“Fahrenheit 451 – the temperature at which book paper catches fire, and burns…”.
In Ray Bradbury’s prescient 1953 novel, the government made the past illegal. Guy Montag is a “fireman” employed to burn the possessions of those who read outlawed books. They even had book-sniffing robots to find homes with hidden books.
When Guy becomes despondent over the meaning of his work, his fire chief explains that, “over the course of several decades, people embraced new media (in this case, film, and television), sports, and a quickening pace of life. Books were ruthlessly abridged or degraded to accommodate a short attention span, while minority groups protested over the controversial, outdated content perceived to be found in literature (yet comic books, trade papers, and sex magazines were allowed to stay, as those fed into the population’s want for mindless entertainment).” People would watch the “parlor walls” (large televisions) with visiting friends instead of conversation.
We are now in the throes of a virtual Fahrenheit 451. The need for burning books has become moot with the advent of ubiquitous, mesmerizing “screens.” Evidence:
- Generations of high school graduates who show increasing ignorance, apathy, and illiteracy; they are ill-equipped for self-sufficiency, yet they excel at World of Warcraft, and Grand Theft Auto.
- People without enough money for food, have cellphones, and giant high-definition televisions, with cable. They read little and text a lot. Everything is Facebook, selfies, videos, and soon virtual reality.
- Minority groups are protesting the controversial facts of our history. For example, the Fairfax County, Virginia school board just renamed my high school, J.E.B. Stuart High School, Justice High School. (I can just imagine my next class reunion.) Why? Because he was an officer in the Confederate army. Does anyone believe the Confederacy won the war? Does anyone not see the tragedy of 600,000 lives lost as a lesson in pain? Why remove the reminders?
What is next? Will we remove the Civil War from our libraries? Will museums take down every work of art with elements of that part of our nation’s history? Will schools bury the history of slavery and the people responsible?
When will we hold accountable the Africans who sold tens of millions of other African as slaves to the entire world? https://goo.gl/EXnyGT
Were they not even more responsible for the misery of those slaves and their progeny?
Ignoring or censoring history will neither change the past, nor the consequences of what happened. It will leave us less aware of the truth; a type of cultural dementia. We must resist becoming a world of virtual Fahrenheit 451.