Someone, who knows who, coined the term "Political Correctness" a
few years back. I do not know if the term came from its proponents or its
detractors. The proponents, of the concept if not the term, tend to have left
leaning politics. They should know better. Their entire legacy has depended on
the opposite, but now they embrace it with the fervor of the most ardent
fundamentalist. The tongue-tied website
documents the on-going absurdities.
In this novel, written before most homes had small black and white
televisions, Ray Bradbury created a world of ear-bud radios (he called them
shells) and wall-size flat panel color televisions spewing out innocuous
entertainment. He even had small battery powered color televisions. He saw our
world 50 years ago.
Mildred's hand had frozen behind the pillow. Her
fingers were tracing the book's outline and as the shape became familiar her
face looked surprised and then stunned. Her mouth opened to ask a question. .
"Empty the theaters save for clowns and furnish
the rooms with glass walls and pretty colors running up and down the walls
like confetti or blood or sherry or sauterne. You like baseball, don't you,
"Baseball's a fine game."
Now Beatty was almost invisible, a voice somewhere
behind a screen of smoke.
"What's this?" asked Mildred, almost with
delight. Montag heaved back against her arms. "What's this
"Sit down!" Montag shouted. She jumped away,
her hands empty. "We're talking!"
Beatty went on as if nothing had happened. "You
like bowling, don't you, Montag?"
"Golf is a fine game."
"A fine game."
"Billiards, pool? Football?"
"Fine games, all of them."
“More sports for everyone, group spirit, fun, and you
don’t have to think, eh? Organize and organize and super organize
super-super sports. More cartoons in books. More pictures. The mind drinks
less and less. Impatience. Highways full of crowds going somewhere, somewhere,
somewhere, nowhere. The gasoline refugee. Towns turn into motels, people in
nomadic surges from place to place, following the moon tides, living tonight
in the room where you slept this noon and I the night before."
Mildred went out of the room and slammed the door. The
parlor "aunts" began to laugh at the parlor "uncles."
"Now let's take up the minorities in our
civilization, shall we? Bigger the population, the more minorities. Don't step
on the toes of the dog-lovers, the cat-lovers, doctors, lawyers, merchants,
chiefs, Mormons, Baptists, Unitarians, second-generation Chinese, Swedes,
Italians, Germans, Texans, Brooklynites, Irishmen, people from Oregon or
Mexico. The people in this book, this play, this TV serial are not meant to
represent any actual painters, cartographers, mechanics anywhere. The bigger
your market, Montag, the less you handle controversy, remember that! All the
minor minor minorities with their navels to be kept clean. Authors, full of
evil thoughts, lock up your typewriters. They did. Magazines became a
nice blend of vanilla tapioca. Books, so the damned snobbish critics said,
were dishwater. No wonder books
stopped selling, the critics said. But the public, knowing what it wanted,
spinning happily, let the comic books survive. And the three-dimensional sex
magazines, of course. There you have it, Montag. It didn't come from the
Government down. There was no dictum, no declaration, no censorship, to start
with, no! Technology, mass exploitation, and minority pressure carried the
trick, thank God. Today, thanks to them, you can stay happy all the time, you
are allowed to read comics, the good old confessions, or trade journals."
"Yes, but what about the firemen, then?"
"Ah." Beatty leaned forward in the faint mist
of smoke from his pipe. "What more easily explained and natural? With
school turning out more runners, jumpers, racers, tinkerers, grabbers,
snatchers, fliers, and swimmers instead of examiners, critics, knowers, and
imaginative creators, the word `intellectual,' of course, became the swear
word it deserved to be. You always dread the unfamiliar. Surely you remember
the boy in your own school class who was exceptionally `bright,' did most of
the reciting and answering while the others sat like so many leaden idols,
hating him. And wasn't it this bright boy you selected for beatings and
tortures after hours? Of course it was. We must all be alike. Not everyone
born free and equal, as the Constitution says, but everyone made
equal. Each man the image of every other; then all are happy, for
there are no mountains to make them cower, to judge themselves against. So! A
book is a loaded gun in the house next door. Burn it. Take the shot from the
weapon. Breach man's mind. Who knows who might be the target of the well-read
man? Me? I won't stomach them for a minute. And so when houses were finally
fireproofed completely, all over the world (you were correct in your
assumption the other night) there was no longer need of firemen for the old
purposes. They were given the new job, as custodians of our peace of mind, the
focus of our understandable and rightful dread of being inferior; official
censors, judges, and executors. That's you, Montag, and that's me."
The door to the parlor opened and Mildred stood there
looking in at them, looking at Beatty and then at Montag. Behind her the walls
of the room were flooded with green and yellow and orange fireworks sizzling
and bursting to some music composed almost completely of trap drums, tom-toms,
and cymbals. Her mouth moved and she was saying something but the sound
Beatty knocked his pipe into the palm of his pink hand,
studied the ashes as if they were a symbol to be diagnosed and searched for
"You must understand that our civilization is so
vast that we can't have our minorities upset and stirred. Ask yourself, What
do we want in this country, above all? People want to be happy, isn't that
right? Haven't you heard it all your life? I want to be happy, people say.
Well, aren't they? Don't we keep them moving, don't we give them fun? That's
all we live for, isn't it? For pleasure, for titillation? And you must admit
our culture provides plenty of these."
Montag could lip-read what Mildred was saying in the
doorway. He tried not to look at her mouth, because then Beatty might turn and
read what was there, too.
"Colored people don't like Little Black Sambo. Burn
it. White people don't feel good about Uncle
Tom's Cabin. Burn it. Someone's written a book on tobacco and
cancer of the lungs? The cigarette people are weeping? Burn the book.
Serenity, Montag. Peace, Montag. Take your fight outside. Better yet, into the
incinerator. Funerals are unhappy and pagan? Eliminate them, too. Five minutes
after a person is dead he's on his way to the Big Flue, the Incinerators
serviced by helicopters all over the country. Ten minutes after death a man's
a speck of black dust. Let's not quibble over individuals with memoriams.
Forget them. Burn all, burn everything. Fire is bright and fire is
The fireworks died in the parlor behind Mildred. She
had stopped talking at the same time; a miraculous coincidence. Montag held
his breath. [Bradbury, Ray. Fahrenheit 451 - 40th Anniversary Edition
(New York: Simon & Schuster, 1993) 86-89]
Ray Bradbury nailed today's entertainment technology. He
foresaw extreme sports. He foresaw Political Correctness. It is time that we
look to our historical and literary and spiritual legacies and fight to preserve
them. If the tide will not stop, we may need to take the advice of this work and
begin to commit these things to memory.
<>< Test everything. Cling to what is good. ><>