Viewing the world through books

All of us have some or the other friend who calls his or herself as a bibliophile — a person who loves book.

As your typical bibliophile, I do admit that I try to view the world through the letters printed on the books. At first, anyone might assume that I’m talking about non-fiction as real world should be governed by books which cover real world. Therein lies the problem, the human imagination should not be limited by looking at the minor subset of non-fiction books.

When I talk about viewing the world through the lens of books, I am not claiming that something is right because it is written in the book. Star Wars book don’t prove that Jedi exists, Ringworld doesn’t prove that aliens exist or Jurassic Park proves that dinosaurs exist or Atlas Shrugged proves that selfishness is the right thing. Infact books can be a powerful medium to break stereotypes, stretch your imagination and challenge your deeply held biases.

In Battlestar Galactica, Admiral Adama once mentioned

There’s a reason you separate military and the police. One fights the enemies of the state, the other serves and protects the people. When the military becomes both, then the enemies of the state tend to become the people.

Ofcourse, this isn’t a quote from the book, but the point stands that fiction can be a source of idea or viewing the world in a different way. If TV shows can have such quotes, then why we keep looking for ideas from fiction?

Isaac Asimov is well known for his books and one of his popular book is Foundation. This is probably one of my favorite quote by Salvor Hardin

“Never let your sense of morals prevent you from doing what is right.”

At first it sounds ridiculous. Aren’t they both the same thing? Now look back at history and think about some of the worst things which has happened in the name of morals. I hope you get the drift.

John Scalzi’s Lock-In tells a story of a post-pandemic world where people whose body were on life support started using robotic body controlled via their mind to live the rest of their life. This gives rise of some awkward scenarios including civil rights question. Does the person with a robotic body supposed to give up their seat at the bar. What if they commit a crime and disconnect themselves and jump in to another body? At first, it might sound like a hypothetical situation, we have been dealing with such situations — with interracial marriage been made legal to same-sex marriage now legal. What about sexual orientation and gender identity? A lot of people are still not able to grasp the difference or even understand any of these. Lock-In also doubled as a homework for people who have a hard time catching up with the changing society.

Fahrenheit 451 tells us a story of books being banned and strict punishment reserved for people who defy the order. It as usual looks stupid enough to happen to our world, but you need to keep in mind that we don’t reach totalitarian world overnight. It takes decades with rights and freedom chipped one bit at a time with the population being kept under fear from terrorists and child molesters, after all not many people want to be associated with these two and lot of people willing to be spied upon and having no issues with constitution being suspended or ignored — did I just tell the story of a Handmaid’s Tale? All it takes is one major national crisis and decades of progress is rolled back.

Animal Farm at its heart sounds like a story for children and at depth is a story for adults. Revolution is never quite over. The hardest part starts after the regime has been overthrown and without checks and balances, the revolution just reduces to a coup with different person running the same regime. The Hunger Games trilogy is a good example of the same turn of events.