Aldous Huxley and Brave New World: The Dark Side of Pleasure

Aldous Huxley and Brave New World: The Dark Side of Pleasure


“None are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free.” These words were written by Goethe nearly 200 years ago, but are perhaps more relevant in our time than they were in his. For many people assume we live in a free society simply because the West has not morphed into a dystopian hell like the one depicted in George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four Tyranny, most people believe, would be overt in nature, it would be obvious, and all would recognize it. But is this really the case? Or could we be living in a society analogous to the one depicted by Aldous Huxley in his dystopian novel Brave New World. Could it be that technology, drugs, pornography, and other pleasurable diversions have created a citizenry too distracted to notice the chains which bind them? When Brave New World was first published in 1931 Huxley did not consider the dystopian world he depicted to be an imminent threat. Thirty years later however, following the Second World War, the spread of totalitarianism, and the great strides made in science and technology, Huxley changed his opinion and in a speech given in 1961, he put forth the following warning: In the future, according to Huxley, ruling classes would learn that control of a populace could be achieved not only with the explicit use of force, but also with the more covert method of drowning the masses in an endless supply of pleasurable diversions. How, one may ask, can pleasure be used to deprive people of their freedom? To answer this question, we must discuss operant conditioning, which is a method of modifying an organism’s behavior. In the 20th century, the Harvard psychologist B.F. Skinner performed a famous set of experiments in which he tested different methods of introducing new behaviours in rats. These experiments brought to light how “the powers that be” can condition humans to love their servitude. In one set of experiments, Skinner attempted to cultivate new behaviours via positive reinforcement; he provided the rat with food anytime it performed the desirable behavior In another set of experiments, he attempted to weaken or eliminate certain behaviours via punishment; he triggered a painful stimulus when the rat performed the behavior Skinner wished to eliminate. Skinner discovered that punishment temporarily put an end to undesirable behaviours, but it did not remove the animal’s motivation to engage in such behaviors in the future. Behaviors that were conditioned via positive reinforcement, on the other hand, were more enduring and led to long-term changes in the animal’s behavioural patterns. Huxley was familiar with Skinner’s experiments and understood their socio-political ramifications. In Brave New World and his subsequent works, Huxley predicted the emergence of a “controlling oligarchy” (Huxley) who would conduct similar experiments on human beings to condition docility and minimize the potential for civil unrest. Skinner, like Huxley, also understood the social implications of his experiments, but he believed, contrary to Huxley, that operant conditioning could be used by social engineers for the greater good, leading to the development of a scientifically managed utopia. The following passage from Skinner’s book Walden Two, however, reveals that such mass-conditioning would in reality make possible a pernicious form of tyranny – one in which the masses would be enslaved, yet feel themselves to be free. In Brave New World, the main “reward” used to condition subservience via positive reinforcement was a super-drug called Soma. Soma was ingested daily by the citizens of Brave New World as it offered what Huxley called a “holiday from reality” Depending on the dosage, it stimulated feelings of euphoria, pleasant hallucinations, or acted as a powerful sleep-aid. It also served to heighten suggestibility, thus increasing the effectiveness of the propaganda which the citizens were continuously subjected to. But the World Controllers of Brave New World did not rely on Soma alone. Sexual promiscuity was promoted by the State as another tactic to ensure everyone enjoyed their servitude. The slogan “Everyone belongs to everyone else” was drilled into the minds of the citizens from a young age, and with the institutions of monogamy and the family abolished, everyone was able to indulge their sexual impulses without hindrance. The constant access to sexual gratification served to help ensure the citizens were too distracted to pay attention to the reality of their situation. State-sanctioned entertainment also played an important role in creating the “painless concentration camp” of Brave New World. What Huxley called “non-stop distractions of the most fascinating nature” were used by the state as instruments of policy to drown the minds of its citizens in a “sea of irrelevance”. The parallels which exist between Brave New World and societies of the modern day are undeniable. In Brave New World Revisited, published in 1958, Huxley asked himself how future social engineers could convince their subjects to take drugs “that will make them think, feel, and behave in the ways [they] find desirable.” He concluded: “In all probability it will be enough merely to make the pills available.” Today, an estimated one in six Americans are on some form of psychotropic drug. An opioid crisis has spread across the West. The ability to gratify sexual impulses online has led many into the clutches of pornography addiction; and smart phones and other technologies provide mindless and pleasurable distractions which consume the attention of most people, most of the day. To what extent these diversions are intentionally pushed upon us and to what extent they are spontaneous responses to consumer demand, is unclear. But whatever the answer, the reality is that a distracted and dumbed down population simply lacks the mental resources to resist their enslavement. Until the modern cry of “Give me television and hamburgers, but don’t bother me with the responsibilities of liberty” is replaced by the cry “Give me liberty, or give me death” freedom will not prevail. Rather, so long as people trade their liberty for pleasures and comfort, the type of social conditioning Huxley warned of will only become more refined and effective as technologies advance and more insight is gained regarding how to predict and control human behaviour. Whether the majority of us will be able to resist this type of manipulation, or whether we will even want to, remains to be seen. If the current trends continue, humanity may soon be divided into two groups. There will be those who welcome their pleasurable servitude, and those who choose to resist it for the sake of retaining not just their liberty, but their humanity. For as the former slave Frederick Douglass noted in the mid-19th century, long before Huxley wrote Brave New World, when a slave becomes a happy slave, he has effectively relinquished all that which makes him human. [Subtitle from the transcript]

100 thoughts on “Aldous Huxley and Brave New World: The Dark Side of Pleasure

  1. I highly recommend checking out both the novel Brave New World, as well as Huxley’s Brave New World Revisited where he discusses the elements of his fictional dystopian society he thought would prove a threat in the near future. Find the affiliate links below:
    Brave New World Revisited: https://amzn.to/2tgGgO8
    Brave New World: https://amzn.to/2Mathok

    You can read the transcript of the video here: https://academyofideas.com/2018/06/aldous-huxley-brave-new-world-dark-side-of-pleasure

  2. I think we're not addicted to gratifacation as much as we are socially and romantically lonely. I would say the majority of Americans have experienced parental abandonment by either their fathers, mothers or both. Left to be raised in daycares and separated from our enslaved parents we were born to repeat this vicious cycle, depriving our children of even more love and strengthening that attachment to distractions. Change comes with sacrifice, to know the world around you might shame and humiliate you for avoiding being plugged in. To be a stranger amongst friends. Alone in a city filled with addicts.

  3. Powerful. I remember reading this in highschool…soma means body in Hebrew , Greek and Latin. Chromo (color) somes (body)
    If the Bible is the word of God and the bread, fruit and body of Christ what would the body or “soma” of hell and satan be in this modern world ?? What is ur daily dose of this “soma”….according to that silly book hell is a body and it is cast into the lake of fire at the end of time….Apoko…20:14

  4. The greatest spiritual war is the war between the flesh and the spirit.

    A war that I have long struggled with, going as low as being suicidal, and as high as feeling power in knowledge and wisdom.

  5. Huxley knew exactly what was going on. He wasn't a prophet, he was an insider and a messenger. "We warned you, but you did nothing to resist".

  6. Well ask yourself, what do you actually want from life, and set out to achieve it. Meditation may be a way to find the real you, but more importantly, ask yourself this. Do I want to get to 60 or 70 years old and look back on my life and realise that I literally did nothing. Try to create the life you would want to look back on and be proud of.

  7. This is all very interesting , I've read these books and kept my knowledge up to date , but with so much "information" around now its also easy,to easy to "think your smart". I don't think that "they" will ever really control the "human conscience/ consciousness/spirit" whatever you want to call it. Though they are 10 steps a head. You only have to take 1 step back and LOOK at the "big Picture" and your already started to be "free" whatever that means. Your mind can be eternal or it can focus on one thing. Imagine the possibilities. All the "zeros and ones" algorithms will never comprehend the brain , consciousness , the "scientists" have only scratched the surface. I'm not give an answer here or an opinion . I'm stating A F……. . Keep it simple ,listen to your self and remember "NO" is s very powerful word.

  8. Is it too much to ask that a narrator look a little into the correct pronunciation of names? I find it very off-putting, to the point that I really can't take the video seriously.

  9. I want absolute freedom, I try to achive it … hell of a thing to do, my biggest enemy is myself. It is hard to be free when I crave sugar, pornography, when I buy things I don't need, when I believe things without careful thought, when I don't listen to my subconscious and so on …
    And I don't see absolute freedom as whatever corrupt people do ( killing, raping or whatever people associate freedom with… ).
    I have tasted freedom … sweetest thing there is.

  10. Mindless submission to pleasure is freedom from fears, angst, and an unstoppable path to exquisite addiction. Eventually one can feed this addiction to the point of no return. I know this all too well, and embrace my submission.

  11. Advertising, MSM and social media, music videos, so called reality programs, internet all at the touch of a button in your hand . Walking zombies . Political correctness = thought control get ppl to worry about offending someone . Once afraid to speak out then afraid to think it . Once afraid to think it it's never spoken about . Plus all the fluoride in the water . And GM products that we eat + pharmaceutical drugs vets put into animals that we end up eating , pesticides on sprayed on everything for example SYP1B1 . Heavy metals we breathe in operation LAC . The list goes on.

  12. I literally am dealing with separating myself from ppl who are content with "not Knowing". I'd rather know and understand the forces I labor under and "Choose" to be happy, rather than run around insisting on ignorance. We all pick our poison and remedies.

  13. The oligarchies of today are globalists who promote and fund leftist social movements such as LGBTQ, feminism and fallacies such as gender ideology, identity politics, paedophilia and all sorts of sexual debauchery and degeneracy in our society. To combat this ideological crap is to fight for human liberty.

  14. "1984" is the commencement of dystopia, "A brave new world" will be the completion of a totalitarian dystopia.

  15. You kind of forgot the part where it was only the upper classes who actually got the positive reinforcement and the lower castes were drugged from before birth in order to impede even wanting pleasure…

  16. This is fearful and too mechanistic. The universe is far more complex. If the "ruling class" were so bent on enslavement, and so organized, they would have done it already and there would be no videos like this. Also, pleasure is far more nuanced. People who are practicing things like meditation, know that just breathing can be very pleasurable, while things like alcohol, and Hollywood movies become very very unpleasant. Pleasure is personal, and you cant just "somatize" the mass populace. We would have been easier to control at a previous time. Despite efforts, nature will always emerge, mutate and throw off parasites. The human spirit is indomitable. Perhaps the greatest effort to enslave the masses is through pessimism, videos like this that attempt to kill the spirit and tell people everything is doom and gloom. The place to "fight" is within yourself, and its not fight, its a pleasant allowing of the emergence of ones own divine genius. All the noise and fear, dispels the spirit, and cuts one off from the true source of everything that is valued, and desired. The greatest pleasure is also the greatest health; its inner alignment with the universe. Its a knowing that despite mans writhing about and fretting, that everything is unfolding perfectly. Trust, and faith feel pretty good.

  17. Operant Conditioning: "give me a cattle prod and I can teach a horse to play poker!" [ From Full Metal Jacket, I think.]

  18. You ALL REALLY should watch Colony on NETFLIX. i shit you not, Remove the Aliens and you'll be actually seeing the VERY! near future and the ABSOLUTE life your kids will have to endure….NO? QUESTION %100.
    PROOF it's happening Right NOW!.
    https://youtu.be/oRLW-qQLMQs

    it's NOT! Science Fiction and it's NOT! a Joke.
    https://youtu.be/T59s3fFp4v8

  19. i have nothing against this, and i can't think of why i should either. as long as am having a good time. ignorance is bliss.

  20. So true in current INDIAN context.
    Masses brainwashed by media propaganda.

    Pain of life and inadeqacy of education and infrastructure.

    Systematic enslavement of people by caste system. Where one lives a life of fullfillment by pushing many into misery.

    All these have became acceptable due to ancient drug of Religious extremism coated with media brainwashing.

  21. I have adhd and have always struggled to live within the constraints of modern life.
    The solution so far, from doctors, has been to attempt to drug me without any actual help.
    The medication help me focus, organise and time keep better but it made me placid, compliant and happy with shitty circumstances.
    I traded my creativity, reflexes and passion simply to keep down a job until I realized that I'd rather struggle and be myself than neuter my mind with chemicals

    Since stopping the meds, I understand fully that Huxley was right.
    I was medicated because I didn't fit in

  22. Here is the question:

    If the ultimate goal in life is happiness, and happiness can be achieved through constant pleasure, how does Huxleys world truly torture the human race?

    It almost sounds like the Matrix 1.0, where people simply can't accept a perfect world.

  23. I dont know, am I mixed up or what?
    1984 was written by George Orwell.
    Infact Aldous Huxley was Orwell's professor and refuted(kindly) the Orwellian saga.
    In conclusion Huxley's book talks of the 'carrot' approach
    While Orwells book has the 'stick' approach.
    One capitalistic and the other totalitarian.

  24. Pleeeze.. I am intelligent… Am on my phone researching the Truth about 6 hours a day.. and grateful for the Net… NOT for Google .. but the net in general…

  25. Kinda ironic that we're all watching a video with this topic while on our rabit-hole wandering through Youtube land lol

  26. I'm Canadian and not a Trudeau fan, but I really didn't think he had a cult of personality here.
    Trudeau Jr. just ran a campaign based on looking good (physically, morally, socially), and was mostly benign IMO. Images of JT weren't shoved down our throats at every opportunity by the media, and by the end of this term, the guy was largely ignored.

    Trump's image is waaaaaaaaaaaaay more representative of a dystopian cult of personality (endless twitter beefs promoting himself, baseless pronouncements of THE GOOD OLE DAYS, belligerent attitude with trading partners). We're also getting bombarded by this guy's image and attitudes over here in the north.

  27. Me to my boss: making a spread sheet for the plant managers to run
    My boss to me: no, cause then they'll want an increase

  28. Opium and Soma watching wahat you want on YouTube 😁 and free sex looking at porn online🤨 while being exposed to subliminal programing. Next the Rat gets A Reward Good Boy!🤔

  29. Well god knows without my porn and my smartphone I’d be marching on Washington. Eeehhh prolly not. All the pleasures? They generate $$$. That’s why they are foisted upon us . Feeds the elite bankers. Does the distraction make society more docile? Probably.

  30. No more TV. Flip phones, not smart phones. Grow your own food. Speak out against evil. Unite against govt control. The people are more powerful than those who want to control them. Each person is sovereign. Don't be stupid and allow yourself to believe a lie. Thankfully, people are waking up.

  31. And why do they not realize LGBT bullshit is also the consequence of 'sex addiction' – meaning attempts to overcome/bypass psychological problems(reality) by means of sexuality …?

  32. I've been telling people about this book for years. It's such a good insight into the not too distant future that makes me think, this was the plan for society all along, and he knew it. Aldus was part of the elites.

  33. Thank you for that! And I love that quote by Frederick Douglas about manhood.
    In my book EARTH FATHER, I share what I learnt about the need to re-introduce boyhood to manhood initiation into our modern culture.
    This was the norm in every culture until the industrial revolution broke the male lineage in families by forcing fathers to leave the home to go to work.

    EARTH FATHER was inspired by Robert Bly´s book, Iron John.
    Most modern males grow up fatherless and without being initiated into manhood. As a result, most men remain little boys in man´s bodies. Most men are infantile and cannot cope with the demands of modern living. More and more males are choosing to stay at home living with their mothers until well into their 50s. Many modern males suffer from isolation, infantalism and self-hatred. The biggest killer of men today is suicide.

    EARTH FATHER, by Martin H. is available in all bookshops and libraries on request, worldwide and on www.amazon.com.

  34. The world is so much better today than it was 60 years ago. Look at the civil rights movement. The World is better than it was 100 years ago (medical breakthroughs, financial prosperity has increased, far less wars). There is so much to be grateful for….

  35. Interestingly, in the modern day it's not the state which is using the tactics in Brave New World, at least not in America, it is CORPORATIONS. It's not socialism-controlled, but capitalism-controlled conditioning. Very fascinating, perhaps a way to make capitalism never die.

  36. In the absence of spiritual meaning it is easiest to seduce people that pleasure is the pursuit of life.
    If you are persuaded that the pursuit of life is pleasure then hard won liberties are less desirable.
    Pursuit of pleasure alone for an entire life amounts to slow suicide.
    Much wisdom is learnt from dukkha (sufferings)

  37. If you let a bunch of perfect beings do what they wanted to do, they would likely snuff out your imperfect intentions.

  38. We live in a brave new world. Whenever I try to bring up topics that intersect various fields like politics, philosophy, history and literature, I usually just get dismissed. If I say pop-culture distracts people and that different forms of media and their content affect the audience's intelligence / IQ then I'm just a "downer" and "hate fun". If I try to describe hedonism I get dismissed, and it seems as though people are conditioned to seek only self-satisfaction above all else. It's ok to enjoy things that aren't serious and bring enjoyment, however when it is all consuming and pop-culture, a large social media following and sexual promiscuity are the only thing you are aware of and aspire to then there is a serious problem.

  39. Yeah I think a pleasure that strong will enslave the elites as well then they will succumb to their own hedonistic weapons they inflict on the mass and thus society will decay and fall away to stronger empire. As they will be easily conquered

  40. "Give me liberty or give me death" more like I will earn my liberty or die trying. I need no one to give me anything.

  41. Not everyone is ready to be unplugged. So if there is an enslavement by the media and technology, it wouldn't be wise to fight against it if you don't have something better to put in place. It's better to have a docile enslaved society than total caos like the russian revolution. Some type of power will have to be exerted anyway. So let it be a good power, a power that makes people feel good. And the soma thing, it is weed, it's very good but lots of societies are still prohibiting it, still locked in old fashion domination.

  42. Hell yeah we live in a controlled society. If it we're not that way…I would try to control you. Perhaps I can do it better. Perhaps I can do it worse. Either way, I would make you all whom read this obedient to me if I had the opportunity.

  43. God is always right, he wrote about this, warned about this and made a way out of this. And they dont want you to turn to Jesus Christ for salvation or read his word.
    If only people listen and read his book. Kjv recommended.

  44. im pretty off technology, which means I never had a Instagram account, hate gps and online games and met, dated and married my girl before even knowing about tinder. All that and i'm only 32, which means you can be free even if you are born into it, as bukowski would say

  45. The Matrix has you. One pill will make you forget, the other will show you the truth. The truth, that we all have a choice, is concealed at the edges of our very subconscious. As long as our desires for pleasure, abundance, superiority, or control, remain greater than our desire for freedom, we will continue to choose to remain all just bricks in the wall which constitutes the prison for our minds.

  46. He obviously was an idealist who knew what time it was before many many others…he broke it down and to where what he thought about anything and everything about life, he was ahead of his time. I think just being an idealist is highly underrated, we should have more outspoken folks like these…(not a cult) they are the ones who should be involved in making the world a better place not just thinking it. I think all day & that's a job let me tell you!!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *