Saturday, December 25, 2010
The Invisible Man
I just finished reading “The Invisible Man” by H.G. Wells. It is said to be one of the forerunners of today’s very popular science fiction genre. Though told in a straight-forward manner, focusing primarily on keeping the plot moving, there is more here than meets the eye: the mechanics of 'invisibility', for instance. Take a piece of glass and insert it into water, and it becomes invisible. Take a red piece of glass and insert it into that same water and it will still show red. To make it invisible, the water would have to be red as well. This could easily translate into a metaphor for cultural shifts as well. As long as a foreign or alien concept is introduced stealthily (or invisibly) into the culture, it will not be rejected outright. This is the way Marxism has been introduced in America, cloaked in the thoroughly traditional American corpse: the Democrat Party.
As the host begins to die, Marxism becomes visible in stages just as Wells’ lead character, Griffin, becomes once again visible after he has been killed. First socialism reveals itself; then communism; proceeding through all the subsequent stages all the way up to and including authoritarianism. Tyranny is always the final stage. In it, there is only one authority to determine the path forward.
In Wells’ novel, the people band together to capture and kill Griffin before his invisibility can prevail and metastasize into crippling terrorism. They still cannot see him, but they understand what he has done and aims yet to do. Instead of shrinking from the unseen, they attack it.
This is in contrast to Ralph Ellison’s work of the same title. The situation here is reversed. Blindness is deliberately nurtured by the seeing. They willfully ignore a whole class of people and pretend it doesn’t exist. This also is relevant today. The likes of Limbaugh and conservatives in general are routinely ignored by the media, on college campuses, in Hollywood, etc. For all intents and purposes, their views, their solutions, their very army of eager supporters do not exist despite their steadily intensifying impact (which, of course, does not exist as well).
In these two titles you have the dual aspects of invisibility. On one hand you have invisibility as a deliberate disguise for nefarious purposes; while, on the other, you have, the deliberate ’ignoring the elephant in the room’ syndrome. Both are at best dishonest. While the first can be excused as betrayal, the second amounts to willful act of cowardice. Both represent an exercise in delusion.