The Big Read: Fayetteville Reads Fahrenheit 451
Tuesday, April 17, 2007
It makes me wonder, what lead to such a government and a culture? How did they stifle the curiosity of an entire nation? And how can we work to ensure that future isn't ours?
Monday, April 16, 2007
America under the fervent guide of McCarthy was simmering in a culture of fear; the perfect condition for oppression to squeeze into a choke-hold. Grown-up Americans feared being thought of as unpatriotic the way they feared being thought of as unpopular in high school. Their social standing, livelihood, and future employment prospects could be jeopardized if others thought they were a Communist, un-American. They feared being different.
To form the perfect dystopia, fear must be fostered, and individualism squashed. As Murrow put it, "If none of us had ever read a dangerous book or had a friend who was different or never joined an organization that advocates change we'd be just the kind of people Joe McCarthy wants."
Just as individualism and original thought were discouraged during this precarious time, those things were likewise discouraged in Fahrenheit 451. People did not sit on porches and talk or congregate without arousing suspicion. Civil human interaction was frowned upon because like-minded people will find each other, and they will talk, and they will be joined by other like-minded people, and they will talk, and as they talk they will question. They will question the government, the system, and society in general. They will discover that something is amiss, and then talking becomes planning. This does not work in a dystopia. These sorts of people will not be content to be automatons who let the firemen or McCarthy protect them.
At the beginning of every hostile takeover in history, whether it was the French Revolution, the cultural revolution in China, Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge or Stalin's pre-cursor to the Gulag, the first people persecuted are the educated, and then the artists. These people question. During the McCarthy era, writers and artists were often under heavy suspicion, and sometimes jailed because (for example) twenty years previous they may have dated someone who may have had a relative who may or may not have gone to the wrong sort of political meeting. The outcasts and the persecuted in Fahrenheit 451 were those who were educated; those who retained the history of society before insipid entertainment trained it to be nearly mindless.
Friday, April 6, 2007
Bradbury warns against its over-saturation, the wall-tvs (LCD flat-screen televisions), the seashells (earbuds of the ipods), eyes lurking in vents (a nightmared panopticon for those who start to realize the implications their surroundings, as Guy Montag does at the beginning of the book).
Libraries are continuing sources of new technology, always trying to maintain the latest opportunities through new information sources. But you can be, too. Take home the paper copy of local calendars, write down dates in your planners, but also use the plastic keys at your fingertips. Even if you don't have a computer at home, you can use one at the FPL to access a world of real, three-dimensional events and information involving real, touchable, interactive people.
Here are a few ways you can use the technology that saturates our lives to get outside of the screen, to recenter yourself in your community:
Access Fayetteville always has local events posted: look for their Calendar, Events, and Meetings page to view a variety of community events.
The University of Arkansas doesn't just have events for students. There are always plays, gallery shows, and speakers coming to the campus that have a plethora of information to offer to the general public.
Also, the Free Weekly always has an "Eight Days a Week" section that has music, art and theater events for the month.
And, seasonally open and always a social event, is the Fayetteville Farmer's Market (print out the schedule, put it on your fridge and remember when you're out of bell peppers you can pop up to the downtown Square and choose your own locally grown produce).
The opportunities for interaction are endless.
Tuesday, April 3, 2007
Thus is the battle (okay, one of many) that teachers face, and it is NOT one that can be won by "hand[ing] them a book, that's all" or by "giv[ing] one of my books," as Bradbury states in the interview at the end of the anniversary edition, "to a twelve-year-old boy who doesn't like to read," because "that boy will fall in love and start to read." Those are weirdly idealistic and naive statements for Bradbury to make, especially since he is responsible for the darkly sophisticated forecast that is Farenheit 451. However, I don't even know that an apocalyptic event can shake our culture of its addiction to brain candy, as Bradbury suggests in his novel. The aftermath of September 11 brought about a resurgence of a focus on the family and spending quality time together - of really seeing and hearing each other - but that, in large part, has passed. So I must respectfully disagree with Bradbury's extremely oversimplified solution to the problem of our culture being "increasingly dominated by the visual." And education is not the main problem, as he says; it's society. Really and truly, those teachers who enter their profession sincerely and not for the summer vacations, don't want or need extra pay; they need HELP. They need support from parents in presenting a consistent message of the importance of the printed word in their homes. They need support from politicians in the form of many, many more colleagues and many, many more resources. They need support from the public as a whole in facilitating a shift away from effortless entertainment toward an intellectual pursuit that can be so richly fulfilling in its challenges, i.e. READING A BOOK!
Tuesday, March 27, 2007
I come home and turn the TV on to “My baloney has a first name; it's O-S-C-A-R” - aw, that’s cute – I pick up the paper to see what’s going on around me. Ugh, it’s just so depressing. I’ll just skim through the headlines online later. For now, better stick to Primetime TV. I need something that will help me forget about my worries… And there we have it, my life could be a scene right out of Fahrenheit 451, except the only difference is the books I’m not reading aren’t hidden in ceiling panels but sitting on a bookshelf staring straight at me. I look around for the electrical hounds - whew, there is still time, better start reading!