Here are my notes on the book:
* At the end of the book, I had nothing. I had no comments. I had no reactions. I didn’t laugh or cry or have any emotional or intellectual reaction to the book. It did not remind me of problems we face today. I might have been too familiar with the book, so nothing in it surprised me or delighted me. I’ve had to work harder to come up with comments on this book than any other book I remember. I guess the book did not trigger me, or stimulate me. It just felt like reading someone’s intellectual exercise.
* Aldous Huxley is mocking the type of world he wants to build. Around this time, he flirts with world government, eugenics, centralized authoritarian control. He does not think democracy is up to the job.
* Everyone gets inoculated at birth against various diseases, which I think is a good thing.
* Huxley displays a snobbish looking down on the lower classes. He thought western societies were going down, he wanted state power and propaganda, he was willing to sacrifice individual liberty but saw the downside of what he wanted.
* Social classes are inevitable and a caste system has upsides and downsides, at least people know who they are.
* Huxley was reacting to WWI, when government took unprecedented control, just as in Covid, government has taken unprecedented control of our lives.
* He satirizes Keynes, we just had massive Keynesian intervention for Covid, and it seems like it was the right thing to do.
* Intellectuals despise consumption by the masses. In our problems today, consumerism and industrialization rank low on the list.
* Brave New World, written in 1931, is a satire on California: Lenina: “Hug me till you drug me, honey; Kiss me till I’m in a coma: Hug me, honey, snuggly bunny; Love’s as good as soma.” California is the least traditional state, it has the fewest family, religious, ethnic ties compares to other states. California is where people come to get away from traditional ties.
* Brave New World is also a satire on the United States and Henry Ford’s auto factory (intellectuals look down on businessmen).
* Brave New world satirizes the American commitment to happiness, BNW is a world dedicated to happiness.
* Unlike Rousseau or TH Lawrence and the romantics, Brave New World depicts the savage reservation as a dystopia.
* Is brave new world a utopia or a dystopia? There is no war, no pain, no age, no early death. Imagine there’s no Heaven. It’s easy if you try. No Hell below us, Above us only sky. Imagine all the people Livin’ for today. Imagine there’s no countries — It isn’t hard to do. Nothin’ to kill or die for And no religion, too. Imagine all the people Livin’ life in peace.
* I would rather live in Brave New World than 1984
* How many liberties would you give up to reduce crime?
* We have nothing like soma. Opiates and valium come closest. I don’t think we live in anything like BNW. Propaganda does not work much.
* It makes sense that the state would have an interest in reproduction.
* More or less government control — not clear which is best…Eugenics, tech, meds can be useful… Hierarchy is normal… The worst people are reproducing… If you need a license to drive a car, why should you not need a license to have kids?
* We spend so much money taking care of people in the last years of life…
* Any kind of control is usually better than chaos… Trad Judaism thought it was better for women to be married than single, almost any marriage was better than being a spinster.
* There is a tension between individual freedom, relationships, stable society, living in community.
* Rule by aristocrats is not an absurd idea, not inherently worse than popular democracy.
* 1984 is about fear, Brave is about pleasure.
* Huxley has such contempt for pop culture, which comes from America, feelies and talkies and particularly group singing. Huxley’s POV is described in depth in the great work, The Intellectuals and the Masses: Pride and Prejudice Among the Literary Intelligentsia 1880-1939, by John Carey.
* Manic enjoyment, you must smile for photos. What we have today is a bit like the book.
* Huxley ends up as a hallucinogenic guru in CA.