Curmudgeonalia
I see I taste I write Links What?
September 15, 2007

Fahrenheit 451 revisited in real life?

No review of this book is necessary. More than when written—in 1950—it reflects the politically correct attitudes of today, and I thought a heavily excerpted quote therefrom to be particularly cogent. And it is better than anything I might write.

It occurs at some future date when the fire chief, an older man who remembers books is explaining to a younger fireman, who had no experience with books, why it is necessary to burn all books:

• “Once, books appealed to a few people . . . they could afford to be different. . . . But then the world got full of eyes and elbows and mouths. . . . Films and radios, magazines, books leveled down to a sort of paste-pudding norm.

• “Then, in the 20th century, speed up your camera. Books cut shorter. Condensations. Digests. Tabloids. Everything boils down to the gag, the snap ending. Classics cut to fit fifteen-minute radio shows, then cut again to fill a two-minute book column, winding up at last as a 10-12 line dictionary resume.

• “[There were] many whose sole knowledge of Hamlet was a one-page digest in a book that claimed: now at last you can read all the classics; keep up with your neighbors. . . .

• “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 all about after work. Why learn anything save pressing buttons, pulling switches, fitting nuts and bolts?

• “Empty the theaters save for clowns. More sports for everyone, group spirit, fun, and you don’t have to think, eh? . . . Organize and superorganize super-sports. More cartoons in books. More pictures. The mind drinks less and less. Impatience. Highways full of crowds going somewhere [and] nowhere. Towns turn into motels, people in nomadic surges from place to place, living tonight in the room where you slept this noon and I the night before.

• “Now let’s take up the minorities in our civilization, shall we? Don’t step on the toes of the dog lovers, the cat lovers, doctors, lawyers, merchants, chiefs, Mormons, Baptists, Unitarians, second-generation Chinese, Swedes, Italians, Germans, Texans, Brooklynites, Irishmen, people from Oregon or Mexico. The people in [books, plays, and serials no longer] represent any actual painters, cartographers, mechanics anywhere.

• “Authors, full of evil thoughts, lock up your typewriters. They did. Magazines became a nice blend of vanilla tapioca. No wonder books stopped selling. But the public, knowing what it wanted, spinning happily let the comic books survive. And the three-dimensional sex magazines of course.

• [and] “It didn’t come down from the Government. There was no dictum, no declaration, no censorship to start with, no! Technology, mass exploitation, and minority pressure carried the trick, thank God. Today you can stay happy all the time, you are allowed to read comics, the good old confessions or trade journals.

• “With schools turning out more [mediocre students] instead of examiners, critics, knowers and imaginative creators, the world ‘intellectual’ became dread and unfamiliar. Remember the kid in school who was exceptionally ‘bright,’ did most of the reciting, [etc.] The one picked out for beatings and tortures after hours?

• “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. So! A book is a loaded gun in the house next door. Burn it. Breach man’s mind. Who knows what might be the target of the well-read man?

• “So, when houses were finally fireproofed completely, all over the world, there was no longer need for fireman for the old purposes. They were given the new job as custodians of our peace of mind, the focus of our understandable and rightful dread of being inferior; official censors, judges and executors. That’s you and me!”

Anything amongst these quotes which suggests modernity? Anything you recognize? Think, folks. And maybe fear a little? Maybe even undertake to do something about it?

Posted by respeto at September 15, 2007 12:26 PM