I’ve read a couple of Ben Elton’s books before and rather enjoyed them. Not only is he a clever satirist and comedy writer (having written programmes like Blackadder and The Young Ones) but he can make you think about and question fundamental constructs of our society such as violence in films (Popcorn), or reality TV (Dead Famous).
Blind Faith is set a century in the future where privacy is considered perverted and everybody knows everything about everybody else. All aspects of life are expected to be live-streamed on the internet, group hugs are mandatory along with self-obsession and frequent emotional outbursts. Science is heresy and religion is considered the only truth and anybody failing to uphold these values or stand out against the crowd is either dealt with by mob rule or the dreaded Inquisition.
The comparisons to George Orwell’s classic 1984 are obvious but I think there’s more to the book than that. For one thing the world of 1984 has largely come to pass (note to self – I should probably write a post about that some time). However Blind Faith takes a different tack and looks at what happens if you take our propensity towards sharing information and the trend of ‘user generated content‘ on social networking sites like YouTube, Facebook, MySpace and blogs (which I guess is what I’m doing here – gulp) and make it the law to do so.
What I found interesting was the Elton’s contention that in a world where people spend all their time watching everybody else going about their daily lives and obsessing over being popular and looking good, people were effectively brain dead automatons doing what they were told to and not thinking for themselves. If you look at the sort of superficial one-line comments you find on most YouTube videos or popular blogs you can see where Elton’s coming from.
While it’s not as ground-breaking as 1984 I rather enjoyed it and it certainly made me loathe the future Ben Elton paints. He does a very good job of showing how a series of events could easily lead from our “enlightened” society to a technologically advanced version of 16th century complete with biggotry, witch burning and, above all, blind faith backed up by a total lack of reason. Well worth a read.