“Christianity without tears – that’s what soma is.” – Mustapha Mond
Soma is part tranquilizer, part hallucinogen, part anti-depressant. Prescribed to and compulsorily consumed by all inhabitants of Huxley’s Brave New World. What Huxley described in the novel was no doubt thought unimaginable before the regimes Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin and Cultural Revolution of Mao Zedong.
Huxley described a mass produced society, where people are not born but grown on an assembly line two hundred and twenty meters long. They advance down the assembly in a contained neatly in a bottle at the unperceivable rate of thirty-three and a third centimeters an hour. The process of the assembly line applied to biology. The fetuses (fetie?) are baked, cooled, shaken and injected with every inoculation and poison imaginable. Oxygen deprivation at pre determined intervals along the assembly line creates a sub-par people for sub-par conditions. As the Director of Hatcheries and Conditioning described “An Epsilon embryo must have an Epsilon environment as well as an Epsilon heredity”. Once the fetuses reach the end of the incubating line they arrive at the decanting room, from there until adulthood they are subjugated to every conceivable form of mental and social conditioning. People created on assembly lines to work assembly lines. The population is divided into casts, the Alpha Double Plus at the top and the Epsilon Semi-Moron at the bottom, with every conceivable division in-between. Alphas are genetically unique; everyone else belongs to a clone batch. Genetic distinctions added to the classic European cast system.
Huxley described a cult of personality before such a term or an example existed (excluding Christianity and Christ). God is dead he has been replaced. Time is measured in relative to the birth year of Henry Ford, the inventor of the modern mass assembly line. All Christian crosses have been chopped off to form a T in honor of Henry Ford’s mass-produced groundbreaking Model T automobile. This concept sounds silly or naive to the modern conditioned reader, but the horror of its meaning should not be ignored.
The story documents what happens when a “savage” is introduced to the “civilized” world sometime during the 7th Century A.F. The savage John would easily be recognized as a rugged individualistic American. In fact he is, he from the New Mexico savage reservation; and area deemed to sparsely populated to be civilized (as a verb rather than an adjective). He is well versed in Christianity, American Indian Religion and the works William Shakespeare – banned texts in the civilized world.
At first Johns individualism would appear to be of grave danger to the state and the body politic but Mustapha Mond the controller of Western Europe is unafraid. He introduces John to the world with great fan fare and publicity – mass entertainment. John is horrified by this mass culture so very different from his own, he sees the people of this world as addicted and enslaved (you would agree). However John’s appeals for freedom do not fall completely on deaf ears; Bernard the man who discovered John on the reservation and Bernard’s best friend are exiled to the Falkland Islands as a result for their heresy. And John, he is excluded from returning to the reservation or to exile with Bernard. He remains as a test of the system, a cultural rebel. He elects to live out his life in the English countryside. But he cannot escape the mass desire of the people for laughter and violence, being something he provides easily with his barbaric individualism. He is precursor to reality television? Maybe, but the contestants usually don’t whip the fans then commit public suicide.
Mustapha Mond was unafraid because he was proving the system was self conditioning and self excluding. He understood that the ideals of John the Savage would be understand by at most only a few and that the compromised elements could easily be removed through any means he felt necessary. Mustapha Mond appreciated people who escaped the mental and social orthodoxy but he was well aware that they could not be allowed to remain in circulation; he rewarded their revelations with forced exile to islands of their own choice.
Google has added brave new world to their library. Brave New World