Monday, June 18, 2012

Our array of angry virtues

I recently read H. G. Wells' The Sleeper Awakes. Have you read it? I have enjoyed several of Wells's other novels but this one struck me as being even more prescient than usual. His description of the box with moving pictures (when the Sleeper first wakes) is especially interesting, considering that the science of moving pictures was still in its infancy and television itself was a good 30 or 40 years from being invented. He was also concerned about how the improvement in technology and lifestyle would affect the human psyche. Here's a quote:
"There is a lot left for me to understand," said Graham after a pause. "Yet I see the logic of it all. Our array of angry virtues and sour restraints was the consequence of danger and insecurity. The Stoic, the Puritan, even in my time, were vanishing types. In the old days man was armed against Pain, now he is eager for Pleasure. There lies the difference. Civilisation has driven pain and danger so far off—for well-to-do people. And only well-to-do people matter now. I have been asleep two hundred years."
If you've never read The Sleeper Awakes, I highly recommend it. I picked up my gorgeous cloth-bound copy at a secondhand bookstore, but you can also download it for free from Project Gutenberg.

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