February 03, 2005

Brave New World

Thoughts on the book by Aldous Huxley

I found Brave New World a book with more complexity than I expected. His imaginary world is divided into two society, a modern scientific one and a primitive one on reservations within the modern society. The modern society is, of course, a distopia, but the primitive world is also deeply flawed. I see distopias as societies where one or two desirable goals like stability or equality are held preeminent. To achieve these goals, many other goals and values are be sacrificed. In this modern distopia, stability is the preeminent social good and happiness is placed just below it. Although not a distopia, the primitive society is discriminatory and violent. Each society has something to offer the other yet they despise each other.
This society has no violence, no war, no unemployment, no old age, and everyone is reasonably happy. However, the cost of these benefits is high.

  • a class system where everyone's place is determined at birth.
  • every individual is a class is as alike as possible, same height, skin color, intelligence, etc.
  • no families and children raised in institutions
  • sex is allowed but relationships are taboo
  • easily available drugs to cure unhappiness
  • general theories of science not taught only specific applications
  • no art beyond advertising slogans and propaganda
The deep irony of this society completely devoted to stability is it is not as stable as it appears. Their stability is quite fragile and has huge underlying instability. Without their current massive intervention in every part of peoples' lives, their society would collapse. This threat of instability has trapped the leaders of this Brave New World. They cannot change their society to a better, fairer one without first making things much worse.

I book like Brave New World reminds us of the benefit of a real world that is difficult to change and human nature that is even harder to change. If it was easy, then "Brave New World" would be much more common.

It is clear why Brave New World is a classic. (4.5/5.0)

A few questions suggested by reading Brave New World:
What are the primary goals of our society and what values have we sacrificed?
How much should we give up to eliminate war, especially considering our ideas might fail?
When we promote stability, is it more important that society is stable on a daily basis or stable under crisis and change?
How much individual freedom ought to be given up for the general good of society?

These question are mostly food for thought, feel free to take a shot at any of them if you want to.

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