As highly functional and exceedingly authoritarian societies go, bees are legit. One need only skim some of the mass bee death headlines of the last few years to understand that for animals so small, seemingly innocuous and unwelcome at picnics, bees basically run the world. Or keep the world running.
Given their propensity for hierarchy, bees also seem an apropos topic for the ever-growing canon of dystopian fiction. After all, they’re an all-natural example of the kind of social order foisted on humans in books like 1984, The Handmaid’s Tale and Brave New World. Bees have a ruler, a class system, and a directive (however innate) to stick with the program lest the whole hive suffer for an individual’s absence of industry. Needles to say, I could never be a bee, or any other animal whose entire existence is synonymous with hard work and constant activity. (Given the choice, I’d be a house cat; their lives are 70% sleeping, 10% eating and 20% knocking things off tables.)
Continue reading “Laline Paull’s The Bees: Honey doesn’t buy happiness”
To the chagrin of many (and the surprise of few) it turns out that the National Security Agency is keeping an eye on us. If you’ve been sending tongue-in-cheek missives to your UK friends about “blowing up all of the buses because ughhh,” now might be the time to stop.
With this week’s revelations—brought to you by patriot/traitor/poor man’s Alexander Skarsgard Edward Snowden—Americans are understandably displeased. And, it would seem, anxious: Sales of George Orwell’s 1984 have spiked on Amazon.
But are we really so close to the worlds envisioned by authors like Orwell, Aldous Huxley and Margaret Atwood? Let’s take a look.
Continue reading “So are we living in a literary dystopia?”
I suppose it’s appropriate that I would be reviewing Brave New World during a particularly stressful week at work. After all, in Aldous Huxley’s faux-utopian novel, there is no stress. Everyone’s happy with their station in life and during those brief moments when they aren’t, during the hours one might otherwise ruminate on daily obstacles, there’s government-approved and -distributed soma, as close an approximation to Xanax as one might have conceived in the early 1930s.
I don’t know how I managed not to read Brave New World up until this point, but just in case you haven’t either, here’s the basic idea: The novel is set in a future society where women no longer give birth biologically; couples aren’t married, “everyone belongs to everyone else.” On the social level, this means that everyone sleeps with everyone else, women and men are discouraged from forming relationships longer than a few months (and should never be exclusive). On the biological level, this means that birth has become a science. Embryos, created and brought to term in what are essentially human-producing factories, are split into different castes—Alphas, Betas, Gammas, etc.—and conditioned based on their predetermined station in life. Moreover, the lower the caste, the more humans are created from one egg, a scientific achievement knows as the “Bokanovsky Process.” So while an Alpha is a one of a kind, a human conditioned only to respect the values of this new society (togetherness, happiness, tranquility, consumption), an Epsilon may be one of 40+ identical “twins” created from the same egg, and created to be of lower intellect and expectation, the ideal humans to …man elevators, or work in factories, without even the ability to want something better for themselves.
Continue reading “Sex and drugs and house”