Brave New World

By Aldous Huxley

Was and Will Make Me Ill

The fixation on the present goes further than just the pacifying narcotics of the World State. As Mond says to John with regard to Shakespeare, "We haven't any use for old things here," and history in AF 632 has effectively been abolished. For that matter, so has any individual notion of what is to occur in the future. The wholesale reshaping of the past was to become a key theme in Nineteen-Eighty-Four, and two decades before this Huxley is making the link between control of the past in order to shape the present and future. As the Director says to his students: "What I'm going to tell you now... may sound incredible. But then when you're not accustomed to history, most facts about the past do sound incredible... You all remember... that beautiful and inspired saying of Our Ford's: History is bunk." The quote in full, from 1916, is no less in keeping with World State philosophy. Said Henry Ford, "History is more or less bunk. It's tradition. We don't want tradition. We want to live in the present, and the only history that is worth a tinker's damn is the history we make today." Indeed, it is the advent of Ford that is the starting point for such history that does exist in the novel: "The introduction of Our Ford's first T-Model... Chosen as the opening date of the new era... All crosses had their tops cut and became T's."

Once the new age had been ushered in, it was necessary to destroy all evidence of the previous one: "...a campaign against the past: the closing of museums, the blowing up of historical monuments... the suppression of all books published before AF 150." The only 'history' that does survive is a confused amalgam of Ford's views on manufacturing - applied to all aspects of existence - and other philosophies that can be moulded into the new world view. Huxley is satirising the future-utopianism where a line is drawn under the past, and everything is suddenly new - a tendency that has remained in speculative and science fiction ever since. The future is so often portrayed as shining and modern, as if the future would not be like the present, where the old persists as much as the new occurs. This said, more and more products (and one might even say ideas) are disposable, have a built-in redundancy, and the "ending is better than mending" outlook was already in action in the 1930s. Recycling may have now become a buzzword of the environmental movement, but disposability still predominates.

And at the same time, in AF 632, the sensation of passing time and an approaching future is kept at bay by the apparent eternal youth of the World State Population: "We preserve them from disease. We keep their internal secretions artificially balanced at a youthful equilibrium. We don't permit their magnesium- calcium ratio to fall below what it was at thirty. We give them transfusions of young blood. We keep their metabolism permanently stimulated... most of them die long before they reach old age. You live almost unimpaired till sixty, and then, crack! the end."