Whose Brave New World?
When I wrote in my previous post about the increasing lack of cultural knowledge and awareness, in all its forms, I wasn’t expecting to see a glaring example of it quite so soon. Perhaps because I’m not the type of cultural pedant that actively seeks out transgressions like the guerrilla grammarians that creep around provincial town centres painting the correct apostrophe onto a grocer’s shop sign.
However, as I was coming out of Tottenham Court Road underground station, a new free magazine was handed to me. Drafted Magazine joins the ranks of other free publications in London including most notably (and profitably) the Evening Standard, City AM, Shortlist, Stylist and Time Out. It’s a publication that “aims to brighten up your journey to work on the first Monday of every month” with a mixture of fashion and popular culture aimed at both men and women.
Fair enough, a once-a-month magazine with features such as “Meet the Cast of new E4 Show ‘Youngers’” isn’t competing for the same audience as the Times Literary Supplement or Apollo. However, there was something that rankled on the very first page. The debut issue is themed “A Brave New World” which “explores our evolving universe from our obsession with fame, to new technology and whether finding love online is really the twenty-first century way to go”. Half the introductory page is taken up with the phrase in a huge font and the accompanying text contains the following paragraphs:
“Although we often think of drastic change in terms of invention and innovation, even basic language has transformed massively over the last decade. Now peppered with abbreviation and slang and an overwhelming need to get something ‘trending on twitter, I sometimes wonder if Shakespeare is turning so much in his grave, that he’s practically a wind turbine.
If the destruction of language was not enough to make Shakespeare weep he can rest assured that while the mighty e-reader is ensuring that novels are still in existence, reality television continues to grow strong, as more and more of us are after our 15 minutes of fame and flashbulbs”
Whilst I can’t speak for Shakespeare, I can say that what made me weep is that the writer throughout the piece is using a phrase coined by Shakespeare! ‘Brave New World’ is taken from Miranda’s speech in The Tempest when she exclaims:
How many goodly creatures are there here!
How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world,
That has such people in’t.
Admittedly, it is one of the few phrases to have been made more famous by the author Aldous Huxley in his novel of the same title imagining a dystopian future set in London in the year 2540.
Whilst I don’t expect every cultural reference to be footnoted, if you are going to invoke Shakespeare in a discussion of our latter-day “destruction of language”, at least note that you are deploying one of his phrases as the theme for your entire article and magazine (hint, it’s in massive typeface above your words). To be fair to Drafted, there is an amusing article in the magazine that discusses our changing language and txt tlk so I’m not seeking to portray it as simply light entertainment fluff and fashion.
The author concludes by saying “A Brave New World is more about recognising spirit and diving into the unknown, celebrating the fact that while we’re here this is the once chance we have to make our mark”. Yes, one should seize the moment and take the opportunities that arise but that is no reason to discard centuries of historical, artistic and cultural baggage and henceforth live merely from hand to mouth.*
* That sentiment is not mine, but has been lifted from Goethe.