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Utopias Essay, Research Paper

In our attempt to achieve the “perfect society” in which everyone is happy we have failed to realize that happiness means something different for everyone, and that severe contradictions will destroy a so called “perfect society”. Webster’s dictionary defines a Utopia as, “An ideally perfect place, especially in its social, political, and moral aspects” (696). A Utopia symbolizes a society perfect in every way for everyone. In the real world we must endure many hardships: disease, poverty, violence, natural disasters, and so on. In an effort to put an end to all of these detriments to existence people strive to create Utopias. Novelist Aldous Huxley, in his novel Brave New World, describes a fictional utopia. Huxley’s utopia has many problems that are realized by some of the characters in the book. For these characters the morally deprived world of conditioned people in which they live is revealed to be in fact a dystopia or an anti-utopia. In reality as well as fiction utopias are often attempted. However, as is true in the utopia described by Aldous Huxley, real-life utopias often fail as well. Jim Jones, the leader of the People’s Temple, endeavored to create a utopia during the 1960’s and 70’s based on equality and social justice. The People’s Temple met it’s ultimate demise when, under the orders of Jim Jones himself, the mass suicide/murder of all the members of Jones’ Guyana Community occured. Jim Jones’s and Aldous Huxley’s societies represent two dystopias with both similarities and differences.

The novel Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley, describes a Utopia created through the intense conditioning of its citizens. The people’s minds in this world are molded to accept certain beliefs and values that are assumed good, while any history of their previous world is eliminated. In this story, a young man who was raised in a world where people are not conditioned, is introduced to this world of “?endlessly repeated face(s)” (Huxley 221). Through the young man’s thoughts and actions the reader fully realizes that a lack of individual nature amongst millions of people can never exist in a true utopia. The society in Brave New World is a dystopia. In this society the class structure is strictly regimented. Alphas represent the highest caste of this society. Alphas hold the highest most important positions in society. Gammas and Deltas are castes that specialize in important but remedial work. While Epsilons, the lowest caste, are laborers. Politically, there isn’t much to the “Brave New World”. World Controllers rule very large geographic regions, while Alpha pluses (upper level Alphas) make important decisions regarding the governing of the people within each world. People are conditioned through hypnopaedic sessions that educate citizens. This form of education, however, is limited to superficial phrases preaching guidelines by which to live one’s life through loudspeakers during their sleep. Hypnopaedia is more akin to brainwashing than instruction. Worship of the “god” Ford is practiced by all citizens. Praise of the “god” Ford is practiced in drug-laced ritualistic orgies. Philosophically, the most important thing to the citizens of Huxley’s novel is happiness at any cost. Love, family, true religion, the arts, and individuality are sacrificed in order to achieve the invented happiness that is experienced by the characters in this story. The society is an example of an attempted utopia that turns out to be a dystopia.

A real-life example of another dystopia is Jim Jones’s People’s Temple Guyana Community. Jim Jones’s following started as an assembly of over 900 members in Indianapolis, Indiana during the 1950’s. Jim attracted a large following by preaching freedom, equality, and love. Jim’s biggest attraction was his false performance of healing supposedly sick members of his church. Within a few years, the People’s Temple moved itself from Indiana to Ukia, California. Jim claimed that he envisioned total destruction of Indiana, and so he beckoned his following to come with him to California. However, this move was more likely a way to force his people to prove their faith to him and make themselves more dependent on him. Within California the group moved twice more until alleged allegations against the People’s Temple forced Jim Jones to move his people once more to Guyana. In Guyana Jim’s following established the “People’s Temple Agricultural Project”. During the late 1970’s Jim abused prescription drugs and became paranoid of all outsiders. When the colony was visited by Congressmen Leo Ryan to investigate the possibility that some of the members of the group were being held not of their own free will, Jim reacted with force. The People’s Temple attacked and killed four people. Following this action Jim predicted the end of his society and ordered the mass murder/suicide of 638 adults and 276 children by having them drink cyanide-laced kool-aid. Fundamentally, the class structure of Jim Jones’s Guyana society had two primary levels; Jim Jones and his followers. However, a small group of women did serve as a personal council to Mr. Jones. A group of co-ministers ruled at a higher level than most of his other followers during the early years of his “society”. Another group of people designated by Jim Jones was his appointed committee in charge of enforcing rules. Politically, his group was ruled with a socialistic attitude with influences of Pentascopal Christianity. Much like Aldous Huxley’s society, the followers of Jim Jones were greatly influenced through propaganda techniques. The voice of Mr. Jones was broadcast day and night in his Guyana Community. All that was taught was what Jim wanted to be taught. Religiously, Jim placed himself above “god”. Strict worship of Mr. Jones was practiced. Equality was preached consistently throughout the lifespan of the cult-like society, but as the effects of abusing prescription drugs began to affect the psyche of Jim Jones, his sermons grew increasingly paranoid. Jim embraced a philosophy that his beliefs and followers were under constant attack from the outside world. This paranoia finally led to the aforementioned mass murder/suicide.

The major differences between the two failed utopias were philosophical in nature. In Brave New World the people lived in a constant state of happiness essentially. While in the Guyana Community the people lived in a constant state of fear and paranoia. The most similar item between the two dystopias was that the people living in each society were governed under stringent control. Such oppressive control forces people to lose their individuality. Therefore, both of these societies represent dystopias in that they are both failed attempts at perfect societies. Realizing that so many people have written about utopias in books and that so many people have tried to build them in real life and have failed, one might suspect that utopias are impossible to achieve. “Humans, by nature, are individualistic” (Hall 332). The differences among people are what make the world a more satisfying and diverse place to live in. Any attempt to tie together the various strings of religions, cultures, beliefs, and ideas to create a single fabric will surely unravel.

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