This year has, in many ways, been a page out of a science fiction novel — with fires, hurricanes, and other battles that took place in the political arenas. Over and again, I’ve heard it said, “It can’t happen here… it won’t happen here…” and then we see and hear the shocked: “I didn’t think it would go through…” All moral/ethical indignity is evident, but it’s also evident there’s more happening in society than we dare to imagine.
Yes, Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 has always been popular and controversial since it was first published in 1953, but has there ever been a better time than now for it to be resurrected, re-read, absorbed, retold, and re-imagined? The world stage already offers us examples of censorship — both at home, in the US, and around the world. It’s terrifying. But, to say otherwise is simply to shut our eyes, and refuse to listen to the real-life stories we see everyday in the media, enmeshed into our every waking moment.
Brainwashed by Technology
While I wasn’t alive when the novel was first published, I still remember the first time I read it many years ago. Even at that time (so many years after the initial publication date), the idea of full-wall submersion into multimedia sounded a bit far-fetched. Believable, yes. But, I had no idea that such an idea would so quickly become almost commonplace for the home consumer.
Then, too, could you have imagined that technology would so quickly become an addiction that crept into every aspect of our lives? We eat and sleep tech, and the interwoven tendrils of technology have inserted themselves into every part of our lives. Most of us don’t even realize how reliant we’ve become, or how obsessed we are with entertainment and celebrity.
When/If we start to realize the power of multimedia diversion, though, does anyone really care. We’ve heard the laments: “I spend too much time watching TV…” or on the internet… or on social media. You may have been shocked to read/hear reports that teenagers were spending as much as 9 hours a day on social media. That’s more than a full time job. But, more recent studies seem to indicate that average Americans now spend as many as 5 hours a day on their smartphones to “connect,” but also for entertainment and to “stay informed.”
What’s Real or Fake News?
As Montag began to open himself up to the realities of what was going on in his society, and his role in controlling and destroying information, he began to break the law (stealing the books that were slated for burning). Ironically, his role of “fireman” became more justified/fulfilled, as he saved books from the blaze.
In Bradbury’s dystopian reality of the 24th century, words mean something, which is why they so dangerous that they must be eradicated without mercy. Written word is replaced with the bombardment of images, sounds, and concepts that are designed to indoctrinate, not inform. And, that corruption of thought is further enforced by propagandized fake news that is introduced into every part of society.
As 2017 comes to an close, and we look back at the events of the past year, how can we help but take Fahrenheit 451 as our tract or bible? Bradbury warned us. He foretold this future. Perhaps we’ll finally listen before it’s too late.