Herb’s Blog, Herbdate 22874 – 998
Here’s the haps:
I was over at Author Sarah Angleton’s blog today and was reminded that it’s Banned Book Week. If you’ve never visited Sarah you are missing out. She takes strange, sometimes esoteric incidents from history and weaves them into a post about modern days. Sometimes they are personal posts but often they have a message that should make you ponder a bit.
People who have known me for a while or read my blog for a while know that I have said Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 is probably one of the most important books a person can and should read. While Orwell’s 1984 may be more accurate I think Bradbury leaves us with a glimmer of hope, which Orwell does not. Both books should be read by every member of every society and if you do read 1984, when you get to the end, take a piece of paper and cover the last paragraph, especially the last sentence of the book. Don’t let yourself read that until the very end. It gave me cold goosebumps and nightmares. Fahrenheit 451 did not do that, exactly, but made a vivid, lasting impression on me when I first read it when I was 15 and the several times I’ve read it since.
If you are not familiar with Bradbury’s story, it is set in a future time surprisingly like our own in a country very much like ours. The Protagonist, Guy Montag, is a fireman of the time whose job is not to put fires out, but to start them. Houses have all been fireproofed but books have been outlawed completely. If you are found to own a book, your books and your house are all burned and you are imprisoned. The title comes from the temperature at which book paper combusts. Written in the early 50’s, Bradbury describes a society where people never go anywhere without their “ear-bud” radios plugged into their ears. They watch TV on giant, wall-sized screens and never do anything else.
Books came to be outlawed by a process remarkably similar to the “Political Correctness” we see today. Some group found a certain book to be offensive and protested its printing, held burnings and got it banned. Another group found a different book offensive. Some found the Bible offensive, others found other writings offensive as all the while the people became less and less involved with the government and how it was run and more and more involved in personal entertainment. They eventually became so complacent and believed the propaganda spewed into their ear-buds and out of their TVs that it was not difficult for the government to pass laws, at first outlawing only certain books nobody ever really cared about or read anyways. The people continued feeding their minds on the pap from the carefully crafted, “inoffensive” TV shows while the government banned more and more books until finally all books were against the law.
It started out with people being made to believe they could not say whatever they wanted for fear of offending someone or some group or even the government while at the same time others became so thin-skinned that they took everything as a personal insult and provocation. The right not to be offended took the place of the right to free speech.
Please read this book. I have a favorite quote from the book, which is said when there is a conversation about the wall-sized T.V. sets with their programs that don’t even give you time to think about what they are saying, if they are saying anything at all. The point of the discussion is that books are not bad because,
“Books can be beaten down with reason.”
I had intended to end this post with that quote but there is another, more poignant and true quote to end with:
“‘Remember, the firemen are rarely necessary. The public itself stopped reading of its own accord.’”
Featured Image by Movidagrafica Barcelona: https://www.pexels.com/photo/burning-book-page-1474928/