March 15, 2010

Farenheit 451

I haven't read this one in a year or two, and then I remembered why this was one of my favorite books of all time (though to be fair, that designation usually changes with what I'm currently reading).

Some exerts:
  1. "More pictures. The mind drinks less and less. Impatience."
  2. "It didn't come from the Government down. There was no dictum, no declaration, no censorship, to start with, no! Technology, mass exploitation, and minority pressure carried the trick, thank God!"
  3. "What more easily explained and natural? With school turning out more runners, jumpers, racers, thinkers, tinkerers, grabbers, snatchers, fliers, and swimmers instead of examiners, critics, knowers, and imaginative creators, the word 'intellectual', of course, became the swear word it deserved to be. You always dread the unfamiliar. Surely you remember the boy in your own class who was exceptionally 'bright', did most of the reciting and answering while the others sat like so many leaden idols, hating him. And wasn't it this bright boy you selected for beatings and tortures after hours? Of course it was."
  4. "Give the people contests they win by remembering the words to more popular songs or the names of state capitals or how much corn Iowa grew last year. Cram them full of non combustible data, chock them so damn full of 'facts' that they feel stuffed, absolutely 'brilliant' with information. They'll feel they're thinking, they'll get a sense of motion without moving. And they'll be happy, because facts of that sort don't change. Don't give them any slippery stuff like philosophy or sociology to tie things up with."
  5. "Books cut shorter. Condensations. Tabloids. Everything boils down to the gag, the snap ending. Classics cut to fit fifteen-minute radio shows, then cut again to fit a two-minute book column... Digest-digests, digest-digest-digests. Politics? One column, two sentences, a headline! Whirl a man's mind around about so fast under the pumping hands of publishers, exploiters, broadcasters that the centrifuge flings off all unnecessary, time-wasting thought!"

And my responses:

  1. I hate when the teachers tell you that "We got these new textbooks because they have more pictures and you have to read less!" School is there for education, to make people think, not to make the work somehow 'easier' for the students at the sacrifice of a real mental workout. School is about learning things like math and how to read and good writing techniques and history and how the world works and all that; but it's also about real culture (values and different points of view, not 'pop culture' stuff) and learning how to see other people's point of view and make informed decisions (my Government teachers likes to term it 'learning how to think'. I digress. You can't teach people how to think or make critical decisions if they don't want to or don't have the motivation. Sadly, I also learned that at school.) and applying all that knowledge and the things you've learned to your life (Not in the 'how does this connect to your life' of the Properly Structured Essay, but 'how does this event reverberate through society today and how does that effect myself and others').
  2. Technology and Mass exploitation. This work of Ray Bradbury's outlasts 1984 in cultural relevance. Think about this one. I leave you to come to your own conclusions.
  3. Schools give focus, front-page laudations, and very good scholarships (academic ones notwithstanding) to athletes. Schools cut creative arts, special education, library, advanced course, electives, and even core-course funding to finance sports teams and equipment. Sports teams get more trips than the non-athletic classes get field trips. When money could be spent on getting more books for the library, the money is spent on fake grass for the football field. Isn't 'intellectual' already a vague sort of insult? It implies in today's culture that someone is weird in someway, whether it be a bit out of their minds or just uptight and rigid in views. I know you know at least one story about a kid being bullied for being smart. I won't bore you with another one.
  4. Singing Bee. American Idol. So You Think You Can Dance. America's Got Talent. Even Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy, as much as I like those shows, are examples of this.
  5. Twitter. Facebook. Most blogs. The decline of newspapers. Most of the Internet. There are so many sad, sad examples.

Fahrenheit 451: 57 years old and still predicting the decline of society.

Thank you, Mr. Bradbury.

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