A New World Is About New People Not New Things

by Bob Schwartz

How beauteous mankind is! 
O brave new world
That has such people in’t!
William Shakespeare, The Tempest (Act 5, Scene 1)

Those are famous lines from Shakespeare made more modernly famous by Aldous Huxley in his dystopian novel Brave New World.

In the play, Miranda has been isolated on an island with her father Prospero, and this is her exclamation as she gets her first excited view of beautiful and wondrous men. (Prospero, who is experienced and has seen a thing or two, warns her about the seeming novelty: “Tis new to thee.”)

“Brave new world” has come to mean progress in things and processes, whether for good or ill. But the Shakespeare quote suggests a more essential point. A new world is about new people, not new things.

Our difficulty is that it is easier to make new things than it is to make or be new people.

The supply of new things appears endless. But as for new and better people, at least in some highly visible and powerful segments, we seem to be moving backwards. Some of that regressing comes from people who piously and hypocritically claim that they are all about being new and better people.

If we want to consider new things the markers of a beautiful and wondrous new world—and some of them are— we should at least balance that with aspiring towards beautiful and wondrous and better people. New things make it easy to forget this, and the newer and more plentiful the things, the easier to forget.

To a new world with new people.