In 1932, Aldous Huxley wrote a classic dystopian novel called Brave New World, where the protagonist, Bernard Marx, visits a society where everyone is happy. This happiness is brought about by a happiness-producing drug called Soma. This leads to Bernard becoming vocal about why society based on ideals of happiness can’t and will not last.
For example, Bernard describes this happy society as empty, without open-mindedness and freewill, where people are overly optimistic about some negative things like death. Respectfully, people are not enjoying the benefits of negative emotions like jealousy, they have an inability to challenge the status quo, especially when it is not right, and are unable to feel negativity, especially when it is called for, such as during hard times, in life-threatening situations, and death.
Happiness in Brave New World vs Happiness Today
Certainly, Huxley’s book was written before we knew as much as we know today about happiness, such as a study that unequivocally points towards the superiority of happiness. Moreover, there are many other reasons why the society described in Brave New World is different from today’s current society. Still, this story is an excellent metaphor for what people today think about happiness. In other words, today we are living in a society where happiness is desired, but it takes a second place to other social and economic metrics, like having money, buying cool stuff, and marrying and having children. Sure, we do all these things for the sake of happiness, but happiness is just not a priority. The priority is the idea that all these things should lead to happiness, but not happiness itself.
As such, when we hear someone state that happiness is possible, it is transformational in the sense that it will make almost every other aspect of our life better, and that we should forgo all these different objects that make us happy for the happiness itself, we get sceptical. Certainly, things can’t be that easy and straightforward, right? Certainly, we aren’t happy and there are good reasons why this is the case. After all, our current society today is the most technologically advanced society the world has ever seen, and things like smartphones and access to pineapples in Russia is a clear sign of desired progress, right?
Huxley Didn’t Know About The Superiority of Happiness
Still, virtually all aspects of life improve when we are happy and deteriorate in an unhappy state. People behave differently when they are happy and many things that people pursue when they are unhappy become irrelevant. It’s like having two different people.
In other words, a society built on the ideals of happiness is an entirely different place, which some unhappy people can’t understand and find somehow disturbing. After all, it’s better to cry inside a Lamborghini rather than in a Mercedes, or so we are told. To this, I always reply that it’s better not to cry, even if we have to give up both the Mercedes and Lambo.
Fixing the World With Happiness
Moreover, many problems that haunt our society today would be automatically addressed and, perhaps, some other problems would take place, but in comparison, the benefits would outweigh the costs. This is, of course, the reason why we are so passionate about making the world into a happier place and why we believe that if we could make the world even 5% happier, the positive effect of happiness would be astronomical.
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