Build or burn: Ray Bradbury
Posted by Arlene Somerton Smith
“Those who don’t build must burn.” —Ray Bradbury in Fahrenheit 451
Full credit to Bradbury for his vision. The technology he wrote about in 1951 did not exist at the time, but it does today.
Reading it in 2015 it was easy to forget how inconceivable the ear buds, the big screen TVs and the interactive technology would have seemed to readers in the 1950s. They are all such accepted parts of our lives today. And I respected Bradbury’s “big picture” life themes too.
In the novel, firemen set fires instead of extinguish them. The main character spends his days burning books, and when he suffers a crisis of conscience over the destruction of these contraband items, a rebel gentleman tells him: “Those who don’t build must burn.”
Those who can’t, or won’t, add beauty, value or improvements to the world feel the need to diminish or destroy the work of others. We see it in co-workers and family members, and these days it is in full display on social media feeds. To read comments on YouTube or some Twitter feeds is to despair about humanity. People burn, burn, burn the works, the actions and the appearances of others.
In the end of Bradbury’s book, a small group of rebels exist on the outside keeping some building blocks in place for the future. Their numbers are small, but they make the determined—and far more difficult—choice to build, not burn.
Snide comments, resentful remarks, criticisms that harm instead of help—those are the seductively tempting and easy choices. But we can do better than that, can’t we?
Build, baby, build.