Thursday, May 29, 2014

Brave New World, Drugs and Cultural Indoctrination

I finally finished reading Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley yesterday. It ended up being more of a struggle than I thought it would. Maybe it was his writing style or something else, but I kept losing
A Brave New World, by Aldous
Huxley. My copy was an ebook.
See below for photo credit.
by Crowbot, [CC BY-SA 2.0],
via Flickr
interest along the way.

The characters were way too simple for my liking, even the ones who were supposed to be deep or well rounded. The Savage, for instance, is arguably one of the most well rounded characters in the book, but he wound up being little more than an angry young man, obsessed with purity and self punishment.

There was quite a bit of sexism in how women were portrayed as well. I can't begin to tell you how many times I wanted to tell Lenina and Linda to quit obsessing over men. I found myself wondering if that was really how Aldous viewed women, or if they were just serving as tools to show how superficial the fictional world really was.

There was also a sort of heavy handed judgementalism about anything against the typical monogamous relationship still favored in today's world. Even though sleeping around was the new normal, it wasn't hard to see the undercurrent of distaste about it from the beginning. When the Savage was introduced, that dislike went from a hidden flow to a fire hose at full blast.

Irritation with characters aside, I'm pretty sure much of the above can be explained by a combination of the era in which the book was written and deep seated cultural ideals still in effect today.

I did, however, like his use of social indoctrination, drugs-as-a-crutch and creating a sort of caste system from birth. Like in the book 1984, these types of manipulative techniques touch upon the similarities of today's world.

After all, we are buried under messages of how to act based on gender or social class and what to think of others who are different from us practically from birth. When we get physically or emotionally sick, we often turn to pills right away,  seeking alternatives first. Even many newborns are bathed in medication, whether its epidural meds inadvertently fed to them through the umbilical cord followed by medication to counteract those effects, or antibiotics to treat unknown fevers which may be caused by the Hep. B vaccine they might not have even needed.

Speaking of babies, the concept of family, pregnancy or being born to a mother instead of in a lab was seen as obscene. When I first read that, I thought of countries like Brazil, where their C-section rate is around 82%. The US rate is also far higher than what the WHO suggests, but it's nowhere near that high. This is partially because of convenience, since a c-section is quicker than natural birth and it can be scheduled, and partially out of a cultural revulsion over natural delivery.

It's that revulsion in our world that stuck with me in relation to the obscenity of having a mother in the book.

The prevalence of cloning in the book can be interpreted as an interesting comment on the conformity resulting from these messages. If you ever stop to people watch in certain areas, or even do a search on popular celebrities, you might notice a certain, unnerving conformity in personal style.

I also found his take on eugenics interesting.

Instead of completely eradicating those viewed as "imperfect", the scientists instead bred them in great numbers, while encouraging intellectual disabilities and physical imperfections from embryo-hood. The large number of imperfect people were then used as labor for the comparatively tiny number of "Alpha-Pluses". The alphas were created by the best egg and sperm cells available, allowed to develop in ideal conditions and then trained to be leaders.

In this way, a supposedly perfect world was created. There was no war, no famine and everyone was given a job to do. Of course, if you strayed outside of your role or refused to take the medication everyone else was, you were singled out and made to suffer.

Although humans naturally want a stable and safe world in which to live, the lack of diversity and innovation would make our lives unbearably hollow. That's why the drug is used in the book - to keep the population sedated and content, therefore keeping their society stable.

I also found it clever to see how Ford was essentially deified. His assembly line method of production was taken to an extreme in that world, and he took the place of an unseen God. Spirituality was banished to be replaced with sensual pleasures and strictly regulated science. It makes sense that the father of mass production would be put on a pedestal in such a world.

Of course, I wouldn't advise reading The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy at the same time. It gets confusing to move from Ford the god figure to Ford Prefect the hitchhiker.

Anyway, back to Brave New World.

Overall, it was a pretty decent book and quite thought provoking. Although I didn't care for the writing itself or the characters, I'd suggest it to anyone looking for an interesting take on some of the more disturbing aspects of today's world.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Are You As Fed Up With Mysogyny As I Am?

When I first started this blog, I hadn't expected to write on the "life" section quite so soon. I'm nearly done with a book, after all, so I thought my second entry would be a review. (10% more to go, according to Kindle.)

Then Friday happened. The shooting in Santa Barbara brought quite a few issues to the forefront. I wrote a bit about the mental health aspect here, but what got to me the most was the prominent role misogyny played in it.

This guy's repeated motivation in committing murders and assault was his lack of luck with getting in a relationship with women. He targeted women, because he blamed all women for those who turned him down. He targeted men, because he was jealous of them for having better luck than he did.

As I stated in the entry I'd linked above, there's far more to it than that. I still say it's important to remember that fact when thinking about this case and other cases of violence.

However, it highlighted the issue of misogyny running rampant in our society. It's far from the first time something like this has happened, either.

Last month, a 16 year old boy murdered a girl because she turned down his invitation to prom. This story from last year tells of a man who tried paying a 14 year old girl to have sex with him, and when she refused, attempted to kill her by strangling, then running her over with his car. This kind of stuff happens every day, even if it doesn't make the news.

Talk to any woman about it, and you'll get a story of a man harassing her or assaulting her to some extent. I have plenty of them. If you'd like to hear some of the worse ones, just ask.

I really need to do some more yard work. This is where
it happened last month.
In fact, just last month, I was accosted by a guy right by my house. I wrote about it here on
Hollaback, along with the poor way police handled my report.

Is it any wonder why so many women are hesitant to interact with men they don't already know? We know very well we're at risk of being groped over the course of normal conversation, and rape or worse is never far from our mind when a guy gets aggressive.

Yes, we know we're not supposed to walk alone at night, despite the fact we may work shifts that give us no other choice.

Yes, we know we have to watch our drinks if we decide to go clubbing or to the bar, despite the fact we just want to have a good time.

Yes, we know we shouldn't drink too much, despite the fact we might just be having a girl's night out.

Yes, we know we shouldn't wear revealing clothing, despite the fact it's boiling outside and we don't want heat stroke.

Yes, we know the millions of other things we're told we should or shouldn't do "for our safety". Yet, we're still accosted by unwanted attention, verbal or physical.

Do you know what else we know?

We know that the men who do this, make no mistake, it's almost ALWAYS men, need to own up to their poor behavior. It's time for them to grow up and take responsibility for their actions.

So, guys, your hormonal urges or sexual attraction are not reason for your lack of control. Your sense of entitlement and possessiveness are. If you really wanted to compliment a woman, you'd be a lot kinder about it.

Before anyone chimes in with the tired old "but not all men" argument, yes. I know. We all know.

Any woman with good men in her life know not all men do that. I have wonderful fathers (blood, grand, married and step), wonderful brothers, a wonderful husband and many wonderful male friends who don't do anything like what these degenerates have done and continue to do today.

That "but not all men" argument is insulting to all of us.

However, all women have been impacted by the men who do this. All women must be on the lookout for their own safety. When any woman stands up for herself or someone else, they need to deal with the consequences, deadly or not.

I saw a great piece on tumblr not long ago. I can't find it now, but the author asked us to imagine a bowl of M&Ms. Now, imagine 10% of those M&Ms are poisoned. You have no way of knowing which ones are good, and which aren't. Are you willing to grab a handful and wolf them down? (If whoever wrote that comes across this entry, please let me know so I can link to your blog.)

Bear in mind, just because you don't harass, assault or otherwise harm women doesn't mean your job is done. It's up to you to read and listen to stories from women with an open mind. It's up to you to talk to your friends about why that behavior is wrong. It's up to you to stop reinforcing harmful actions by laughing at jokes about or standing by when it happens. Instead, question those jokes.

It's up to you to let friends who think harassing women, or anyone really, is entertaining that you'll have no part in it and why.

It's also up to all of us to realize victims are never to blame for crimes committed against them. It doesn't matter what they're wearing, where they're walking or anything else. The person who commits the crime is the ONLY one who's at fault.

The person who did it made the choice. The person who did it is the one who should bear the backlash of their actions.

The victim, on the other hand, should be offered is help in recovering from whatever was done to them and a safe place in which to heal.

It's way past time we change the way we handle sexism and violence against women.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Hey there, fellow readers!

I've been a huge fan of reading since I was little. Books provided a haven from the turmoil of my early years, a never ending source of fascination and a way to feed my hungry little brain.

My love for them grew with age, and now almost every room in my home has at least one. Bookstores are dangerous places, as are online book sellers. SOME money needs to go towards bills, after all.

A week or so ago, I realized that maybe starting a blog for book reviews, pondering on writing and the occasional post about life might be a good idea.

I already run two blogs, Alternative Wiring and Random and Crafty, so I'm not a stranger to the concept of blogging. In fact, before I started those, I had blogged on sites like Livejournal for a number of years, before moving on.

I endeavour to update those two blogs at least three times a week, if not more, but this one is more for fun.

Here, I'll update with reviews whenever I finish reading a book, and I'll probably make some posts geared towards breaking the wall writer's block sometimes puts up.

As for the types of books I read, you can expect a broad range of genres. I absolutely love urban fantasy, but I'll read just about anything I can get my hands on. I'm more than happy to read and review works by friends, too. I will be honest about my opinions, though, and will back them up.

I'm almost done with Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley, so you can expect a review of that later.

Hope you'll join me on this literary journey!