Brave New World

Brave New World
By Aldous Huxley

Brave New World is often contrasted with 1984 as an example of a “soft” dystopia. Indeed, Huxley himself was one of the first to do this in his retrospective essay Brave New World Revisited. And one can see the point being made: things seem so much happier in the World State than in Oceania. People aren’t compelled to give up their freedoms by jackbooted police but instead willingly choose their state of infantilized slavery.

But this isn’t right. People have no freedom to choose in the brave new world but are programmed before birth (in the “crimson darkness” of the hatchery’s basement) and then through brainwashing, drug regimens, and behavioral conditioning. Toddlers are even given electroshock therapy to help mold them into perfect citizens, and if things don’t work out there is always the threat of exile to gulags like Iceland and the Falkland Islands. Huxley’s future state is just as coercive as Orwell’s, and Mustapha Mond is as lovable a tyrant as Big Brother.

As with 1984, a lot of effort has been put into arguing how much Huxley “got right” in predicting where things were going. For those who see today’s society as presided over by pointy-headed elites and largely made up of over-medicated “sheeple” further sedated by ubiquitous porn (which is all the “feelies” really are) and the indulgence of Violent Passion Surrogates, it sure hits the mark. I was most struck on this re-reading by the silly sports whose sole point isn’t fitness or competition but the purchase of lots of expensive gear. This sounds like the yoga industry.

It’s a messy, uneven book that tracks Huxley’s own shifting conceptions of where he was going, but it remains a landmark work that hasn’t lost any relevance in nearly a century. In fact, Huxley’s paranoia being deeper than Orwell’s, it’s a book that’s more of our time than ever.


8 thoughts on “Brave New World

  1. I remember reading this in highschool and being disgusted that people would allow themselves to come to such a place. Now, being older and having seen and experienced more, I’m sure it would just make me sad…

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Oh, part of the story is that the citizens of the brave new world take a trip to a reservation where people still live the old way (no conditioning or tranquilizers, and a mix of old time religion). One of the main characters is called John “the Savage” and he returns to the big city with a couple of the tourists and it messes with his head. He’s supposed to be a type of natural man/noble savage. I don’t think that part of the book works that well.

        Liked by 2 people

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