Monologue of John the Savage from Brave New World: by Avisha Uttamchandani
Mustapha Mond made a number of important points that perhaps I was too quick to dismiss. I was younger then, and in the best of health, and my house had not been broken into, and I was not wealthy, as I am now, and my daughter had not been mugged in the park, and I was in those days excited and full of adrenaline and took a bold position which now, in a more quiet and mature place in life, I am having reasonable second thoughts about. I was on the spot and had to defend my position and present my persona without fluctuation or equivocation. Now, with time to reflect more honestly and less melodramatically, I must admit that there are some points that Mond raised that I find myself agreeing with more than I did when I was younger and more impetuous.
I should not have rejected wholesale the manufactured paradise, which Mond offers. Not that I would go as far as Mond does, perhaps, but certainly there should be room for some kind of reasonable compromise between his extreme position in which all life is controlled by the state, and my extreme position in which total freedom prevails.
Mond argued that the focus of the ideal society changed the focus of humanity from "truth and beauty" to "comfort and happiness", and I angrily counter-argued that without truth and beauty there could be no real happiness. Well, I now believe that perhaps comfort and safety are important, if not more important than truth and beauty. After all, it is "true" that I want to be safe in my big house and it would be "beautiful" to know that my family is protected from criminals.
So, yes, I am willing to grant that perhaps the kind of freedom I was seeking earlier is not true freedom but simply another kind of imprisonment, another kind of narcissism.
I complained that Mond had helped create a society of narcissists who sought nothing but their own desires and pleasures without consciences, without God, without anything except their own needs and wants.
I still feel to some degree that the people of Mond's Utopia are narcissistic, but that does not necessarily mean that everything they do to satisfy themselves is narcissistic, or wrong, or unnecessary.
I have found in my maturing that a person does need some relief from taking life so seriously all the time, from being such an individual and an independent thinker. Those freedom-based pursuits can bring a man a great deal of stress, and a small measure of something like soma, for example, after a hard days's work writing and thinking and reading, is not the entirely narcissistic product I might have believed earlier. I now am coming to see that settling back and enjoying the pleasures that technology has to offer can soothe the savage beast, so to speak, and that is not such a bad thing at times.
On the other hand, that doesn't mean I'm willing to go as far as Mond has gone in his Utopia. I am merely trying to find some reasonable middle ground where I might avoid the suicidal fate I found in the earlier version of this story. After all, as I was climbing up to hang myself for what I had done, for how I has sunk into such complete savagery, for how I had been torn in two by the conflicts between my desire and my conscience, I was thinking even then of how maybe I took freedom and independence to too much of an extreme. After all, I didn't really do anybody any good by leading such a miserable life of freedom that I ended up killing myself to get away from the consequences of my actions!
I essentially ended up in the same kind of narcissistic trap, which I said that the people of the Utopia were trapped in. If I had lost my way in freedom as much as the people in Utopia had lost their way in captivity, then what is the difference between myself and them? If I could not handle the freedom which I valued, then how could the people of Utopia have handled it if they were allowed to have it?
Obviously, then, I need some humility. I need to accept the fact that I was not quite the champion of freedom and truth which I liked to think of myself as being. Yes, I did once believe that it was the presence of truth and beauty that gives life the possibility of true "happiness," but now I see that perhaps there can be too much of a good thing, too much truth and beauty, or at least too much truth. The truth of what happened to me is not something I want to go through again, now that I have a second chance, at least in my imagination. Perhaps all of this is only a moment in time which I am experiencing as I live my last instant after hanging myself. Nevertheless, I am taking advantage of it by seeing how I might have done things differently if I did have a second chance. Perhaps it is only the flickering out of my narcissistic flame, but I will still make the most of it.
I believe now that there is only so much individuality, so much freedom, so much truth that a person can stand, and after that point he becomes narcissistic and starts to self-destruct. I admit now that I need a break from the truth, but I also hold that the conforming people of Utopia need as break from conforming. I don't know how we would begin to work this out, for I fear that the people are so conditioned to see and live life narcissistically, that they would find it impossible to begin to think for themselves.
Of course, there is a difference between individualism and narcissism--to a point. Too much individualism (that is, thinking for oneself, expressing oneself and living creatively, living according to instincts and intuition rather than obeying what one is told to do, etc.) does lead to narcissism. Narcissism is becoming so lost in your own image of yourself that you disappear, or drown, or die in that self. We can't escape our egos, but we must be aware of them or we will disappear in them like Narcissus did.
Yes, of course, part of why I met my violent and self-destructive end was because I was having to fight the forces of conformity and oppression, the forces of a narcissistic society which saw me and my terrible suffering as simply another form of entertainment. I'm sure Mond would agree with me on this point since I'm conceding him quite a few points here. If the Utopia had set aside some small area where I could have been encouraged to develop myself in a healthy way, rather than being presented a sideshow freak for the people to drive to madness and suicide, then perhaps I could have avoided that terrible fate and the vicious act to another which preceded that suicide.
In other words, I see now that for society to last, there must be some measure of conformity, which I did not appreciate before, although the Utopia went too far in that direction. A reasonable amount of conformity is necessary for the society to operate in an orderly way, and the freedom-loving individual also needs such order around him, or society will be too chaotic for him to truly live free. Without reasonable laws and a certain amount of conformity, the individual will be turned back into a savage, as I was, and will behave like a savage whose existence is threatened by what he sees as other savages around him.
On the other hand, for a society to be vibrant with life and creative energy and spontaneity, that society and its leaders and people must find some way to encourage independent thinking and creative efforts, or the people will turn into robots who are incapable of doing anything but what they are told to do. The so-called happiness of the people of the Utopia is nothing but the numb and dehumanized complacency of robots.
It is true that with art, religion, beauty, truth and freedom come some suffering, but that suffering is the price one pays for growing in life and experiencing the highest emotions, sensibilities and aspirations which are accessible only to a truly free human being. Again, to be fair to Mond's argument, it is undeniable that with freedom come the consequences of suffering. The point is that the individual human being, to have his or her life mean anything, must be free to choose what to do and think and feel, at least to some degree. The people in this utopia have had their freedom to choose conditioned out of them. They are trained from birth, and genetically controlled before birth, to accept their lot and therefore they are not even aware of freedom.
Yes, it is true that with my claim for freedom I also claimed, "I don't want comfort. I want God, I want poetry, I want real danger, I want freedom, I want goodness, I want sin. . . . I'm claiming the right to be unhappy". However, I have changed those views somewhat, modified them, because I saw where they led me--to destruction and self-destruction. I now want some comfort, and may not so much danger or sin. The human being, I have found, needs to limit himself, or have some limits imposed on him, as far as how much danger and deviance he should pursue as an individual. The line between individualism and narcissism is a thin one and I lost track of when I crossed from freedom into madness.
I still do not believe that it is happiness to live like a robot. I will still argue for some freedom, but I am willing to settle for a reasonable middle-ground. I want my freedom, but I acknowledge now that I can only handle so much freedom before I lose myself in my own freedom and then my creativity becomes true savagery, and I must be protected by the state from harming myself or others. Both the society as a whole as well as all individuals within that society benefit from the state's imposition of a certain amount of conformity through laws, through technology, even through social engineering.