Progress

In Grade 10 I read The Chrysalids, a John Wyndham science fiction that starts out describing an agrarian culture where they talk of God-like old people who could move the Earth into walls and hills. There were enough clues in the first chapter that I soon figured out that the book was describing the future, but many kids in my class didn’t comprehend the fiction. It was too far fetched for them to even consider in fiction that humans could regress in our technological abilities and knowledge. What could cause that sort of disaster, they hopefully wondered.

In my day, we read books, they couldn’t be bought on the Internet for a tablet, and young people knew that things only got better and more possibilities were going to present themselves. Cars would fly, computers would make holodecks, cameras would take holographic pictures, and holograms would carry messages to Jedi. Now we’re lucky if cars will move after peak oil (or ever drive themselves), if computers will have electricity with doubling power bills, if cameras aren’t telling the government exactly what we are doing at all times (assuming we switch off our tracking device by Apple or Samsung or RIM), and if 3D TVs don’t give us a headache and brain damage, let alone save our planet from the Death Star.

MOS’s blog post made me think of The Chrysalids. It’s a good book, and completely relevant to today, even with the threat of MAD war somewhat off the table. I happened to see this graphic on FAILblog too, which fits with this post. It’s the age old question, “Is the current batch of kids stupider than average, or is this the old crumudgeon effect taking shape?” The paradox in perception is dangerous, as it can lead to acceptance of sub-par child rearing and behaviour, or on the other end of the spectrum, an over-controlling adult class that is unwilling to listen to the untainted perceptions of the less-indoctrinated.

3 responses to “Progress

  1. Interesting. They were assigning The Chrysalids when I was in high school too. I was a bit puzzled when I read the opening paragraph and thought “But I’ve already read this.” I had read it in an anthology my father had where it was published under its American title: Re-Birth.

  2. One thing that rather got in the way of The Chrysalids for me was the ending, where the god-people (who are far more technologically advanced than we are now, by all signs) get rid of the freaky believer lynch mob by basically spraying it with liquid plastic and letting it suffocate. I’m sure that sort of tactic would have appealed to the G8 cops too.

    On top of that, the god-people got just enough lines in to show that they were as ruthlessly sanctimonious as the fundies, only with bigger guns. All they were really interested in was Petra and her extraordinary telepathic powers. They weren’t too enthusiastic, as I recall, about rescuing anyone else.

    In short, it was a silly teen fantasy in the long tradition of silly teen fantasies, where someone descends from heaven to whack your intolerable parents, and you get into your girlfriend’s mind as well as her pants.

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