By Mollie Campbell.
In my last article I wrote about how technology, the internet and Social Media is impacting our lives, and how it appears to be destroying our authenticity, in this article I will be discussing the importance of ‘Fahrenheit 451’ by Ray Bradbury and why every young adult should read it.
Like I said in my last post, I am not dismissing the multitudes of positivity the internet can provide, I am literally publishing this article on an online blog, but I am still incredibly passionate about how we can regulate the way we and our children use the internet and everything that goes with it, to make sure we are still benefiting from it, instead of surrendering to its power. I think one of the biggest ways to help us keep the dangers of technology at bay, is to realign our focus onto things that were designed to help us try and predict and therefore stop ourselves from entering a dystopian future, classic pieces of fiction which are now more relevant than ever, like George Orwell’s ‘1984’ for example.
‘Fahrenheit 451’ by Ray Bradbury is set in a future in which a fireman’s purpose isn’t to put fire out, instead it is their duty to burn books, anything that acts as proof that a society other than the one they are currently living in existed, is torched, until every book in the world is gone. Naturally this fictional prohibition of literature created various underground groups or societies who devote their lives to keeping and treasuring books, but if the government finds out, they will be burnt along with the novels that they cherish. First published in 1953, Fahrenheit 451 provides a terrifying yet alarmingly familiar tale which some regard as a farcical concept but the predictions Bradbury gave in a sense of fiction are now either an aspect of life in 2019, or will be very soon. For example, he gives us an insight into a world in which people do not read, and not only are they discouraged from reading, it is illegal to keep books in your home at all. Whilst this is certainly an extreme concept to think about now, if you think about it, reading is becoming less popular by the second. How often do you see a young adult sitting at the bus stop with a book in their hand as opposed to a smartphone? Newspapers are going out of print, in fact, modern technology almost mirrors that of ‘Parlour Walls’ (huge television screens taking up entire walls of a room) that we read about in Bradbury’s book.
It baffles me when people can’t see just how much of a possibility these futures are, the ones created by Bradbury, George Orwell, Aldous Huxley etc.… even though, whilst to a lesser extent and within a different set of conditions, these ideas have all unravelled in some type of context within society before, e.g. Nazi Germany. Fahrenheit 451 was released only 8 years after World War Two ended, the author likely drew some inspiration from the fact that the Nazi’s literally burnt books as a way of banning materials containing ideologies that opposed to Nazism. Anything that didn’t fit in with their idea of how society should be run was censored, free speech was gone, if you didn’t comply, you wouldn’t survive. In reality, these events didn’t happen that long ago and if a dictator like Adolf Hitler is currently waiting in the shadows, on the cusp of creation, what do you think they’d use as their weapon? The internet. It’s not that hard to envision a world in which things are taught solely on the internet, many school classes have already switched to this method of teaching, occasionally the government might slip in a few ideologies of their own, as a way of spreading messages to the people, to keep them in line. Maybe this power gets into the wrong hands, a few paragraphs are altered, eventually we might not be able to tell fact from fiction. The reliability of the media is already in question, these days it is hard to know whether the truth is even in there, within the layers of constant political bargaining from each side, from sources we once trusted. Now we have to try and weave our way through constant news stories which seem to be focused mainly on manipulating us to pick a side, right or left. If simple news stories can be tarnished by the influence of those in power in order to get us to think in a certain way, many things can be manipulated and in such a covert way that we aren’t even aware it’s happening. This is frighteningly similar to the dystopian novels I am talking about; we are creating a society in which people only identify as someone who exists on social media, they hastily click ‘accept’ when websites ask permission to collect their data without a second thought, not even opening their minds to the concept of why they might be doing this.
Moreover, this may sound like a rant on the way people have submitted to the early stages of brainwashing and I suppose it is, and it is only my opinion but I strongly believe we need to revert back to the days in which books mattered. You might be wondering what good it would do to a phenomenon that is already taking place, but books provide something that we cannot find on the internet. Sure you can read an exact replica of a book online but it is still keeping you tied to a virtual world, the feeling of an old book in your hand truly gives it a purpose, it isn’t just another online outlet that can be wiped away in an instant. It is something that exists in the real world, transporting us back to a time in which people had no choice but to research information for themselves, or interact with people in the flesh. The internet is an amazing way to research any topic you are curious about but books help us to stay tied to our roots and not in a way that holds us back, one that keeps us safe from the exploits of human greed and power hungry individuals just waiting to manipulate the authenticity we are losing in terms of life and experience and we are giving them the tools to do this, we need to remember that we don’t need to pick the future over the past, we can have both if we allow ourselves too.
But it’s not even these blatant warnings in the type of literature I am talking about that we should be focusing on, any kind of literature is something at least. Anything, from fairies to dragons, from politics to sports, a tale of fiction or non-fiction, something which acts as a catalyst for a person to think for themselves or feel a sense of creativity, something we are lacking in. The patience in terms self-discovery instead of trying to find a fix within the seconds it takes to google something is fading, the only way we can truly learn about the type of people we are is to focus on our own lives and how we act in the real world, as opposed to constant comparisons on social media. We can only do this by taking a step back, and making sure we still have enough strength in us to get back to the shoreline, no matter how tempting the depths of the ocean can be.
This article may not be everyone’s cup of tea and in no way am I telling you to agree with me, but writing this article has really given me the opportunity to learn a few things about myself, how passionate I am about this topic and how all of this was sparked by re-immersing myself in the bleak yet important concepts of dystopian literature. I encourage every young person to read Ray Bradbury’s ‘Fahrenheit 451’, as well as George Orwell’s ‘1984’ or Aldous Huxley’s ‘Brave New World’, persevere with them, it may enlighten your mind in terms of a concept, a self-discovery, even just a planted seed, or it might even change your life…just take advantage of the luxury of reading a book, who knows…one day we might not be able to.
‘He imagined thousands on thousands of faces peering into yards, into alleys, and into the sky, faces hid by curtains, pale, night-frightened faces, like grey animals peering from electric caves, faces with grey colourless eyes, grey tongues and grey thoughts looking out through the numb flesh of the face’- Fahrenheit 451.