This is John’s fancy way of asking the crowd to listen to him. He is quoting from Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar:
Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears;
I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him.
The evil that men do lives after them;
The good is oft interred with their bones;
So let it be with Caesar.
Act III, Scene 2
The Savage believes that in depriving the people of their soma, he is freeing them by allowing their minds to think openly. This reflects a crucial argument as to whether happiness is more important than knowledge (or, in Utilitarian terms, lower pleasures over higher pleasures).
There is a parallel in a Zuni myth about the hero Poshaiyankya who, with the help of the Ahayuta twin brother gods, led the first people out of the underworld and into the light of the true world. John attempts to do likewise, to free the workers from their ignorant consumption of soma and lead them into the true, natural world.
Othello is a tragedy by William Shakespeare, considered one of his great works and a classic of literature. In Brave New World, however, it is not known or appreciated. The new world has eliminated literature, art and history in order to enforce a conditioned 'happiness' that does not involve truth and beauty.
A similar line is taken in another famous dystopian novel, Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell (1949). In Nineteen Eighty-Four, the culture of the old world is converted into Newspeak. Newspeak is a simplified, dull, even culture-less and unimaginative language. By reducing literature such as Shakespeare's plays into Newspeak, the meaning and art are lost, and in a sense Shakespeare stops existing. In Brave New World, the world controller has recognised that Othello cannot exist in the new world because no one would understand it in its pure form; if modified, it would no longer be Othello. In this way, literature and art are not simply banned, they are made completely irrelevant.
Comparing the dystopias of Nineteen Eighty-Four and Brave New World, social critic Neil Postman wrote:
"What Orwell feared were those who would ban books. What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one. Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information. Huxley feared those who would give us so much that we would be reduced to passivity and egoism. Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance." (Read more at Wikipedia)
The growth of the Internet and modern mass communication suggests Huxley was closer to the truth.
The argument over truth vs happiness generates considerable debate amongst philosophers. Nietzsche argued that for the Übermensch ('superman': something higher and better than a man, as a man is superior to an ape), happiness is the pursuit of truth. Truth in a state causes chaos and beauty to emerge, but this in itself is dangerous, as it causes a lack of stability. This, then, makes the state prone to destruction and disaster: 'What's the point of truth and beauty when the anthrax bombs are popping all around you?'
Finally, then, society will long for peace and tranquility, so happiness becomes the core pursuit, and truth is forgotten.
An example of this comes in the novel Of Mice and Men, which is based on the Great Depression in 1930s America. The Great Depression resulted from a severe stock market crash that began in the USA and spread throughout the world. In Of Mice and Men, the two main characters set out to achieve the American Dream: the pursuit of happiness. During the Great Depression, the majority (if not everyone) had no care for truth and beauty because in such hard times happiness was all they longed for.