“The point is obvious. There is more than one way to burn a book.
And the world is full of people running about with lit matches….”
Weak signals tell us that what had been best practices are about to end, or, at the least, morph into something transformative. Think digital revolution as a for instance.
I recently thumbed through my copy of Ray Bradbury’s classic Fahrenheit 451. The book came out in 1953. At that time, our population was trying to understand one of the newest weak signals: the television. In 1949, about 6,000 homes had TVs. By the mid-fifties, about half the population was tuning in, and program formats were dramatically changing what had been best practice for broadcasting.
The television provided Bradbury with one opportunity to gaze into the future and guess what might become the newest practice. In fact, as I reread 451, I was taken by the number of technological “advancements” he incorporated into his future-oriented look of society: interactive TV, surround sound TV (mounted on multiple walls in a room), ear buds, ATMs, caller ID, robots, and fast driving cars.
And, he noted disturbing new (“promising”) in human interaction.
- Book burning (allowed for “a new job of custodians of our peace and mind…official censors, judges, and executors….” p. 59)
- Apathetic people with surface conversations (found throughout the book)
- Indiscriminate and senseless killing (drive-bys; p. 128)
- Limited in-depth reading (“The mind drinks less and less.” p. 57)
- Distrust people who think (“…the word ‘intellectual,’ of course, became the swear word it deserved to be. You always dread the unfamiliar….” p. 58)
- Mind numbing fire hosing of information that allows fosters thought control (“Cram them full of noncombustible data, chock them so damned full of ‘facts’ they feel stuffed, but absolutely ‘brilliant’ with information.” p. 61)
In a 2003 interview for the 50th anniversary edition of the book, Bradbury said, “I was interested in more than the political atmosphere. I was considering the whole social atmosphere: the impact of TV and radio and the lack of education. I could see the coming event of school teachers not teaching reading anymore. The less they taught, the more you wouldn’t need books.” (p. 182)
Are these premonitions still pertinent today? What is the role of education? Have we gone beyond Bradbury’s weak signals to something more dire—or was his fiction just that, fiction?
In the “Coda” of the 2003 release of the book, he speaks about edits and criticisms that had been made to and about some of his works:
The point is obvious. There is more than one way to burn a book.
And the world is full of people running about with lit matches…. (p. 176)
Video Recommendation for the week.
Click on this video for a quick overview of the major themes of the book—and the ponderous questions that arise from those themes. Were Bradbury’s premonitions accurate?
Make it a great week and HTRB has needed.
My latest book, Community as a Safe Place to Land (2019), (print and e-book) is available on Amazon. More information (including seven free podcast episodes that spotlight the seven core values highlighted in the book) at www.stevepiscitelli.com.
Check out my book Stories about Teaching, Learning, and Resilience: No Need to be an Island (2017). It has been adopted for teaching, learning, and coaching purposes. I conducted (September 2019) a half-day workshop for a community college’s new faculty onboarding program using the scenarios in this book. Contact me if you and your team are interested in doing the same. The accompanying videos would serve to stimulate community-building conversations at the beginning of a meeting.
My podcasts can be found at The Growth and Resilience Network®.
You will find more about what I do at www.stevepiscitelli.com.
©2019. Steve Piscitelli
The Growth and Resilience Network®