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Affluent Investor | July 29, 2017

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Burning Ray Bradbury: The Column I Most Regret Never Having Written

Fahrenheit 451

The column I most regret never having written is about the book Fahrenheit 451. Columns need a ‘hook’, something in the news which gives the column relevance, some current event which a writer can hang the column on. But Fahrenheit 451 is not exactly timely, nor is the movie based on it: even Bradbury himself passed away over a year ago. So why do I write about him now? Because the suppression of religious themes in a new film based on a new classic, namely Ender’s Game, reminded me of what was done to the work of Ray Bradbury a generation ago. Originally I ‘d written the material in this column as part of a separate column about the Ender’s Game controversy, but eventually I decided the this material could stand on its own.

Ray Bradbury’s book was about a dystopic future in which ideas were suppressed by a new class of firemen who instead of putting out fires, set fires to burn books. It’s a very good book, and a fairly bad movie. And one of the worst things about the movie is that it commits the act which the book decries, namely the suppression of a dangerous book. The book which the movie suppresses is not a book, but The Book, Ho Biblios, the Bible. At the end of the novel, Montag, a book-burner turned dissident, is introduced to a colony of people who are living receptacles of the great literary works. They spend their lives committing entire books to memory and then teach them to the next generation so that the words are never lost.

Montag meets men and women who have memorized Zola, Dickens, and other classic novelists, but also someone who has memorized the Gospel According to St. Luke. In fact, the Bible plays a rather important role in Bradbury’s story. It is the first book which Montag took up, plucked literally from the flames. It is the book which starts his process of liberation from the regime. He first reveals himself as a reader to his wife Mildred by reading poetry to her, but not just any poem, Dover Beach by Matthew Arnold. Dover Beach decries the loss of faith in the modern world.

 

“The Sea of Faith
Was once, too, at the full, and round earth’s shore
Lay like the folds of a bright girdle furl’d.
But now I only hear
Its melancholy, long, withdrawing roar…”

And the consequence of that decline in faith is the rise of closed societies, a decline in knowledge and connectedness with the past and a resulting rise in mass warfare.

“Ah, love, let us be true
To one another! for the world, which seems
To lie before us like a land of dreams,
So various, so beautiful, so new,
Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,
Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain;
And we are here as on a darkling plain
Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,
Where ignorant armies clash by night.”

Upon hearing the poem, Montag’s wife runs out of the room and later attempts to take her own life. Throughout the novel war ranges in the distance, moving closer to the city as the novel progresses. Bombers fly over the city, but no one knows who exactly they are at war with and why ignorant armies are clashing by night. At the end of the novel the city is destroyed in a nuclear apocalypse.

One of the most fascinating things about all of this is that it is all omitted from the film: the Bible, St. Luke, Dover Beach, the War, the doom of the city. The movie is not shy about mentioning book titles, in fact long stretches of film are dedicated to montages of piles of books, covers clearly visible. The colony of living books is in the film and the same books are mentioned, except one, St. Luke’s Gospel. In short, the Bible is conspicuously omitted from the film version of the story.

Why is this? Because the Bible is the modern age’s dangerous book. It is without doubt the modern age’s most banned book. Soldiers couldn’t bring it with them into Saudi Arabia, Bibles had to be smuggled into the Soviet Union, Solzhenitsyn tells stories about little pages and fragments of pages hidden in gulags. I have friends who have smuggled Bibles into China. But it’s not Marx via Stalin or Mao who bans The Book in the West, it’s Marx via Gramsci, the architect of the Long March Through the Institutions. It’s a kind of censorship through sheer cultural bulk production; the people who make the movies about books like Bradbury’s fear book burners enough to make movies warning us against them. But they fear the Bible even more, enough to become book burners themselves.

 

Article originally published on Forbes.com.

Jerry Bowyer is a Forbes contributor, contributing editor of AffluentInvestor.com, and Senior Fellow in Business Economics at The Center for Cultural Leadership.

Jerry has compiled an impressive record as a leading thinker in finance and economics. He worked as an auditor and a tax consultant with Arthur Anderson, as Vice President of the Beechwood Company which is the family office associated with Federated Investors, and has consulted in various privatization efforts for Allegheny County, Pennsylvania. He founded the influential economic think tank, the Allegheny Institute, and has lectured extensively at universities, businesses and civic groups.

Jerry has been a member of three investment committees, among which is Benchmark Financial, Pittsburgh’s largest financial services firm. Jerry had been a regular commentator on Fox Business News and Fox News. He was formerly a CNBC Contributor, has guest-hosted “The Kudlow Report”, and has written for CNBC.com, National Review Online, and The Wall Street Journal, as well as many other publications. He is the author of The Bush Boom and more recently The Free Market Capitalist’s Survival Guide, published by HarperCollins. Jerry is the President of Bowyer Research.

Jerry consulted extensively with the Bush White House on matters pertaining to the recent economic crisis. He has been quoted in the New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Forbes Magazine, The International Herald Tribune and various local newspapers. He has been a contributing editor of National Review Online, The New York Sun and Townhall Magazine. Jerry has hosted daily radio and TV programs and was one of the founding members of WQED’s On-Q Friday Roundtable. He has guest-hosted the Bill Bennett radio program as well as radio programs in Chicago, Dallas and Los Angeles.

Jerry is the former host of WorldView, a nationally syndicated Sunday-morning political talk show created on the model of Meet The Press. On WorldView, Jerry interviewed distinguished guests including the Vice President, Treasury Secretary, HUD Secretary, former Secretary of Sate Condoleezza Rice, former Presidential Advisor Carl Rove, former Attorney General Edwin Meese and publisher Steve Forbes.

Jerry has taught social ethics at Ottawa Theological Hall, public policy at Saint Vincent’s College, and guest lectured at Carnegie Mellon’s graduate Heinz School of Public Policy. In 1997 Jerry gave the commencement address at his alma mater, Robert Morris University. He was the youngest speaker in the history of the school, and the school received more requests for transcripts of Jerry’s speech than at any other time in its 120-year history.

Jerry lives in Pennsylvania with his wife, Susan, and the youngest five of their seven children.

 

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