Philosophies of Fahrenheit 451: Chapter 2

Continued from Introduction and Chapter 1.

 

Chapter 2: The Sieve and the Sand

So according to this chapter, when we reach the year 2022, we will have started one of 2 atomic wars. Well, that possibility is certainly there, and it might happen sooner than that. Get a desk and sleep tight.

Page 71:

“I don’t talk things, sir,” said Faber. “I talk the meaning of things.” I sit hear and know I’m alive.”

I chuckled a bit when I read this part, because it makes me think about how I start up a lot of conversations related to films, when I’m not trying to get too in-depth with them (which is most of the time, because most I converse with don’t have THAT much of a fancy with films). “Hey, you remember that scene from that movie? Wasn’t is awesome/terrible?”

I also think about my evolution as a film-goer (by film-goer, I mean someone who watches films, which you can do at a theater, at a friend’s house, on an airplane, or at home). How I used to just look at things at surface level, but now I’m less able to do that, which is a double-edged sword. When I was younger, I could look at things so simply albeit naively. If there was action and/or good-looking stuff in a movie, I enjoyed it; hence my enjoyment of Star Wars [original trilogy], King Kong [original], The Terminator, The Beastmaster, Aliens, The Dark Crystal, and Robocop when I was, like, 10 years old or younger. Nowadays, I still enjoy those movies, but with the addition of looking beyond the surface level, assuming there is something substantial beneath the surface; though I do believe, with the exception of Robocop, Star Wars, and The Dark Crystal, all of those I just mentioned are pretty much “what you see is what you get” type of films. Not that there’s anything wrong with enjoying some films that are surface-level entertainment and don’t have a significant message to deliver. It’s ok to point at some things and say, “Wasn’t that awesome?” After all, if you ask someone if they’ve seen an awesome film that you’ve seen, and they say, “No,” then that gives you an opportunity to enlighten them so that they too have witnessed the awesomeness.

That all being said, one should be able to talk about the meaning of films, or the meaning of anything besides films. This novel would praise novels for reasons as such (though, again, I do believe there are novels that are as shallow as some of the films I’ve mentioned). But there are also other people, history, current events, current politics, pieces of art, nature, etc. If one sits and thinks at the meaning of their existence (of either themselves or things that exist outside of themselves), they may gain an epiphany, or find something worth considering and discussing. Because discussing meanings can bring about discussions on the pros and cons of the way things are, the pros and cons of ways they can or should change.

Plus, one should be able to “think.” After all, if you don’t think, then one could argue you’re not alive/aware. Hence the expression, “I think, therefore I am.” Plus, if one didn’t “think,” then that would make book clubs and movie clubs quite boring.

 

Page 77-78:

“I often wonder if God recognizes His own son the way we’ve dressed him up, or is it dressed him down? He’s a regular peppermint stick now, all sugar-crystal and saccharine when he isn’t making veiled references to certain commercial products that every worshiper absolutely needs.”

Ah yes. How everything sacred eventually (inevitably) becomes commercialized. Like Christmas. I guess this can apply to anything religious, or even not-so-religious. For instance, how skateboarding was a radical thing for surfers to do when they weren’t near an ocean (see Dogtown and Z-Boys), and then they commercialized the shit out of it, making the claim that anyone could skateboard and be radical, so long as you paid for our skateboards. But then there’s the devious stuff, like how some insane Muslims sell the idea of, “Purchase our suicide vests in the name of Allah! Order now and we’ll throw in a toddler size for free!”

 

Page 78:

“Mr. Montag, you are looking at a coward. I saw the way things were going, a long time back. I said nothing. I’m one of the innocents who could have spoken up and out when no one would listen to the ‘guilty,’ but I did not speak and thus became guilty myself. And when finally they set the structure to burn the books, using the firemen, I grunted a few times and subsided, for there were no others grunting or yelling with me, by then. Now, it’s too late.”

That’s how it happens, subtly at first, then the signs appear which should encourage people to take a stand against it, but many are too preoccupied with other things. Next thing you know, everything has gone so far that it’s too late to do anything about it. A concept shown to a terrifying extent in Invasion of the Body Snatchers, but why bother with fiction when reality is already demonstrating this before our very eyes? And make no mistake, political correctness can definitely be attributed to this. Political correctness is pushed for the purpose of pushing the agenda that it is wrong to offend, much like how outlawing/burning books in this novel is something that is done with the purpose of pushing the agenda that it is wrong to think, it is wrong to be bothered, because everything should be painless and stress-free without a worry in the world. Both share the same con, a promotion of ignorance and becoming a straight-up pussy.

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The difference between the two is that the world of Fahrenheit 451 shows that the dangers of book-burning and thought-control (by having no thoughts) is ignorance of actual dangers that exist, hence the background threat of war the pops up off and on. With political correctness, it’s the opposite. Sure there’s thought-control (be offended at everything), but it doesn’t necessarily promote ignorance in such a way as Fahrenheit 451 does. The danger is in not wanting to see anything that offends you, and force that view upon everyone else. “If it’s too offensive for me, then it should be too offensive for everyone!”

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On the other hand, political correctness could be a precursor to the stuff that happens in this book. Enforcing your views upon everyone else, wanting everyone to think alike and be offended at the same things and be entirely consumerist, and outlaw anything that encourages critical thinking so that it becomes less likely anyone will come around to challenge your views (nevermind that political correctness also discourages thinking about a subject from multiple points of view), which can lead to this dystopia depicted in the novel.

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Anyway, the novel goes on to state that three things are needed in order for us to be happy.

Three things that are needed:
1.) Quality, texture of information.

Page 78-79:

“It’s not books you need, it’s some of the things that were once in books. […] The same infinite detail and awareness could be projected through the radios and televisors, but are not.

[…]

Books were only one type of receptacle where we stored a lot of things we were afraid we might forget. There is nothing magical in them, at all. The magic is only in what the books say, how they stitched the patches of the universe together into one garment for us.”

[…]

“So now do you see why books are hated and feared? They show the pores in the face of life. The comfortable people want only wax moon faces, poreless, hairless, expressionless.”

2.) Leisure (time to sit and think/contemplate)
Page 80:

“Oh, but we’ve plenty of off hours.”

“Off hours, yes. But time to think? If you’re not driving a hundred miles an hour, at a clip where you can’t think of anything else but the danger, then you’re playing some game or sitting in some room where you can’t argue with the four-wall televisor. Why? The televisor is ‘real.’ It is immediate, it has dimension. It tells you what to think and blasts it in. It must be right. It seems so right. It rushes you on so quickly to its own conclusions your mind hasn’t time to protest, ‘What nonsense!'”

3.)
Page 81:

“[…] the right to carry out actions based on what we learn from the interaction of the first two.”

Because happiness without quality information and time to think upon that information will only be a hallow form of happiness. A happiness that is only found on the surface, but with emptiness on the inside.

 

Page 82:

“After all, when we had all the books we needed, we still insisted on finding the highest cliff to jump off. But we do need a breather. We do need knowledge. And perhaps in a thousand years we might pick smaller cliffs to jump off. The books are to remind us what asses and fools we are.

[…]

The things you’re looking for […] are in the world, but the only way the average chap will ever see ninety-nine percent of them is in a book. Don’t ask for guarantees. And don’t look to be saved by any one thing, person, machine, or library. Do your own bit of saving, and if you drown, at least die knowing you were headed for shore.”

A reminder that even when we have it good, when we’re at the peak of our time (I’d argue that was the time period from the 70s to the early 2000s, barring some wars here and there, some racism here and there [which many great steps were taken to improve all that during those decades, despite the LA riots of ’92]), we don’t take it for granted. We don’t know how good we had it until we lost it. Gone is the boundary-pushing stand-up comic scene of those decades. Gone are the radical commercials. Gone are the times where people weren’t suing the shit out of each other. Gone is the wild west days of the Internet (man, was MySpace used to be, and what YouTube used to be). Gone are the days when schools sold you facts rather than agendas. Gone is the Attitude Era of the WWF (though they’ve at least improved on the chick-fight aspect).  Gone are the days when Spoony made good entertaining reviews.

Well, so long as evidence of it remains that new generations can see for themselves, whether in the form of a book (digital or physical), a movie, a podcast, an audio file/CD, a radio transmission, etc. Anything to keep the memories alive so that history can be learned from. Just as people got over Dungeons & Dragons being a demonic soul-corrupting presence for the youth (which it was anything but, despite what Tom Hanks may have you believe), hopefully, someday, we’ll get over political correctness and radical feminism and radical anti-racism and radical-leftism. Otherwise, well, books like this and 1984 and Brave New World warned us.

 

Page 83:

“The whole culture’s shot through. The skeleton needs melting and reshaping. Good God, it isn’t as simple as just picking up a book you laid down half a century ago. Remember, the firemen are rarely necessary. The public itself stopped reading of its own accord. You firemen provide a circus now and then at which buildings are set off and crowds gather for the pretty blaze, but it’s a small sideshow indeed, and hardly necessary to keep things in line. So few want to be rebels anymore. And out of those few, most, like myself, scare easily.”

Though people are, of course, discouraged from becoming rebels.

 

 

Page 84:

“Let the war turn off the ‘families.’ Our civilization is flinging itself to pieces. Stand back from the centrifuge.”

If society is too far gone, destruction is inevitable, self-inflicted or otherwise.

 

Page 85:

I remember the newspapers dying like huge moths. No one wanted them back. No one missed them. And then the Government, seeing how advantageous it was to have people reading only about passionate lips and the fist in the stomach, circled the situation with your fire-eaters.”

Well, the newspapers dying off is certainly something relevant to today.  However, there is the video format, news media, but that itself is also dying because they are too biased for their own good.  What the novel didn’t count on was individuals rising up to fill the void.  The rebels are alive and well; may they never die.

 

Page 92-93:

“I plunk the children in school nine days out of ten. I put up with them when they come home three days a month; it’s not bad at all. You heave them into the ‘parlor’ and turn the switch. It’s like washing clothes; stuff laundry in and slam the lid.”

Parents not giving their children hardly any attention, wishing to keep them in schools and let the school system alone fill the child’s head with their thought-control.

 

Page 100:

“You’re afraid of making mistakes. Don’t be. Mistakes can be profited by. Man, when I was younger I shoved my ignorance in people’s faces. They beat me with sticks. By the time I was forty my blunt instrument had been honed to a fine cutting point for me. If you hide your ignorance, no one will hit you and you’ll never learn.”

And this is why the status-quo should be challenged every now and then.  See if either the status-quo or those challenging it are the ignorant ones.  Competing through ideas (the 3 things needed for happiness) allows some ideas to die (and be replaced) while others grow.  If there’s no competition, nothing grows (or at least nothing new).  No competition makes one less adaptable.

 

Page 104:

“[…] the most dangerous enemy to truth and freedom, the solid unmoving cattle of the majority. Oh, God, the terrible tyranny of the majority.”

Ahah, the book was smart enough to bash both the minority (from the previous section) and the majority.  Neither are perfect.  And the majority are the ones capable of enforcing tyranny.  While the majority is to be feared (and kept in check) for that reason, one must also keep an eye on the minority as well.  The minority can corrupt (by playing the victim-game and being a primary cause for political correctness), but the majority can control.  It’s also a reason why there are political parties.  There should be multiple parties for multiple ideas, but there are only 2 real competitors out there currently in the United States (Republicans and Democrats).  Why?  Because if there’s only 2 parties, only 2 choices, that allows for both to have numbers high enough to destroy any competition.  God forbid there be only 1 party.  Still, that makes things too black and white.  There is plenty of grey to be had.  I’m not sure what the magic number should be, but I’m thinking there should be at least 4 parties, preferably 5, for a healthy dose of competition and competing ideas/philosophies.

But then again, what do I know?  Some European countries had this political system, and, well, look how they’re turning out today.

 

Before ending this post, I should point out that a brand new adaptation of the novel is coming to HBO soon.  Has me curious.

Some YouTube quotes:

Vidgirl8 Yeah but everyone only focuses on the “censorship” part of the story. There is much more to the story, the reason books were banned is because everyone got offended by what was written in the books, so they got rid of them to make a more “peaceful” world. The entire purpose was to get rid of conflicting opinions. Also the overuse of technology is a major theme. A true adaption of the book would be more impactful than “hur hur Drumpf is hitler so he wants to burn books.” The original book was written to say that conflicting opinions are necessary in a society, which is social commentary but just making it about modern politics would be terrible.
luke harper That’s still oversimplifying it. It wasn’t only about sparing people’s feelings, it was about looking down on intellectualism and using distractions to keep the people from questioning the status quo. They needed the people to not mind the endless wars, drafts, instant death sentences, etc. If they do this right, EVERYBODY should feel it. Because it’s a futuristic book, it should include things about the modern era. We have problems that can be directly addressed. People don’t just lack access to information anymore, this could be a story that directly addresses people’s disdain of primary sources and academic citations, choosing to instead look at news or information that simplifies information in a way they in particular like. I think it’d be interesting to see everyone use different news sources, believing world affairs are happening in completely different ways, but being too afraid to hurt each other’s feelings to talk about politics. The original story doesn’t work anymore because books aren’t the only way to get information, and neither is the TV. They have to account for the internet and other such things if they want this story to be relevant.
Hmmmmm. I’m not sure about this. I mean F451 is ripe for a film adaptation. But I don’t know if they are going to “get” it. The book is not about government censorship. It’s about a society whose members are so afraid of being offended that they demand that dangerous thoughts (and the books that hold them) be eliminated. Of all the classic dystopian novels, F451 is the one that had the most predictive power.
This is truly the age of greatest irony. Making a tv show based on a book, that directly stated that reading books is good and tv is a tool for turning people into dumb slaves? Best idea ever
you know, this comment has triple irony given that you have put it on youtube.
Mr Quixotic this is a quote from the book. “It’s not books you need, it’s some of the things that once were in books.” He goes on to say there’s nothing magical about books. That’s it’s the ideas that it’s the control of media and how in the books version of the future the “tv shows” they’re called something else. Are filled with propaganda and nothing no ideas. Just ads basically, and filler. The point being, it was never about the books. Also this will be the second movie made about Fahrenheit 451 you should check out the first movie.
“Montag looked at these men whose faces were sunburnt by a thousand real and ten thousand imaginary fires, whose work flushed their cheeks and fevered their eyes. These men who looked steadily into their platinum igniter flames as they lit their eternally burning black pipes. They and their charcoal hair and soot-coloured brows and bluish-ash-smeared cheeks where they had shaven close; but their heritage showed. Montag started up, his mouth opened. Had he ever seen a fireman that didn’t have black hair, black brows, a fiery face, and a blue-steel shaved but unshaved look? These men were all mirror-images of himself! Were all firemen picked then for their looks as well as their proclivities? The colour of cinders and ash about them, and the continual smell of burning from their pipes. Captain Beatty there, rising in thunderheads of tobacco smoke. Beatty opening a fresh tobacco packet, crumpling the cellophane into a sound of fire.” The main problem is not in a black Montag. All firemen must look similar to each other, like Star Wars stormtroopers. And this idiotic diversity propaganda simply destroys one of the basic concepts of the story.
WYD who says all the firemen can’t be black. To look the same why do all of them need to be white. I’m not gonna go out on one thing u said and call u racist. But I hope it sheds a little light on some people’s subconscious prejudice.
Nickolas Jackson Firemen can be black, but they are not. Have you seen Michael Shannon? Does he look black to you?
WYD so why is it bad that Micheal b Jordan’s character is black but not Micheal Shannon’s being white? What if all the firemen are black except him? Why does everyone have to be white not just the same
Nickolas Jackson there are two sides. The story says everyone is the same. It has to be either all black or all white.
ArbiterRevan that’s what I’m saying. So the problem should be that Montag is black if we haven’t seen the rest of the firemen.
Really this is just a minor change to the story. Yes, it WAS implied he was white. But I don’t really mind as long as all the firemen look similar to each other. Unfortunately they are not. But the fact that they don’t look similar is a very minor change if you think about it. And also, are people really still mad about there being a black Stormtrooper? It was clearly stated that The First Order didn’t use clones.

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