I'm going to bag on Lord of the Flies for a minute, because it fits the point of this post and because I really, really fucking hate that book.
I make it a point to reread it every few years if for no reason other than to remind myself just how much I truly detest the story. I know a lot of people mark it as a seminal work, a dark and brilliant glimpse into what people--even children--can become when the usual rules and structures of society get tossed. I'm not knocking the skill in the writing. I think it's well done, much better than anything I'm capable of, and the concept is interesting and thought-provoking.
I don't like it because it depicts a humanity I don't want to believe in: selfish, angry, power-hungry cliques bullying the weak into positions of total submission. In real terms, the effect of my distaste for the reaction the characters have in the story manifested in the deep and powerful urge to climb inside the pages and murder the shit out of a bunch of children.
I'd never felt such a visceral to a work of fiction before reading that book. I didn't like having that feeling. It took me a second reading to realize the genesis of my dislike, but there you go.
And here I am kind of feeling like a smug asshole because the world actually did fall to pieces and the majority of people haven't turned into murderous control freaks. I mean, sure, some of them did, and you could argue that because most survivors are adults that we learned impulse control better than the kids in Golding's book.
I know, I know, I'm leaving out tons of allegory and subtext. I know the book is amazing and agree that it deserves all the credit it has received over the years. I'm just feeling a bit justified in my reaction to it because I see a world laid bare to the bone around me and instead of human beings descended into savagery to gnaw away at the dying flesh, there are instead caregivers and protectors, builders and makers of all kinds.
We leave the gnawing to the undead.
We aren't perfect, I know that. People are going to be people no matter what you throw at them. But I'm genuinely shocked at how well most survivors work together to accomplish good things. It warms my heart, which is something we need this morning as the temperature hit freezing and just keeps dropping.
When I think about the images in my mind from Golding's book--young boys merciless as any adults and devolving into primitives--with the mundane but useful work being done outside my house today, I can't help but see the immense gulf between what Golding thought we would become in such a situation and what really came to be.
We aren't dancing in front of fires and imagining a beast to unify us. The zombies outside as well as our human enemies are more than enough threat to deal with. We aren't barely getting by and committing violence against each other to assert dominance.
Hell, the people outside my house are working on expanding out living spaces to reduce some of the cramped conditions. They're taking measurements and talking about keeping some of the more convenient walkways open so no one has to take the long way round. That's boring. And unquestionably civilized. It's easy to forget nowadays how subtle but unstoppable a descent into savagery would have been. We overcame. Sometimes we need to remind ourselves of how huge an accomplishment that is, totally on its own merit.
So consider yourselves reminded.