I heard that “The Giver” is being made into a movie.
I’ve always been told that this book has a right-wing political bent, in that it impeaches the far extreme “straw man” utopian leftist view of the world, in much the same way as Ayn Rand’s “Anthem,” where the leftist view of equality is taken to the extreme of “sameness.”
In the story “Anthem,” Rand doesn’t even allow her characters to understand the meaning of the terms “I” or “me,” and her characters refer to themselves, even in the singular, as “we,” in much the same way as the Borg of Star Trek (which, by the by, was meant as another impeachment of the far extreme of leftist equality).
I don’t recall that the people in the story “The Giver” referred to themselves as “we”, but the societies are very similar. Grey, boring, unremarkable, and safe from pain and suffering in every way. People are assigned children to raise, told what job they will do, given living quarters according to the wishes of the government, and they accept this without issue. Universal surveillance is, well, universal. Even private homes have two-way intercoms to ensure that no one breaks the rules. No one is allowed too much choice, so every choice is reduced to a select few “non-choices.” I always picture the non-choices to be things like “do you want a coke, or a pepsi?” when I was reading the book. You know, the kind of choice that makes you think you had a choice, but really was a false choice, since you have no other option than to drink a cola flavored sugar drink of the government’s choosing, with two options of said drink to choose from. Basically, life is completely equal in every way. “Sameness” is the name of the game. Everyone is provided with what they need, and no one questions that. Everyone goes along with it. No one questions. No one wants more. It appears to be an honest to God Utopia at first.
Which is why I didn’t like the story.
I think I was 12 years old when I read it, and the whole time I kept thinking “There is no fucking way in hell that human beings would allow themselves to live in such a society voluntarily.” Even as a child that young, I recognized that in order to get sentient adult human beings to live in such a society without constantly drugging them (soma, anyone?) that the only way to do that would to be via boots on throats, guns on every corner, and an informant network five layers deep. Such a society would require fear, repression, gulags, and black-bags, because human beings, in an un-drugged and normal state, would never, ever choose to live in such a manner.
So I didn’t see it as an solid impeachment of the leftist extreme at all. I saw it as a possible endorsement, because it starts from the basic premise that such a society could work at all, which any half-way intelligent person can easily see that it would not. Ever. Not even for a few weeks, before it fell apart when somebody didn’t toe the line.
All it would take is one murderer to cause suffering, and the Utopia would fall apart. One guy to get pissed t his wife and strike her. One guy that said “fuck this, I don’t want to live in this apartment” and the utopia would have to become a repressive tyranny in order to survive. Does anyone really think that out of a population as large as that in “The Giver” that there wouldn’t be one dude who threw up his arms, said “FUCK THIS!” and started rebelling against the system? Not even one?
Such a society would absolutely DEMAND an iron fisted rule to survive. It wouldn’t be a utopia, it would be a prison. A concentration camp.
By the end of the book, the society is shown to be more evil than it originally appeared to be, sure, but the thing is that the people in the society don’t know that. They aren’t afraid of it. They aren’t conforming to this grayness and lack of choice out of fear. They’re doing it because every single person in that society chooses to. Such a thing would never be possible, and so the entire premise of the book is fatally flawed, at least to me.