The Ray Bradbury book converted to the movie Fahrenheit 451 is a glimpse into the future where books are burned, history is purged and dissent is brutally outlawed. The concept of no knowledge or controlled knowledge may be foreign to some who disregard history, or is taken lightly in the series like Terminator or Mad Max and their depiction of a nuclear Apocalypse. Still others depict alien invasions. All bring evidence of some Artificial Intelligence (except Mad Max) intent on controlling the human beings.
There is a theme of human knowledge and survival instincts in all of these thrillers, and a standoff with AI that seeks to either dominate or regulate the human spirit. In these areas, what seems like a good thing (no need to work), quickly reduces humans to being subservient pleasure seekers and somewhat mindless slaves to instant gratification provided by the machines as a reward for docility.
This does not however seem dislocated from history, especially in the rise and fall of empires. I call it the interruption and the intentional destruction of knowledge, and the half-life of the conquerors to regain the previous level. An example was the conquest of the Greek Empire by the Romans. The Romans burned the valuable library in Alexandria, and it took them nearly 250 years to recover the attainment of the Greek Empire in mathematics and logic.
In addition, each succeeding empire had about a half-life of the previous. So roughly, the Greek Empire had 1,000 years; the Roman Empire had 500 years; the British Empire had 250 years; and the American Empire is approaching 125 years rapidly.
Now, Jamaica is not really an empire (except in our own minds), but we have assumed the futuristic fiction of the future and the reality of the past together in one sustained attempt of self-destruction. We have eliminated the effort and sacrifice involved in war and conquest, and we have skipped forward to knowledge destruction.
I am the first to acknowledge and congratulate succeeding governments in providing more spaces in schools to accommodate more children. This has been a commendable effort, but it is somewhat akin to “how many people can we fit in a VW Beetle, and having reached 14, can anyone drive”?
Many university students are challenged by the essential 3r’s. Mathematics is very poor except in the straight sciences and engineering. Most outside of the arts cannot write logically structured and grammatically correct essay responses. However, that is almost child’s play for me and the other dinosaurs. So where did we go wrong?
Very few students in primary, secondary, or tertiary education read any books, newspapers, and magazines, and their reason is that they read online. Really? When you ask what the last book was, or how many have you read in the last five years, the answer is…. Well, you can guess.
Part of the problem is that there are few specialist teachers of STEM subjects, and this is not being addressed in teachers’ colleges as their pool of recruits have been pulled from the failing systems at primary and secondary levels. The cost of remediation seems to be a large cost at the college and university level, and it is not sufficient to really correct the deficit.
The resulting system is what programmers used to call a loop (meaning that without a logical change the system progresses no further). It is a little like using a Ferris wheel as a means of transportation. To move forward we have to exit the wheel and find another vehicle.
Many persons know this well and in fact discuss it in closed circles, on their verandas, or at their favourite watering holes. They are afraid of retribution or vindictiveness associated with telling the Emperor that he has on no clothes. They are afraid of politically incorrect speech, afraid of losing their sinecures or their pensions, or even business advantages. So thousands of years later our students cannot solve the Pythagoras Theorem (and we expect them to understand moral uprightness, or even a 90 degree vertical wall).
We are failing our society and we may well follow the Romans or Fahrenheit 451 and burn libraries and places of learning. Let us be content to be unemployed, rolling our happiness-inducing spliff, mindlessly shooting each other for sport, and a splendor of public debauchery, until we wipe ourselves from the face of the Earth.
We are inducing our own Armageddon and religious organizations say turn the other cheek, stand for nothing, prepare to board the bus to a better life in Heaven. Thousands of organizations struggle to take control of the economic resources of the “mindless” that are unable to think sufficiently widely to avoid the trap of a sometimes illogical dogma that they do not understand.
This criticism does not only speak to religious repetition but includes: political parties; governance systems; interactions at business locations; and the list goes on. It affects the delivery and acceptance of justice; interactions with the police; hospital systems and communications with patients; ordering food in simple English at fast-food drive-throughs; and at check-out cashiers.
We are involved in and with a vortex that reduces knowledge at an ever increasing rate. We are emulating the proverbial “Wogga bird that flies in ever decreasing circles until it vanishes up its own anus spreading faeces, feathers and confusion on all its enemies”.
We are “boldly going where no man has been before (Star Trek)”. We are willingly writing our own epitaph in anticipation of our well-planned and self-inflicted demise.
I will go down saying that suicide should not be a national goal.