Five Signs from Ray Bradbury that We’re Heading Towards Dystopia

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Ally Richardson

“People ask me to predict the Future when all I want to do is prevent it. Better yet, build it.” – Ray Bradbury

Ray Bradbury is known as one of the most prominent science fiction writers of his time. Famed for his dystopian short stories that, despite being fiction, shed some light on many universal truths. While not considering himself to be a science fiction writer, his impact on the genre is insurmountable. One of his more notable books is Fahrenheit 451, a story placed in a dystopian world where books are banned and those who have them are threats to the safety of ignorance.

1. Surveillance

Surveillance is a prevalent theme in Fahrenheit 451. Neighbors spy and report on one another if there is even a suspicion that someone is harboring books. This is all too similar to the events in Texas involving abortion. In Texas a citizen can report a doctor for performing an abortion, or report someone who’s had one after six weeks of pregnancy. This seed of mistrust planted by the Texan government will only grow and further separate people, as has been proven in Fahrenheit 451.

2. The Environment

In the 21st Century, climate change has been an issue at the forefront of people’s minds. It’s taken increasing importance with the possibility of not being able to change course by 2030 due to human destruction of natural resources. Bradbury’s short story, There will Come Soft Rains, takes place in a radioactive wasteland after nuclear war has occurred. The cold war may be over, but our potential to destroy the planet whether through nuclear war or a lack of change could very much lead to the end of life as we know it.

3. Social Isolationism

The pandemic certainly hasn’t helped, but due to electronics we’ve become more detached from one another, more reliant on devices for dopamine than our compatriots. Mildred, the wife of Montag in Fahrenheit 451, was much like this, she would spend the majority of her time watching her wall screens and talking with her fabricated family. Any meaningful interaction had been taken over by the devices before her, and even when she did invite a friend or two over all they would do is watch the walls together, much like people today.

4. Desensitization

As time has gone on, it’s become easier and easier to be desensitized to things around us. Whether it’s violent video games and TV shows, or even school shootings. The Squid Game, the new Netflix hit show, and the newest phenomena to sweep the nation, is renowned for its extreme use of senseless violence and gore for entertainment. It’s not so different from the ruthless live dog chases of fugitives enjoyed as entertainment by citizens in Fahrenheit 451. When you constantly hear about student shootings in distant places, it’s easy for you to think of it as sad, but a truth of life, because it doesn’t directly affect you. “Long before you knew what death was you were wishing it on someone else. When you were two years old you were shooting people with toy guns.”- Ray Bradbury, The Veldt

5. Self-censorship

With so much horror and blood in the news bombarding us every time we turn on our phones, it’s easy to choose not to. Best said by Ray Bradbury in Fahrenheit 451: “‘Remember, the firemen are rarely necessary. The public itself stopped reading of its own accord.’” In Fahrenheit 451, the public chose to stop reading to protect themselves from some harsh truths. Today, it’s extremely easy to control what you do and don’t see. Apps like TikTok serve as a great conduit for this, with its algorithms that choose to let you see things similar to what you like, which leads to you seeing the repeated media providing no meaningful information. It’s extremely easy to be purposely uninformed these days, when everyone chooses the colorful distractions instead of facing the harsh realities we’re living in.

Ray Bradbury’s post-nuclear short story There will Come Soft Rains ends with the clock proclaiming the date to be August 5, 2026. It’s possible we’re heading into the future imagined and feared by many great authors such as Ray Bradbury. So, read a book, hangout with your friends and enjoy what time you may or may not have left.