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Thesis: In Brave New World, Happiness is created by early
age conditioning and by the use of a drug called
Soma, which produces euphoria with no side effects,
or as Huxley describes it a vacation . In today s
world with our increasing stress, our rising
numbers in mental illness, and our incessant use of
anti-depressants it seems that today s society is
on a quest for Soma. But is Soma the answer?
A. Introduction to Society in Brave New World
B. Introduction to Soma
II. Society Today
A. Statistics of stress
B. Causes of Stress
C. Statistics of Stress
III. Today s solution
B. Difficulty of Medications
C. Society s view of Medications
D. Medication Alternatives
In Aldous Huxley s science fiction novel, Brave New World, Huxley attempts to create a vision of a Utopia future where happiness and stability is generated by the government, or otherwise known as the World Controllers. In Brave New World, the motto Community, Identity, Stability is posted at the entrance of the Central London Hatchery and Conditioning Centre the place where people are now born from test tubes and where conditioning takes place (Huxley 3). One ovary can be manipulated to form up to 96 identical clones. The conditioning process is done to place individuals in certain classes. For example, the lowest class Epsilons, would be conditioned to dislike books, or even to only enjoy standing on there heads, so when in society, and on the job they are happy to be doing only their job, to be associating with only their class, and would not have any craving or desire to pursue a different lifestyle. This would create stability, and where there is stability or the absence of conflict, happiness can exist, according to Brave New World.
Happiness is not only achieved by conditioning but also by the use of a drug called Soma, or the perfect pleasure drug that provides a mindless, inauthentic happiness, which would make the people comfortable with their lack of freedom. In today s world with increasing stress, the rising number of mental illness, and the incessant use of anti-depressants, it is only reasonable to conclude that we too are on a quest for Soma.
Looking back, I have gone through periods where I would have really liked to have Soma. Even as I write this paper, Soma sounds appealing. Being in college and having worked full time, I have been asked by many if I was stressed out. As a matter of fact, the term stressed out seems to be used quite frequently. How many times have I asked a friend or co-worker how they are doing and received America s newest and most prevalent saying, stressing out . How about you? According to Dr. Melissa Stoppler, a physician, researcher, writer and former faculty member of Georgetown University s medical program, the proportion of workers who reported feeling highly stressed more than doubled form 1985 to 1990 . This is more than Ten years ago! 75-90% of all visits to primary care physicians are for stress-related complaints or disorders . Does this sound like a problem to you? Well to add, this is America and of coarse with what almost seems like an epidemic, stress management programs have begun to crop up. Dr. Stoppler adds that it is estimated the market for stress management programs, products, and services was $9.4 billion in 1995, and is projected to be $11.31 billion for 1999 (Stress-America). According to the Health Resource Network, a non-profit health education organization, 75% of the general population experiences stress, every two weeks (Stress Facts). Stress has become such a large concern for Americans that the US Public Health Service has made reducing stress by the year 2000 one of its major health promotions (Stress Facts). I don t know, but it is now April 2001, which ironically, for the last eight years April has been recognized as the Stress Awareness month, and I have not yet received a call once, from the US Public Health Service. I won t hold my breath.
You may be thinking why I have brought up this issue of stress. I wonder if happiness and stress can coexist? I don t believe so. According to a stress management company Stress Directions, stress seems to play a large role in the production of depression, Depression, only one type of stress reaction, is predicted to be the leading occupational disease of the 21st century, responsible for more days lost than any other single factor . And, just to regress, they also claim that $300 billion is spent on stress related compensation claims per year (Stressdirections). Now, if we add depression to the mix, it is predicted that depression costs the U.S. $53 billion per year. 10% of adults, more than 17,000,000 people, suffer from major depressive illness every year (Know 11).
Being equipped with all these facts, perhaps we are well on our way to solving these two critical health issues. Well, with the present decrease in our economy it would be skeptical of myself to make that prediction. However with our ultramodern science we have come to what most medical doctors would call a cure. Today s Soma, we call Prozac, Zoloft, Paxil, Wellbutrin, just to name a few of the anti-depression and anti-anxiety medications. They are also known as SSRI s short for Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhipitors. It would seem that with the prevalence of stress disorders and depression, analogous to the common cold, people would not think twice about popping a pill. Unfortunately, society maybe still antiquated in our ways of mental illness, views anti-depressants as a weakness, as they themselves lack the ability to deal with the problem. Even in the 1998 presidential campain, rumors and allegation of depression was used against Michael Dukakis to question his fitness for political office. Just as Bernard in Brave New World who being part of the upper class Alpha plusses, found himself smaller and saw society as dismal. Basicly he was unhappy. Unconforming, he refused to take Soma. Why, maybe because of his pride, thus taking Soma would be to capitulating to the painful reality that he was different. This maybe the similar conflict among most with prejudice towards mental illness. I myself am not an advocate for anti-depressants, however I do feel that there are those that need it. Dr. Joseph Glenmullen, a clinical instructor in psychiatry at the Harvard Medical School, believes that there are a number of people who are on SSRI s who do not need them, In my experience, as many as 75% of patients are needlessly on these drugs(SSRI s) for mild, even trivial, conditions (Glenmullen 11). You see these SSRI s still have side effects and do not come close to Soma. Dr. Glenmullen continues in his book Prozac Backlash referring to the side effects of Anti-depressants, These dangerous neurological side effects-parkinsonism, agitation, muscle spasms, and tics- are known to originate in the particular region deep in the brain, involuntary motor system (Glenmullen 48). So our society so well equipped scientifically have still not come close to Soma.
I would like to entertain the idea that maybe Soma for us today does not come in pill form. Around the country a new trend in mental health is emerging. It is called meditation and spirituality. In the last years bookstores have been piling their shelves with self-help books on spirituality from The Seven Laws to Spiritual Success, by Deepak Chopra, to titles like The Tao of Leadership. Lance Secretan, a best-selling author, an award-winning columnist, philosopher/teacher, and one of the most sought business consultants, in an article in Industry Week writes, Few people have the constitution to cope with today s turbocharged pace of life and the changes brought by technology without a compensating mechanism-the capacity to go within to recharge and renew the mind, body, and soul . Secretan continues, When practiced regularly, meditation can help lower stress and blood pressure and enhance our state of awareness. Studies have shown that it may decrease the risk of heart disease, possibly because we are able to release stress and fatigue, rest the body, and thus allow it to heal naturally by reducing the toxic chemistries of stress (meditations). Today companies like Nortel Networks have built nondenominational meditation rooms for their employees. Even more interestingly more than 30 MBA programs now offer courses on meditation (Shush).
Although a Soma like drug would be the easiest way to cope with today s obstacles and challenges, it seems that anti-depressants with their side effects also may not be the cure for all. With increasing levels of stress and depression in this country it is disheartening that medicine has not yet found a Soma solution. Perhaps Huxley s idea of a Utopian society where there only exists happiness doesn t seem sound, for with out sadness there does not exist happiness. I know for myself, I would really more like the softer way, but it seems that my only solution to coping with stress and times of sadness lie in action; the action of prayer and meditation. I think it was best said by Simma Lieberman in an article in Restaurant and Hospitality, Your mental, physical and spiritual health are directly impacted by how well you deal with the stress . She goes on to interview an owner of two restaurants who frequently meditates who says, I can solve problems more easily, no matter what is going on externally. Stress no longer runs me (Meditate).
Glenmullen, Joseph. Prozac Backlash. New York: Simon &
Huxley, Aldous. Brave New World. New York: Harper Collins,
Lieberman, Simma. Meditate Stress Away. Restaurant
Hospitality 84 May 2000: 24
Know the Facts About Clinical Depression. USA Today 128
Feb. 2000: 11
Mc Donald, Marci. Shush. The guy in the Cubicle is
Meditating. U.S News & World Report 126 May 1999: 46
Secretan,Lance. Meditation s Many Rewards. Industry Week
250 March 2001: 25
Stress-America s Worst Health Problem About.com. 12 April
Stress Directions. Corporate Stress Solutions
Stressdirections.com. 12 April 2001.
Stress Facts. Stresscure.com. 12 April 2001.
St ppler, Melissa Ten Minutes a Day to Reduced Stress and
Better Health 12 April 2001.
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