Having just finished Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, I was struck at the predominance of theme of desensitization. In a culture today where people have become desensitized to the world around them, I worry about its impact on our society. I’m not saying we’ve entered into a dystopian world but these types of books are meant to be hyperbole in order to draw attention to larger concerns expressed by the other or conclusions drawn from the reader.
For those who haven’t read the novel, Brave New World takes place in the future where society has been manufactured to be happy. Happiness comes at the cost of personal freedoms, predetermined outcomes, drugs, sex, overloading of the senses, and escape from responsibility. All of this becomes overwhelming to the protagonist who, having been isolated from this world, is introduced to abundant pleasures but realizes that there is a lack of depth to the world, and that only true happiness can come from having pain and discomfort as a baseline.
At least that’s how I interpreted it.
What was curious to me is how today we have the ability to escape situations that in the past have caused discomfort. Most of us will use a phone throughout the day to envy what our friends are doing, or text with others while in a group, or play games to pass the time. Some of us will look for other pleasures through the use of pornography or online shopping. While this is far from the world of Huxley where there is only happiness, the escape and instant pleasure we can find if we seek it, seems to desensitize us to our own world.
There is a lot of pain out there and many of us (including myself) take a quick look at it and then move on to the next thing. There are a lot of things wrong in the world and many of us (including myself) choose to not get involved. There are people who need help and many of us (including myself) do not listen.
Instead we change our avatars to show support, or we write a quick opinion piece and move on, or sometimes we just scroll by.
We have become desensitized to the world by often seeking pleasure. The pleasure is often empty or meaningless, just a way to pass the time. But what we need to do is connect and find what is real.
This is not just me spouting off about what you should be doing but a reflection on what I need to be doing. I don’t get involved, I don’t disconnect, I don’t take a moment and reflect. I escape.
I don’t want this escape to take away from my pleasures in life.
I want to free myself.