about how some towns emerge. Many small Texas towns were founded strictly for oil. Before long, these towns filled up with wild cowboy men, looking for bars (which became very popular businesses in these small towns,) and prostitutes, which were also in high numbers.

The town of Odessa was split in two, like many towns in Texas. There was southern Odessa and northern Odessa. Southern Odessa was mostly run down cheap houses, where mostly blacks and Hispanics lived, and northern Odessa was a richer, white section of town, where almost everyone was racist.

Not only was the town split, but the high schools were also split. There was Permian High School, for mostly northern Odessa white children, (in 1988, when the book takes place, the school was made up by 69% whites, and 23% Hispanic, with the remaining 8% blacks or other ethnic groups.) There was also Odessa High School, which was for mostly southern Odessa Hispanic and black children.

This town, like many others, was extremely reliant on the oil. In 1981, a record 4,530 drilling rigs were running the United States. Ten months later, that number dropped to 2,379. Unemployment increased, and banks, especially the First National Bank, which got into hundreds of millions of dollars in debt.

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