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Guest Post: Those Who Don't Build Must Burn

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Submitted by Jim Quinn of The Burning Platform

Those Who Don't Build Must Burn

“Out of the nursery into the college and back to the nursery;
there’s your intellectual pattern for the past five centuries of more.
School is shortened, discipline relaxed, philosophies, histories,
languages dropped, English and spelling gradually neglected, finally
almost completely ignored. Life is immediate, the job counts, pleasure
lies about after work. Why learn anything save pressing buttons, pulling switches, fitting nuts and bolts?”   –
Captain Beatty in Fahrenheit 451

  

Ray Bradbury wrote his dystopian novel Fahrenheit 451
in 1950. Most kids were required to read this book when they were
seventeen years old. Having just re-read the novel at the age of
forty-seven makes you realize how little you knew at seventeen. It is
165 pages of keen insights into today’s American society. Bradbury’s
hedonistic dark future has come to pass. His worst fears have been
realized. The American public has willingly chosen to be distracted and
entertained by electronic gadgets 24 hours per day. Today, reading books
is for old fogies. Most people think Bradbury’s novel was a warning
about censorship. It was not. It was a warning about TV and radio
turning the minds of Americans to mush.

It is now sixty years later and his warning went unheeded. A self
imposed ignorance by a vast swath of Americans is reflected in these
statistics:

  • 33% of high school graduates never read another book for the rest of their lives.
  • 42% of college graduates never read another book after college.
  • 80% of U.S. families did not buy or read a book last year.
  • 70% of U.S. adults have not been in a bookstore in the last five years.
  • 57% of new books are not read to completion.
  • There are over 17,000 radio stations and over 2,000 TV stations in America today.
  • Each day in the U.S., people spend on average 4.7 hours watching TV,
    3 hours listening to the radio and 14 minutes reading magazines.
  • The projected average number of hours an individual (12 and older) will spend watching television this year is 1,750.
  • In a 65-year life, the average person will have spent 9 years glued to the tube.
  • Number of 30-second TV commercials seen in a year by an average child –  20,000
  • Number of videos rented daily in the U.S. – 6 million
  • Number of public library items checked out daily – 3 million
  • Percentage of Americans who can name The Three Stooges – 59%
  • Percentage who can name at least three justices of the U.S. Supreme Court – 17%

When Ray Bradbury wrote his novel in the basement of the UCLA library
on a pay per hour typewriter, television was in its infancy. In 1945
there were only 10,000 television sets in all of America. By 1950, there
were 6 million sets. The US population was 150 million living in 43
million households. Only 9% of these households had a TV. There was one
TV for every 25 people. Americans read books and newspapers to be aware
of their world. Today, there are 335 million television sets in the
country. The US population is 310 million living in 115 million
households. There is a TV in 99% of these households, with an average of
3 TVs per household. Your reality is whatever the corporate media
decides is your reality.

 

 

Bradbury envisioned gigantic flat screen wall TVs that interacted
with the audience and people wearing seashell earbuds so they could
listen to the radio. Anything to keep from reading, thinking,
questioning or wondering. Today, anesthetized kids and non-thinking
adults sit in front of the boob tube with their Playstation controllers
in hand and a microphone attached to their ear, killing zombies while
talking to their fellow warriors, sitting in their own living rooms
somewhere in the world. Apple has sold 260 million iPods since 2001 that
allow people to zone out and live in their own private music world,
never needing to interact or associate with their fellow humans.
Millions of Blackberry addicts roam the streets of our cities like
androids, forcing alert pedestrians to bob and weave to avoid head-on
collisions with these connected egomaniacs. They are overwhelmed with
their self importance.

For those who have not read the book since high school, or have never read the novel, here is a quick summary of Fahrenheit 451:

Guy Montag is a fireman who burns books in a futuristic American
city. In this dystopian world, firemen start fires rather than putting
them out. The people in this society do not read books, enjoy nature,
spend time by themselves, think independently, or have meaningful
conversations. Instead, they drive at extreme speeds, watch excessive
amounts of television on wall-size sets, and listen to the radio on
“Seashell Radio” sets attached to their ears. Guy meets a girl that
makes him rethink his priorities. He starts to question book burning and
why people fear books. After not showing up for work, his boss Beatty
comes to his house and explains why books are now banned.  
According
to Beatty, special-interest groups and other “minorities” objected to
books that offended them. Soon, books all began to look the same, as
writers tried to avoid offending anybody. This was not enough, however,
and society as a whole decided to simply burn books rather than permit
conflicting opinions.

Montag connects with a retired English professor named Faber. He
tells him that the value of books lies in the detailed awareness of life
that they contain. Faber says that Montag needs not only books but also
the leisure to read them and the freedom to act upon their ideas. After
Montag’s wife turns him in and he is forced to burn his own house to
the ground, he turns his flamethrower on Beatty. He is hunted by a
mechanical hound and the chase is broadcast on national TV. He escapes
to the forest where he finds a group of renegade intellectuals (“the
Book People”), led by a man named Granger, who welcome him. They are a
part of a nationwide network of book lovers who have memorized many
great works of literature and philosophy. They hope that they may be of
some help to mankind in the aftermath of the war that has just been
declared. Montag’s role is to memorize the Book of Ecclesiastes. Enemy
jets appear in the sky and completely obliterate the city with atomic
bombs. Montag and his new friends move on to search for survivors and
rebuild civilization.

Knowledge versus Willful Ignorance

“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
damned full of ‘facts’ they feel stuffed, but absolutely ‘brilliant’
with information. Then 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. That way lies
melancholy.”
- Captain Beatty in Fahrenheit 451

 

 

In Bradbury’s novel the fireman’s duty is to destroy knowledge and
promote ignorance, in order to equalize the population and promote
sameness. Any impartial analysis of the current state of affairs must
conclude that he was absolutely right. In an interview with the LA
Weekly in 2007, Bradbury clarified his views:

“Television gives you the dates of Napoleon, but not who he was,”
Bradbury says, summarizing TV’s content with a single word that he
spits out as an epithet: “factoids.” His fear in 1953 that television
would kill books has, he says, been partially confirmed by television’s
effect on substance in the news. “Useless,” Bradbury says. “They stuff
you with so much useless information, you feel full.”

Bradbury wrote his novel shortly after WWII, at the outset of the
Korean War, during the early stages of the Cold War and in the midst of
McCarthyism. The novel reflects these influences. Orwell’s 1984
used television screens to indoctrinate citizens. Bradbury envisioned
television as an opiate, keeping the public sedated. The wall
televisions in Fahrenheit 451
allow characters to interact with those watching. Bradbury captured the
future of reality TV. Entertainment today is dominated by reality TV.
We are blasted by the likes of Jersey Shore, Jerseylicious, American
Idol, America’s Got Talent, Survivor, Big Brother, Project Runway,
Dancing With the Stars, Amazing Race, Housewives of OC, NJ, NY, DC, and
Atlanta, I Didn’t Know I Was Pregnant and fifty other mind numbing
reality shows. Morons with names like Snookie and The Situation are
better known by teenagers than George Washington and Thomas Jefferson.
In Bradbury’s world, television was used to broadcast meaningless drivel
to divert attention, and thought, away from an impending war. Today,
television is used to broadcast meaningless drivel to divert attention,
and thought, away from ongoing wars, government corruption, impending
financial collapse, and truth.

Bradbury still lives in Los Angeles and observes the alienation aspects of his novel playing out exactly as he envisioned:

 “In writing the short novel Fahrenheit 451 I thought I was
describing a world that might evolve in four or five decades. But only a
few weeks ago, in Beverly Hills one night, a husband and wife passed
me, walking their dog. I stood staring after them, absolutely stunned.
The woman held in one hand a small cigarette-package-sized radio, its
antenna quivering. From this sprang tiny copper wires which ended in a
dainty cone plugged into her right ear. There she was, oblivious to man
and dog, listening to far winds and whispers and soap-opera cries,
sleep-walking, helped up and down curbs by a husband who might just as
well not have been there. This was not fiction.”

Bradbury directly foretells this incident early in his novel:

“And in her ears the little Seashells, the thimble radios tamped
tight, and an electronic ocean of sound, of music and talk and music and
talking coming in.” –
Fahrenheit 451

Montag spends the entire novel seeking truth. Professor Faber becomes
his mentor, leading him toward the truth. It is not a coincidence that
Bradbury named the Montag character after a paper company and the Faber
character after a pencil company. Faber was the instrument through which
Montag was taught. Montag was clearly fighting an uphill battle. The
majority had stopped thinking and seeking truth decades ago. The
majority always wants things to remain the same.  

“But remember that the Captain belongs to the most dangerous
enemy of truth and freedom, the solid unmoving cattle of the majority.
Oh, God, the terrible tyranny of the majority.” –
Professor Faber

Government did not need to ban books. As technology advanced and
filled the days with 24 hours of entertainment, infomercials,
propaganda, and trivia, the population willfully stopped reading books.
Why think, ponder, or question when you can be entertained and directed
to believe in whatever the state thinks is best? When entertainment
wasn’t enough, the population would drive their cars at speeds exceeding
100 mph with a goal of running animals and people over. Today, the
mainstream media is controlled by a few mega-corporations that do the
bidding of the state. They are responsible for keeping the population
sedated, entertained, confused, and misinformed. The public willfully
accepts the reality presented by those in power, rather than thinking,
questioning or seeking the truth.

“Remember the firemen are rarely necessary. The public stopped reading of its own accord.
You firemen provide a circus now and then at which buildings are set
off and crowds gather for the pretty blaze, but its a small sideshow
indeed, and hardly necessary to keep things in line. So few want to be
rebels anymore.” –
Professor Faber

In America’s pleasure society we drive as fast as we want, heedless
of danger. We care only for our own gratification, not for the welfare
of others. For enjoyment, we memorize lyrics to Eminem rap songs.
Thinking is not pleasurable so we envelop ourselves with flat screen
HDTVs that provide nonstop distraction. Reading books is no longer
necessary in our world. This is reflected in the fact that 40% of all
adults in America can be classified as functionally illiterate. The U.S.
public school system has been so dumbed down, with equality of all as
the mantra that one wonders whether the state purposefully wants to
process non-thinking, non-questioning autobots into society. A thinking,
questioning public is dangerous to the state.

“We must all be alike. Not everyone born free and equal, as the
Constitution says, but everyone made equal. Each man the image of every
other; then all are happy, for there are no mountains to make them
cower, to judge themselves against.” –
Captain Beatty

Political Correctness & Censorship

“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. Today,
thanks to them, you can stay happy all the time, you are allowed to
read comics, the good old confessions, or trade journals. Colored people
don’t like Little Black Sambo. Burn it. White people don’t feel good about Uncle Sam’s Cabin. Burn it.” –
Captain Beatty

 

Bradbury imagined a democratic society whose diverse population turns
against books. He imagined not just political correctness, but a
society so diverse that all groups were “minorities.” It was essential
that all thought become like vanilla tapioca. First they condensed the
books, stripping out more and more offending passages until ultimately
all that remained were footnotes. Only after people stopped reading on
their own did the state employ firemen to burn books. Once you sacrifice
liberty to the state, the state will not restore it without a fight.
Political correctness has been taken to the extreme by those in power in
America. The text books used to educate our children have had all
“offensive” facts extracted. History has been revised to satisfy the
agendas of those in power. The truth is inconsequential when a minority
group might be offended. History books used in our public schools have
more references about Marilyn Monroe than George Washington. Bradbury
was prescient in his ability to see the future denigration of those who
sought wisdom.

Our public schools have the power to place students into roles such
as runner, football player or swimmer. By being placed in a role, a
person is doing what is expected of him and not being an individual.  We
dread the unfamiliar.  To be an individual is to be unfamiliar.  Thus,
to conform is easier.

“With school turning out more runners, jumpers, racers,
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.
People want to be happy, isn’t
that right? Haven’t you heard it all your life? I want to be happy,
people say. Well, aren’t they? Don’t we keep them moving, don’t we give
them fun? That’s all we live for, isn’t it? For pleasure, for
titillation? And you must admit our culture provides plenty of these.”
Captain Beatty

The ruling elite and the mainstream media are openly scornful and
antagonistic toward those they label intellectuals. Fox News and MSNBC
prefer talking points, misinformation, and dogmatic ideology from their
anchor entertainers and insipid guests. The numbskulls on these shows
are never in doubt and always wrong. There is no true debate between
reasonable people. These entertainment shows appeal to the baser
emotional instincts of the public, not to their reason or intellect. The
American public no longer has the capability to critically analyze what
they are told by the mainstream corporate media. They gave up reading
books decades ago, leading to a steady decline in critical thinking
skills. No need to think when you can go bungee jumping, mountain
biking, sky diving, yachting, or paint balling.

In the ultimate irony, Bradbury found out in 2003 that over the years
editors from Ballantine had censored 75 separate sections of his novel,
fearful that it would contaminate the minds of our young. The idea of
today’s censorship is not to burn books, but to remove every
controversial word or phrase that could offend anyone. Books are made so
generic and bland that no one would want to read them anyway. Bradbury
is still full of piss and vinegar, sixty years after writing his
masterpiece:

“The point is obvious. There is more than one way to burn a book.
And the world is full of people running about with lit matches. Every
minority, be it Baptist/Unitarian, Irish/ Italian/ Octogenarian/ Zen
Buddhist, Zionist/ Seventh-day Adventist, Women’s Lib/ Republican,
Mattachine/ Four Square Gospel feels it has the will, the right, the
duty to douse the kerosene, light the fuse. Every dimwit editor who sees
himself as the source of all dreary blanc-mange plain porridge
unleavened literature, licks his guillotine and eyes the neck of any
author who dares to speak above a whisper or write above a nursery
rhyme.”

Never Ending War

“Someday the load we’re carrying with us may help someone.
But even when we had the books on hand, a long time ago, we didn’t use
what we got out of them. We went right on insulting the dead. We went
right on spitting in the graves of all the poor ones who died before us.
We’re going to meet a lot of lonely people in the next week and the
next month and the next year. And when they ask us what we’re doing, you
can say, We’re remembering. That’s where we’ll win out in the long run.
And someday we’ll remember so much that we’ll build the biggest goddamn
steam-shovel in history and dig the biggest grave of all time and shove
war in and cover it up. Come on now, we’re going to go build a
mirror-factory first and put out nothing but mirrors for the next year
and take a long look in them.” –
Granger

 

Bradbury had known nothing but war from the time he was 18 until he
wrote Fahrenheit 451 at the age of 30. He describes the sound of bombers
continuously flying over the city. America had started two nuclear wars
since 1990. The degenerative effects of mass media in today’s info-bite
world can be clearly seen in how they are able to manipulate public
opinion to support undeclared wars without question. If Americans were
still able to think and interested in exercising their responsibilities
as citizens of a Republic, they would have required that Congress
exercise its responsibility to declare war rather than allow one man to
declare and wage wars all over the globe. It is easy when the state
controls the message.

“If you don’t want a man unhappy politically, don’t give him two
sides to a question to worry him; give him one. Better yet, give him
none. Let him forget there is such a thing as war
.” – Beatty

Montag is stalked by the Mechanical Hound throughout the book. It was
programmed to hunt down Montag and lethally inject him with poison.
Bradbury didn’t know it, but he had described an early version of a
predator drone. Today, a man can sit in front of his computer in the
Pentagon and direct an unmanned predator drone to fire missiles at
“enemies” without faces, halfway around the world. No danger, no
consequences, no responsibility. The American public blindly believes
the state is protecting them by murdering “enemies of the state”. They
will think differently when predator drones circle the skies above their
towns seeking out “domestic terrorists” and non-conformists.

The hunt for Montag was broadcast on national TV. Bradbury’s
imagination produced a vision of fake reality TV, fifty years before it
became an everyday reality.

“Mechanical Hound never fails. Never since its first use in
tracking quarry has this incredible invention made a mistake. Tonight,
this network is proud to have the opportunity to follow the Hound by
camera helicopter as it starts on its way to the target…-
TV announcer

They’re faking. You threw them off at the river. They can’t admit
it. They know they can hold their audience only so long. The show’s got
to have a snap ending, quick! If they started searching the whole damn
river it might take all night. So they’re sniffing for a scape-goat to
end things with a bang. Watch. They’ll catch Montag in the next five
minutes! –
Granger

The search is over, Montag is dead; a crime against society has been avenged. – TV announcer

They didn’t show the man’s face in focus. Did you notice? Even
your best friends couldn’t tell if it was you. They scrambled it just
enough to let the imagination take over. –
Granger

As I read this passage visions of the OJ Simpson slow speed chase
along the LA freeways appeared in my mind. It was immediately followed
by the fake balloon boy video from a few months ago. Lastly, the
streaming video of oil gushing into the Gulf of Mexico came into focus.
When the cameras are turned off, the show is over. Cold blooded
murderers are released due to political correctness. A child in danger
was just a show. The effects of 200 million gallons of oil spilled in
the Gulf of Mexico on the environment and the citizens of the Gulf
region aren’t apparent when the cameras are turned off. So therefore,
there are no effects. The world today is one big TV reality show. The
populace wants to be entertained by its news. Sound bites are essential.
Dazzling special effects are required. Beautiful people presenting the
show are necessary. Facts are optional. The truth is a nuisance. There
is only one requirement – THE SHOW MUST GO ON.

There are few builders left, while millions of burners lurk behind
every bush. First it will be Korans and Mosques. Then it will be bibles
and churches. Then it will be libraries. Eventually it will be your
house. America was built by those who cherished liberty, freedom,
responsibility, knowledge, and truth. A fog of complacency and malaise
settled over America in the last six decades. It is almost as if Orwell’s 1984, Huxley’s Brave New World, and Fahrenheit 451
were used as instruction manuals rather than warnings by our society.
The worst aspects from all three of these dystopian novels have been
adopted or implemented in present day America. The citizenry has become
dependent upon the state for information, direction, support, and
protection. The unquestioning obedience toward the faceless, nameless,
hapless state bureaucracy will lead to tyranny. The state will demand
your compliance. The state will monitor your thoughts and movements. The
state will tell you what to believe. The state will brutally punish
anyone who attempts to think or question. The match is lit. The books
are piled high.

 “There was a silly damn bird called a Phoenix back before
Christ: every few hundred years he built a pyre and burned himself up.
He must have been first cousin to Man. But every time he burnt himself
up he sprang out of the ashes, he got himself born all over again. And
it looks like we’re doing the same thing, over and over, but we’ve got
one damn thing the Phoenix never had. We know the damn silly thing we
just did. We know all the damn silly things we’ve done for a thousand
years, and as long as we know that and always have it around where we
can see it, someday we’ll stop making the Goddamn funeral pyres and
jumping into the middle of them. We pick up a few more people that
remember, every generation.” –
Granger

At the end of the novel, the city is destroyed by atomic bombs. The
“Book People” begin to move back toward the city in an effort to rebuild
their civilization and help it rise up from the ashes. Our society has
gone so far off course that a peaceful reversal seems highly unlikely. A
revolution that sweeps away the old order and provides an opportunity
for America to start anew will occur during the next fifteen years. Just
as in the novel, there are surely dark days ahead, with much suffering,
pain and death. The majority do not see this revolution coming. Those
in power are blinded by their own ignorance. It is up to the minority of
thinkers, questioners, skeptics, and truth seekers to insure that
America rises up based upon its founding principles of liberty, freedom
and personal responsibility. I urge you to look up from your Blackberry.
Turn off the TV. Take the iPod earbuds out of your ears. Log off your
computer. Read Shakespeare, Twain, Orwell, Bradbury, Huxley, Dickens,
Tolstoy, Hemingway, or Faulkner. Don’t believe anything that the
mainstream media declares as fact without verifying it yourself.
Question everything. Question everyone. Believe no one. The state is not
your protector. Government cannot replace reason. Montag was
responsible for memorizing the Book of Ecclesiastes in order to
pass along that wisdom to future generations. Ask yourself – What are
you leaving for future generations?

“To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.” – Book of Ecclesiastes

“Those who don’t build must burn.” – Professor Faber – Fahrenheit 451

 


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Mon, 09/20/2010 - 23:25 | Link to Comment CrockettAlmanac.com
CrockettAlmanac.com's picture

As an aside I will go on record to say that Moe, Larry, Curly, and even Shemp were a greater force of good then ANY Supreme Court Justices, past and present.

Replace the blind lady with three blind mice? Sounds like a good idea to me. Lets send K.O. Stradivarius to the Senate for confirmation.

Mon, 09/20/2010 - 17:40 | Link to Comment ajax
ajax's picture

"America had started two nuclear wars since 1990."?

Will someone please clarify what this weird statement refers to.

Mon, 09/20/2010 - 18:38 | Link to Comment RockyRacoon
RockyRacoon's picture

Read the book.  It's part of the story, not a statement of historical fact.

Mon, 09/20/2010 - 20:08 | Link to Comment Cognitive Dissonance
Cognitive Dissonance's picture

Why read the book when you can get someone to answer your question. That way you don't get bogged down in character development, plot twists and meaning within meaning.

Just the facts Jack.

Mon, 09/20/2010 - 20:26 | Link to Comment RockyRacoon
RockyRacoon's picture

Hell, even reading the article and not skimming would have solved the problem.

I'm a sucker for setting things right.   My shortcoming.

Mon, 09/20/2010 - 17:50 | Link to Comment iota
iota's picture

I think the best chance of avoiding this as a reality instead of a remarkably prescient parody of today's society is ironically the screen I stare at right now.

I've probably learnt more in the past nine months on the internet than I have in any preceding time via any media and it all started out with an seemingly innocuous link on a MSM site.

I only hope the 'book people' of the internet continue to provide me with education and insight. Oh and free movies, don't forget the free movies...

 

Mon, 09/20/2010 - 19:08 | Link to Comment Arkadaba
Arkadaba's picture

MIT Opencourseware is a great resource for self-directed online learning:

http://ocw.mit.edu/index.htm

Tue, 09/21/2010 - 05:47 | Link to Comment iota
iota's picture

Ta!

Mon, 09/20/2010 - 17:50 | Link to Comment Dollar Bill Hiccup
Dollar Bill Hiccup's picture

Here's a good one. Greek and Roman texts and more online -- in English and the original. Start with the basics. Aristotle on your iPad ...

www.perseus.tufts.edu

Mon, 09/20/2010 - 18:09 | Link to Comment NotApplicable
NotApplicable's picture

Here's another good read,

 

Taking care of the Remnant, by Albert Jay Nock

http://www.lewrockwell.com/orig3/nock3b.html

Tue, 09/21/2010 - 01:08 | Link to Comment Uncle Remus
Uncle Remus's picture

Enjoyed that. Danke.

Mon, 09/20/2010 - 18:36 | Link to Comment Chuck Mentzel
Chuck Mentzel's picture

I don't think he was prescient. When I started reading this article, I thought 'Man, incredible, how could he have seen this fifty years ago', but then if you read the excerpts from his book and look into its psychology, you realise it's just intellectual's resentment for the masses. There are so many European authors, philosophers, writers, sociologists who have said the same thing over many decades (from Nietzsche to the Frankfurt school), that this point of view is nothing original or new. The expressionist imagery, the alienation of consciousness theme, a bit of existentialist atmosphere, etc.

Actually it still resonates with today's society because what he describes are the conditions of every modern society in which workers live their own sufficient, materialist life and intellectuals find themselves alienated and useless. Same old theme...

Here's how intellectual resentment for a common man's life sounds like:

Don’t give them any slippery stuff like philosophy or sociology to tie things up with. That way lies melancholy.

 

Life is immediate, the job counts, pleasure lies about after work. Why learn anything save pressing buttons, pulling switches, fitting nuts and bolts?

 

With school turning out more runners, jumpers, racers, 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. People want to be happy, isn’t that right? Haven’t you heard it all your life? I want to be happy, people say. Well, aren’t they? Don’t we keep them moving, don’t we give them fun? That’s all we live for, isn’t it? For pleasure, for titillation? And you must admit our culture provides plenty of these.

This is how an intellectual writes when he feels frustrated that most people are fine without reading Hegel and agonising over the meaning of life. This is at the core of an intellectual's frustration: that others may be fine without intellectuals and, actually, they are the ones who put the bread on the table, literally. So, get over yourself, Bradbury. This is how Bradbury felt, everyone was happy with what they had, he was unhappy, thinking about things very few actually needed, that is the paper fantasy he produced.

Mon, 09/20/2010 - 18:42 | Link to Comment RockyRacoon
RockyRacoon's picture

It's fiction, has a story, in English, easy to read, lots of action, and it's short.

People will read this and get a small shot of intellectual adrenaline, the only one they would get otherwise.

Your other authors would put the average guy to sleep (if the average guy could read them at all).  So give it a rest.  I'd venture to say that your approach is one of intellectualism, not Bradbury's.

Mon, 09/20/2010 - 18:54 | Link to Comment Chuck Mentzel
Chuck Mentzel's picture

Which proves the point Bradbury is trying to avoid in his book. He makes a story out of how common people live without intellectual concerns. And the people readeth, and the people do not careth about the point being made. Is that what you're trying to say?

 

Mon, 09/20/2010 - 19:49 | Link to Comment RockyRacoon
RockyRacoon's picture

I see your point, but that's not my view actually.  I'm just saying that a lot of people get no exposure to self-reflective thought.  Bradbury's book holds up a mirror for them.   Bradbury is not avoiding anything; to the contrary, he is laying out the case for tolerance and introspection.  It's not likely that a regular fella could read this book and not get the point -- which is the point.

Mon, 09/20/2010 - 20:04 | Link to Comment KevinB
KevinB's picture

How's that unexamined life thing working for ya?

Mon, 09/20/2010 - 20:29 | Link to Comment RockyRacoon
RockyRacoon's picture

I found some lint in there.

Mon, 09/20/2010 - 20:59 | Link to Comment Arkadaba
Arkadaba's picture

lol - happens to me all the time

Tue, 09/21/2010 - 00:52 | Link to Comment Arkadaba
Arkadaba's picture

Redirecting: Chuck

Re-think

 

 

 

Tue, 09/21/2010 - 20:15 | Link to Comment jakoye
jakoye's picture

Brilliantly put. I thought this entire article was a fine display of snobbery. It is the easiest thing in the world to put on your "old man pants" and yell at "kids these days". That's basically what this entire article is. No thanks, gramps.

As for Fahrenheit 451, I read it in high school and was bored out of my mind. The book was oddly paced, hard to understand and the characters seemed very thinly drawn. To put this in perspective, I was also assigned to read such weighty works as Brave New World and 1984 in high school and I found those to be much more readable works (although BNW suffers from some of the same faults as F451... 1984, though, is pure masterpiece).

Mon, 09/20/2010 - 18:59 | Link to Comment Rusty_Shackleford
Rusty_Shackleford's picture

Fantastic stuff Jim Quinn.  Excellent food for thought.  Strong work.

Mon, 09/20/2010 - 19:03 | Link to Comment prophet
prophet's picture

WCWJKTA

Who Cares, We'll Just Kick Their Ass

Mon, 09/20/2010 - 19:30 | Link to Comment Winisk
Winisk's picture

With each new child born, a new beginning is possible.  That's the only thing that keeps me hopeful.  I got me some chickens this spring and my two young daughters instantly fell in love with them.  Once my five year old said, "Daddy, this is more fun than cartoons".  The television was barely on at all this summer.  Their choice.  No need to be the bad guy.  I had a bunch of her friends over for a party.  It was easiest three hours of entertaining children I ever had.  I just let the chickens out. 

Mon, 09/20/2010 - 19:52 | Link to Comment Arkadaba
Arkadaba's picture

+100 

Mon, 09/20/2010 - 23:53 | Link to Comment RockyRacoon
RockyRacoon's picture

One of my closest friends just had all her chickens killed by (they think) a raccoon!  I felt really bad for them.  She just doesn't have the heart to start up another batch.   They were for eggs only and my jokes about coming over for a chicken dinner didn't go over too well.  (And, no, it was not any of my relatives who did the deed.)

Mon, 09/20/2010 - 20:48 | Link to Comment Cathartes Aura
Cathartes Aura's picture

+ another 100, as a chicken-watcher m'self, heheh. . .

Mon, 09/20/2010 - 19:40 | Link to Comment American Sucker
American Sucker's picture

Interestingly enough, Timothy Ferriss in The Four Hour Work-Week requires a "media break" of 7-10 days before even bothering to work on your side business.  I thought that was really surprising and enlightening.  I took a two-day break not too long ago, and I was shocked at how much better ADHD control I had and how much more soundly I slept at night.

As to Washington and Jefferson versus Snooki and Sitch, Washington and Jefferson had a lot of frilly things to say about freedom and whatnot, but were happy to own slaves and kill innocent people.  Snooki and The Sitch are just silly people who drink a lot.  We should know about Jefferson but celebrate Snooki's superior morality.

Mon, 09/20/2010 - 21:45 | Link to Comment Jim Quinn
Jim Quinn's picture

It's good to see our school system provided you with a sound background regarding the founding fathers. I bet you know Marilyn Monroe's cup size, though. Thanks for clarifying my article with a real life example of willful ignorance.

Tue, 09/21/2010 - 01:26 | Link to Comment Milestones
Milestones's picture

You obviously like Bradbury. I noted to Cog Dis about his later and totally different book "Dandelion Wine". I think in a way I enjoyed it mor than 451. Ever read all about 12 year old Douglas and his magic tennies and small town America.  Milestones 

Tue, 09/21/2010 - 09:02 | Link to Comment Jim Quinn
Jim Quinn's picture

I read Something Wicked This Way Comes, but not Dandelion Wine. I'll put it on my list.

 

Mon, 09/20/2010 - 20:37 | Link to Comment DavidC
DavidC's picture

Bear in mind that those trying to influence this are also human and, therefore, no better or no worse. In other words, BOUND by 'human-ness'.

I watched a Channel 4 programme earlier this evening, in the UK -
http://www.channel4.com/programmes/dispatches/4od#3122150
for those who can view it), the overriding impression is that of cronyism and incompetence rather than 'a plan'.

DavidC

Mon, 09/20/2010 - 20:38 | Link to Comment WakaJawaka
WakaJawaka's picture

what about ebooks......

Mon, 09/20/2010 - 20:40 | Link to Comment whoopsing
whoopsing's picture

Winisk,doin' the chicken thing here too(originally for pest control),learn every day with them. Anyway,where are the builder's here?Who the fuck actually build's anything(for a living or for "whatever") on this site?I gotta admit,as a person who depend's on his ability to build thing's (on time and on budget),I often feel a bit over my head here,but I seek truth and I get it here,so I stay.That being said,who here escape's the pyre?

Tue, 09/21/2010 - 00:04 | Link to Comment StychoKiller
StychoKiller's picture

I'm a self-taught woodworker.  Anyone that goes along and creates nothing of value, lives a pointless existence.

Mon, 09/20/2010 - 20:44 | Link to Comment dark pools of soros
dark pools of soros's picture

ironically I learned about this story playing the adventure game version on a C64. It was one of the few graphic/text adventures of the time to really resonate even to teenagers

 

perhaps I should go find a hardback version buried deep in an old used book store to come full circle

 

Mon, 09/20/2010 - 21:05 | Link to Comment SofaPapa
SofaPapa's picture

A genuine question here.  I grew up watching TV.  I watched a lot.  I had little life outside TV.  And yet now I don't own a TV and find the few things I have seen recently to be vapid and stupid (with rare exceptions).  So there is something more going on here than just exposure.  I went through no "de-programming" (discussed higher in the thread).  I just grew tired of the media and looked for more interesting stimulation.  I find that stimulation in real-life rather than passive entertainment.  So what other elements are there hooking people into this passive acceptance of the "mindrot" besides just exposure to it?

Tue, 09/21/2010 - 00:45 | Link to Comment CrockettAlmanac.com
CrockettAlmanac.com's picture

Bread and circuses

Kirk, Spock and McCoy are taken prisoner by Romans with twentieth century technology. Third season, I believe.

Sat, 09/25/2010 - 22:56 | Link to Comment RockyRacoon
RockyRacoon's picture

There is even a name for it!

Fonzie jumps the shark

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MpraJYnbVtE

Jumping the shark is an idiom  used to describe the moment of downturn for a previously successful enterprise. The phrase was originally used to denote the point in a television program's history where the plot spins off into absurd storylines or unlikely characterizations. These changes were often the result of efforts to revive interest in a show whose audience had begun to decline, usually through the employment of different actors, writers or producers

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jumping_the_shark

Mon, 09/20/2010 - 21:20 | Link to Comment Buck Johnson
Buck Johnson's picture

Everybody has to read that book in Highschool, I did and I even saw the movie.  I totally forgot about the one quote from Granger:

“There was a silly damn bird called a Phoenix back before Christ: every few hundred years he built a pyre and burned himself up. He must have been first cousin to Man. But every time he burnt himself up he sprang out of the ashes, he got himself born all over again. And it looks like we’re doing the same thing, over and over, but we’ve got one damn thing the Phoenix never had. We know the damn silly thing we just did. We know all the damn silly things we’ve done for a thousand years, and as long as we know that and always have it around where we can see it, someday we’ll stop making the Goddamn funeral pyres and jumping into the middle of them. We pick up a few more people that remember, every generation.” – Granger

 

He is correct, we keep doing the same things over and over but we do and have had a few each generation remember the problems from before and try to not repeat it.  As with our economy and what is happening know, this is a good thing.  Yes I know it will be bad and people will be heart broken when they truly figure out that they aren't special, but it's good.  Because we will finally have our population thinking about what is truly important to us as a people.  Instead of thinking that my tribe is better than your tribe and each is jockying for position and power.  Maybe as a country that is the US, we need something to replace the old way of doing things and look to the future.  I've said for a long time that if we need to be leaders, lets lead into space manufacturing and space exploration.  Eventually it's going to happen because our planet can't sustain the billions that will be coming in the next century.  New sciences, new techology, new ideas for the advancement of the not only our country the US but also to lead the rest of humanity into a new age.  It sounds to goody to shoes, but if we can't or won't get back manufacturing without lowering our wages and way of life to third world levels.  We can't or won't get back the value of our currency unless we can offer the rest of the world new value for their holding of our currency. 

We have to get out of this pattern, because if we don't we will be back here in a century or two saying and doing the same thing.

Mon, 09/20/2010 - 23:57 | Link to Comment RockyRacoon
RockyRacoon's picture

I used to lament the continuous "reinventing the wheel" problem, but not any more.  A lesson learned personally is remembered -- for the life of the person experiencing it.  Usually not much longer.  It's okay.  We take what we need and leave the rest.

Mon, 09/20/2010 - 22:16 | Link to Comment williambanzai7
williambanzai7's picture

"Ray Bradbury apparently stated that his novel is not about censorship; he states that Fahrenheit 451 is a story about how television destroys interest in reading literature, which leads to a perception of knowledge as being composed of "factoids", partial information devoid of context."

And of course Kubrik's movie does not do justice to the book.

Here is a link to the full PDF:

http://kisi.deu.edu.tr/murat.goc/451.pdf

Thanks for reminding me to go back and read the book again.

Mon, 09/20/2010 - 23:37 | Link to Comment CrockettAlmanac.com
CrockettAlmanac.com's picture

Kubrick?

Tue, 09/21/2010 - 00:02 | Link to Comment RockyRacoon
RockyRacoon's picture

I think he meant A Clockwork Orange.

Fahrenheit 451 was done by Francois Truffaut.

Tue, 09/21/2010 - 00:50 | Link to Comment CrockettAlmanac.com
CrockettAlmanac.com's picture

I like to viddy the old films now and again.

Love the Orange.

Tue, 09/21/2010 - 20:21 | Link to Comment jakoye
jakoye's picture

Yes, a truly great film.

Tue, 09/21/2010 - 20:20 | Link to Comment jakoye
jakoye's picture

In addition to not enjoying the book, I found the movie to be positively repulsive! This is a 20+ year old memory, mind you, so the exact reasons why I found it so unfetching are lost to time, but I do remember distinctly that I did not like the costumes at all. Maybe that's what French firemen looked like at the time? To me, they just looked dumb.

Mon, 09/20/2010 - 22:13 | Link to Comment Irish Virus
Irish Virus's picture

The intellectual life is littered with the corpses of those ravaged by mental illness, substance abuse, suicide, grandiosity, alienation, and ultimately extreme self doubt.  Not exclusively, but far too often.  Can it be the aim of knowledge to despise your fellow man?    It seems much easier to grow a few rows of tomatoes, watch them grow, and give them away.

Still, I would give anything to have a few beers with Mark Twain.

Tue, 09/21/2010 - 00:21 | Link to Comment anonnn
anonnn's picture

Modern public-relations was already established by 1928, when Edward Bernays published his guide-book "Propaganda".

"The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country." E. Bernays

[available free on the internet]

 

 

Tue, 09/21/2010 - 00:24 | Link to Comment Chupacabra
Chupacabra's picture

"Political correctness" is a far bigger menace than people realize.  It infects our schools (impressionable children are literally indoctrinated on a weekly basis), our workplaces and our media.  The fact that some topics of discussion are now literally illegal is beyond frightening. 

Tue, 09/21/2010 - 01:52 | Link to Comment Bob
Bob's picture

Indeed

I never underestimate the evil that my "liberal" brethren are capable of.  To me it demonstrates the necessity of balance or, as I put it to my kids, may my "enemies" always be strong enough to keep me in check when I need it. 

Power certainly does corrupt. 

Tue, 09/21/2010 - 03:43 | Link to Comment i.knoknot
i.knoknot's picture

kewl - a goat sucker! nice!

an open mind considers the context of a situation, and commits to a response, both knowing and accepting the probable consequences. for better or worse, progress is made. managed risk.

a politically correct mind appreciates that there are "many ways to skin a cat", but will continually dodge the commitment and implied consequences for fear of the possible outcomes (discomfort, confrontation, embarrassment, etc.). deferred risk.

 

ironically, while politically-correct folks believe they are dodging the bullet(s), the ramifications of this approach are far more expensive over the long-term, as there will always be shrewd manipulators who can identify and manipulate this "fear of consequences" to their own ends, all-the-while leaving the politically-correct folks obliviously believing they are always doing the "right thing", and somehow "winning" the game.

eventually the politically-correct culture has been bled of its core/soul will generally either lose by submission, or react irrationally out of frustration, giving the manipulators the needed excuse to contain it by force.

it's pretty easy to see the game at work, even in here (zh) - take a completely arbitrary example:

e.g. one may "know" in his gut/heart that, over time, gold will likely hold its value, relative to a constant unit of human labor, but unless he is of strong resolve, he may succumb to the occasional troll that combs these sites, espousing the lack of digestibility of the silly metal, and calling names, character barbs, etc. to "anyone who can't figure *that* out".

fight about it, or just buy on the dips? your call.

the broader solution to our PC nightmare?

what do you believe?

on every topic of contention, do you float with the fashion of the MSM and guilt-mongers (don't like obama?, you must be racist, etc.),

or do you really know what *you* believe?

does somebody or some group give you your rights (freedom/liberty, etc.)?

or, do you bow to some 'authority' who hands them out like candy to the 'good' kids?

or, are these rights really, somehow, yours by right of birth?

or, pick a deity who deals them out (also "if you're good")?

you'd better figure the answers to these questions out for yourself asap, because the PTB already have the armies, and an answer you may personally not agree with.

Tue, 09/21/2010 - 01:45 | Link to Comment Bob
Bob's picture

Great work, Jim!  You really did it full justice. 

Tue, 09/21/2010 - 03:36 | Link to Comment kayl
kayl's picture

Lit here 1979. Last book: The Canterbury Tales. There's no shortage of people who are interested in reading and are capable of discussion and analysis. My guess is that the proportion of people who are capable has risen with improved education since the founding fathers.

And for those of you who fret over the next generation, it only takes listening and talking to your children about books, painting, art, sciences, and everything to break them out of the conformity. It takes such a little thing while they are young: like raising chickens, planting a garden, getting a telescope-- that fires the imagination. From there you have a platform to introduce them to all the ideas, languages, and esthetics of culture from around the world and within your ken.

Tue, 09/21/2010 - 11:01 | Link to Comment justen
justen's picture

I admit that it's bleak, but it's not quite as bad as the lead-in statistics make it out to be. Many people buy their books online now, so not visiting a bookstore is not necessarily a measure of literacy (I personally love to go into bookstores anyway, but I rarely find specific titles when I do, given my tastes and interests - that's what Amazon.com is for). There are also a great number of people who don't read books, but do read intelligent and stimulating material online. While reading a dozen articles of one's own choice may not mirror the experience of a single novel-sized discussion of a subject, it may be functionally as good or better in terms of delivering relevant, balanced information that directly meets the reader's interest and needs.

As for quality works of fiction, like it or not, there are many wonderful sources of fiction outside of paper. While the depth of experience with a book is unparalleled in many ways, the engagement and personal connection of a great game is similarly special and can't be reproduced by a book ('game' isn't even a fair description of some of the real art out there today). Their ability to inspire critical thinking and to teach subversive behavior is superior in almost all ways to a book, and fortunately there are many game studios who take advantage of that fact (a classic example along the lines of Fahrenheit 451 would be Half-Life 2).

I agree with Bradbury entirely about the memorization of useless "facts" as a substitution for knowledge. That, however, is not a problem unique to our time - it started much earlier, with institutionalized schooling. The author of the article states,

"The U.S. public school system has been so dumbed down, with equality of all as the mantra that one wonders whether the state purposefully wants to process non-thinking, non-questioning autobots into society. A thinking, questioning public is dangerous to the state."

The best book I've read on the topic is John Taylor Gatto's The Underground History of American Education, which lays out the entire case against compulsory schooling, its history, and the fact - demonstrated through a great deal of research and historical example - that its intent was always to produce complacency, stupidity, and obedience.

I've also often commented that the world's rulers must have read the three books mentioned as instruction manuals rather than warnings. No surprise though - they were intended to warn us about exactly the kind of people who are ruling us. Or rather, ruling most of you all. I don't consent to be ruled; I am a free person who happens to live in a society that glorifies criminals, nothing more. Thugs in one kind of costume are no different than thugs in another, and gangsters all dress alike anyway.

Tue, 09/21/2010 - 13:29 | Link to Comment kayl
kayl's picture

I read somewhere that Huxley was a Fabian socialist. If he travelled in those circles, he would have been familiar with their opinions and social programming.

Mon, 10/04/2010 - 04:34 | Link to Comment Herry12
Herry12's picture

Thanks for such a great post and the review, I am totally impressed! Keep stuff like this coming!...
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