Huxley: Brave New World, finish
notes & response:
-“So you don’t much like civilization, Mr. Savage.”
-“We haven’t any use for old things here…Particularly when they’re beautiful. Beauty’s attractive, and we don’t want people to be attracted by old things. We want them to like the new ones.”
-“You can’t make flivvers without steel—and you can’t make tragedies without social instability.”
-“The world’s stable now. People are happy; they get what they want, and they never want what they can’t get. They’re well off; they’re safe; they’re never ill; they’re not afraid of death; they’re blissfully ignorant of passion and old age; they’re plagued with no mothers or fathers; they’ve got no wives, or children, or lovers to feel strongly about; they’re so conditioned that they practically can’t help behaving as they ought to behave. And if anything should go wrong, there’s soma. Which you go and chuck out of the window in the name of liberty, Mr. Savage. Liberty!”
-I take great discomfort with the phrase “ought to behave.” What the hell does that mean? And who decides exactly how one “ought to behave” in a world such as ours, where we’re encouraged to pursue life, liberty, and happiness? Or is this just a façade to mask the ways in which society and culture have dictated the means of behavior?
-“Imagine a factory staffed by Alphas—that is to say by separate and unrelated individuals of good heredity and conditioned so as to be capable (within limits) of making a free choice and assuming responsibilities. Imagine it!”
-Equality of Opportunity—seems like an oxymoron to me.
-I can’t begin to fathom a society in which happiness is prescribed to its inhabitants merely to keep a sense of order; soma seems dystopian, and so does universal happiness. What would happen to the struggle in desire? I question this but am forced to realize that the society in which we live is largely prescribed happiness—either in the form of entertainment or by some other means, such as medication.
-And this is where we get “comfortably numb”—but I prefer to be uncomfortably conscious.
-“I was a pretty good physicist in my time. Too good—good enough to realize that all our science is just a cookery book, with an orthodox theory of cooking that nobody’s allowed to question, and a list of recipes that musn’t be added to except by special permission from the head cook. I’m the head cook now. But I was an inquisitive young scullion once. I started doing a bit of cooking on my own. Unorthodox cooking, illicit cooking. A bit of real science, in fact.”
Nostalgia—that’s a term I have a hard time understanding in how it contributes to the progression of culture [If it’s nostalgia for enduring values/timeless truths?]. Sure, there may be beauty in something old and attractive but what purpose does that beauty serve in a world that’s ever-changing? Again, if we choose to move against the universe based on the means of aesthetics, where do we find room for the transience of progression? The ability to think freely affords every human being the opportunity to understand the universe outside of their own consciousness [but still trapped within their language?]. To tap into this may be to revolt, but revolution has its roots buried deep within natural desires. Pleasure is not a prescription you take X number of times a day; any sense of being content with the stagnancy of ever lasting happiness (or any emotion, really) would be to digress. No body or brain other than my own should tell me how I “ought to behave.” This would support the idea of prescriptive living—does medication, or the state of being heavily medicated, not lead to a life of the machine? To exist as a machine is to be sedated with instant gratification. But we must leave room for anticipation if pleasure should be realized.