photo & text by nacrowe
during my teaching days i absolutely loved teaching LORD OF THE FLIES (FABER AND FABER, 1954) by BRITISH author WILLIAM GOLDING. this was due in large part to its highly SUBVERSIVE core message surrounding how AUTHORITY is rooted in CULTURE.
you have these children that are marooned on an island after some unspecified world-ending event and what happens from there is INTRIGUING. you would think that this SWISS FAMILY ROBINSON-esque premise would result in a colonialist fever dream whereby 'CIVILIZATION' is established where there once was 'NOTHING.' the idea that in our ANTHROPOCENTRIC conception of reality, NATURE is something to be tamed and made SUBMISSIVE to our own designs and needs.
in short order among the new inhabitants a SOCIAL ORDER is quickly established among, with a HIERARCHY based on BRUTE FORCE and an arbitrarily divined and ever-evolving set of RITUALS (i.e. "THE CONCH"). it is difficult to read and not quickly discern that GOLDING is not merely describing a set of list children in a deserted tropical locale, but rather the story of CIVILIZATION. how SYSTEMS OF POWER are established and maintained.
what is ingeniously presented is a DARK FANTASY of innocents effectively being CORRUPTED by the eternal forces of GREED, STATUS and POWER that have motivated humans through time immemorial. the implication of such is that these motivations are part of HUMAN NATURE and that CULTURE cannot elevate us above such. in fact CULTURE may be the root of the problem as it is rooted in HUMAN NATURE. even in a vacuum, new RITUALS and HIERARCHAL STRUCTURES will emerge and over time we will SUBJUGATE NATURE and our peers in a never ending climb to ascend atop that greasy pole.
it really is an amazing thought experiment since many people have the idea of escaping society. what they dont realize is that they cant separate themselves from CIVILIZATION. it is a part of your SELF-CONCEPT, your IDENTITY, even when stripping it or deny its affect, you are still interacting with the concept. furthermore, if you were successful in extricating yourself physically to a foreign 'BARREN' land, you would only be effectively spreading 'CIVILIZATION' to a new locale. LIKE A VIRUS. it is quite a DARK CYCLE to consider and something I always find intriguing to think about and investigate.
all that in a novel normally taught in middle school. again, i always loved teaching LORD OF THE FLIES. it allowed for potent discussions about the NATURE OF CIVILIZATION and our individual role in supporting or supplanting such en masse. these themes are arguably more resonant now with our current domestic political situation than at any time in living memory.