1. Dryriver
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    Dryriver Senior Member

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    Can a GREAT book change the world? And for the BETTER?

    Discussion in 'The Lounge' started by Dryriver, Jun 30, 2013.

    I'm curious what people think of this question:

    Orwell's 1984, for example, showed readers very clearly what the consequences of living in a surveillance-state are.

    We all use the term "Big Brother" from the novel when we talk about unwanted surveillance of our daily lives.

    And yet - despite 1984 being available for decades now - there are many people, particularly in the U.S., who believe that around-the-clock govt surveillance is necessary for personal safety.

    So as brilliant as Orwell's "1984" is, many people - particularly political conservatives in the U.S. - seem not to have learned any important lessons from it at all.


    So back to my question:


    Can a GREAT book really change the world, and for the BETTER?

    Or is it pure megalomania/unrealistic thinking to expect a book - however great or brilliant - to change the world?
     
  2. erebh
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    erebh Contributing Member Contributor

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    The bible might have changed the world a bit, or the Qu'ran. he DaVinci Code might have asked a few questions too, got the church very mad so it had a worldwide effect.
     
  3. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Just to be fair, yes the U.S. is in the spotlight right now for things that are done by all major players on the world stage. The white elephant has been pointed out, but the elephant is present in any nation that can afford it. So forgive me for taking exception to your use of particularly.

    Another example is the U.K.'s CCTV. Talk about Big Brother. And this, on the bonny soil whence Orwell himself hailed.
     
  4. Lemex
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    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    There have been a number of great books that HAVE changed the world.
     
  5. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Now, to address the actual question...

    I don't think it's unrealistic at all, but I think the effect any great work of literature has on the world stage is going to be heavily noted through the cultural lens of the viewer. The Bible has clearly had a great effect on world events for quite some time now. Many of these effects have been beneficent, and others less so. The same holds true of the Quran. And then you have to also consider, when one says "the world", what does one mean? When I, over here in the Americas, say that, am I picturing the same "world" that someone in the middle of China thinks when s/he thinks that same concept? I doubt it. Neither of us right or wrong, we're just thinking through our cultural lens. The person in China may think of the Bible and the Quran as curiosities, not major paradigm shifters. S/he will have a completely different collection of works that have affected his/her life to present to me as "great works that have changed the world".
     
  6. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    It depends on your definition of "better." One man's utopia is another man's dystopia.

    The only books I can think of that have had a significant impact on the world are religious texts like the Bible, etc.
     
  7. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    for the better, no... sad to say, humans as a species won't change their spots no matter what one might write...

    if religious books such as the bible, torah and koran could do that, we wouldn't have people killing each other over their various versions of god and religious dogma, would we?
     
  8. Lemex
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    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    What about the Shakespeare first folio?
     
  9. matwoolf
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    matwoolf Contributing Member Contributor

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    Two straightforward c20 examples spring to mind.

    Anecdotal - is the reading by servicemen in 1944/45 of Robert Tressel's 'Ragged Trousered Philanthropists.' Seized by the spirit of a New Jerusalem voting troops ejected Churchill's wartime government and elected the socialist Attlee: celebrated arguably greatest British Prime Minister, introduced sweeping social change, notably a National Health Service.

    By contrast, entrenched as orthodoxy in our educational system we learn 'The old Lie; Dulce et Decorum est Pro patria mori,' yet to this day venerate the services and a royal first family.

    All piffle really, considering the fundamental influence of the printing press on the spread of ideas. Where to start: Martin Luther saved us from the popes, Marxism's impact yet to be fully realised, Shakespeare? Mao's little red book? Tom Paine 'Right's of Man - history of USA.

    mumbles into beard
     
  10. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Some would argue that Uncle Tom's Cabin made a difference to Victorian people's attitudes toward slavery. I wasn't alive then, not even a twinkle in anybody's eye, so I can't say for sure. But I do suspect it had quite an impact for 'the good.'
     
  11. Garball
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    Garball Sometimes nothing can be a real cool hand. Supporter Contributor

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    Any work of art, be it stroke of brush or written letter, that evokes emotion and stirs the mind has served its purpose to make the world a better place.
     
  12. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    Mine's going to change the world. ;)

    I think it's more like a great book contributing to a cumulative social change rather than having a major causal impact. A book can make people think, like Animal Farm, but it's not that people wouldn't have known the book's truth without the book.
     
  13. JJ_Maxx
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    JJ_Maxx Banned

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    Multiple books come to mind when thinking of books that changed the way civilization thinks or feels.

    Darwin's 'On the Origin of Species' comes to mind, (whether it changed the world for better or worse is debatable.) and before that, Newton's 'PhilosophiƦ Naturalis Principia Mathematica' completely redefined mathematics.

    Obviously the written Word of God would have to be the most influential book in the history of the world, whether you believe in its contents or not.

    I'm not sure 1984 falls into these categories, though. It's not the surveillance that's the problem, as much as what people do with it.
     
  14. matwoolf
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    matwoolf Contributing Member Contributor

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    Maybe a twinkle's twinkle, eh?

    Do I sound Victorian enough...I'm presently launching third career as narrator. UK trainspotters need a VO for their promo film. I'm mid application.

    Yes, this question is very broad. 'Can a book change the world for the better?' Try arguing the counter-argument that no book ever written has done any good for anyone, ever. That's q challenging.
     
  15. matwoolf
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    matwoolf Contributing Member Contributor

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    Okay, Darwin and Newton to beat. Umm, let me think.

    Assumes pompous airs

    Well...the wikipedia game is surfing the oldest scripts in English OR civilisation. I get h and bothered over Venerable Bede but son says we need to trawl back to the 'Merseburg Incantations' - which is beyond me.

    The oldest scripts are India/Iraq, though I'm a sucker for a Phoenician.

    Wikinerd
     
  16. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    Maybe you have that backward. ;)
     
  17. JJ_Maxx
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    JJ_Maxx Banned

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    Sadly, a book is just an object and can't actively do anything. If the Bible were actually followed, we wouldn't have had the Crusades, or the Inquisition or the Witch Trials. In fact, if the Bible were followed, most of the most horrible things in history never would have happened.

    A book is only as influential as the people who read it and use it to reach a better place and become better people.
     
  18. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    The Bible's the most misquoted, misunderstood book on the planet. Part of the problem is people don't understand that the Bible is
    translated from Hebrew and Greek - every name in the Bible Jewish or Greek acutally creates metaphors giving everything a
    deeper meaning. If people would actually study it and let go of preconcieved notions of religious thinking -( some of which is
    horribly wrong ) dump their personal baggage and agendas - the real meaning behind the Bible would be fully realized.

    As for a fictional book creating a better world - I don't know. A better understanding of the world I could see, but a world
    changing book? I doubt it, no book is ever that far reaching into a such a broad theme or even resonating to such a broad
    audience. To effect the world on a large scale you have to reach the middle class. That's hard.
     
  19. JJ_Maxx
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    JJ_Maxx Banned

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    Even though we've globalized our society to an extent, I don't think any one book could cross both language and societal borders.
     
  20. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    ^ yes ditto that
     
  21. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    I can see your point. Too often people blame books and media when someone does something bad. For example, whenever a mass shooting happens, someone somewhere always ends up blaming violent video games.

    There is certainly an interesting discussion to be had about this. As an example, if person A writes a book about making bombs and person B uses that book to make a bomb and kill X number of people, should person A be held responsible? Should the book be banned?
     
  22. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    how could that be said to have changed the world for the better?
     
  23. Lemex
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    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    I think it gave us the complete, and currently established canon of Shakespeare's plays. Giving us a standardized version of the plays already in circulation as well as new plays too. Plays that have become a part of the way English is spoken, it would be hard to go a day without hearing something use a phrase or a word that can be traced back to Shakespeare. Also, the plays have gave countless hours of joy and entertainment to countless people. And countless hours of joy to very mean English teachers. :p
     
  24. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Oh, very droll. Actually a twinkle's twinkle's twinkle's twinkle, but I really can't take any credit, really.


    I well remember mine, rearing back on her hind legs, just as the classroom bell rang, roaring: "Stand thee not upon the order of thy going ...JUST GET THE HELL OUT OF HERE!" (Exeunt)
     
  25. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    Just stumbled across an article in which the author claimed a book called Silent Spring by Rachel Carson
    sparked the environmental movement.
     

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