I was fortunate to read some really good books early in life.
These classics have become a part of me because their themes resonate so deeply in my life. Popular literature is like that for a lot of us, I suppose.
A book becomes a classic because it attracts attention from a multitude of people. The themes of these popular titles resonate for decades, often serving as a kind of “source code” for social commentary on everything from technological innovation to elections.
Lord of the Flies (LOTF) was published in 1954, before I was born. I read the book for a high school class. The teacher assigned homework on the book’s themes and arranged for our class to discuss it.
It’s the story of a band of children that are stranded on an island. The clever narrative allows us to get to know the characters and how they interact. The adventure devolves into a dark commentary about social class, personality styles, and organizational behavior.
The kids in the book are fictional, but I read Lord of the Flies at an impressionable age. It was easy to identify with the characters because they seemed so real. I saw parts of myself in them or in the kids I knew.
Art imitating life
Ralph was probably most like me—or was I most like him.
Author, William Golding, referred to his protagonist as “the fair boy.” I was too young to appreciate the double meaning and simply deduced that Ralph was reasonable, decent, and followed the rules.
I wasn’t a leader like Ralph, but I wanted to be.
Piggy was perhaps the opposite of a leader. Needy and vulnerable, Piggy made me uncomfortable because he reminded me of my own weaknesses. Like most high-school students, I was very insecure. Piggy represented all the bad things that could happen to me if I didn’t find ways to cope or otherwise hide my weaknesses.
Jack Merridew was the bad kid in Lord of the Flies. Being bullied was a weekly occurrence for me at Trenton High School, so I’d already met kids like Jack and they terrified me. Bullies have a way of acting outside the system, flaunting social convention, and attracting negative attention.
Simon, the intellectual of Golding’s story, was a quiet presence in the book. But as the group’s conscience, Simon becomes the narrative’s most important character when he manages to intellectualize what’s happened to his friends and articulates his now famous epiphany.
Fans of the book know that the innocents are bedeviled by their survival predicament as well as their spiraling group dynamic. Bad things happen as the boys fall prey to their lesser selves. At first, the group demonizes what might be an imaginary “beast.”
Then, the prescient Simon utters the portentous maxim that redefines their situation: “Maybe there is a beast. What I mean is… maybe it’s only us.”
Lord of the election
Presidential elections are interesting adventures for American citizens.
Election time is when U.S. citizens who can’t define GDP or name their Senators, suddenly become hyper-patriotic as they band together to debate the qualifications of the Presidential candidates.
There’s a lot of plot development, some of it fiction, as each political party finds ways to demonize its opponent.
Every election, the media employs endless news cycles to produce an indigestible amount of information. Millions of citizens, perhaps confused or misinformed, complain that they don’t care for either candidate. Many claim that the political system does not work or is otherwise corrupt.
And we repeat the process every four years.
Well, maybe we get the candidates and the leaders we deserve.
Indeed, maybe there is a beast. Maybe it’s only us. Tweet This
Until we find a better way to hold elections and do this whole leadership thing, let’s take a lesson from our old friend, Simon. Let’s acknowledge the beast and get to know it better.
We can even name it–Lord of the Election.