Planet of the Apes by Pierre Boulle
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
My Buddy reader surprised me by finding and wanting to read this (for free, now) on Audible, and I thought it sounded great. So here I am, enjoying this very excellent skewering of all racism.
Of course, it's veiled behind SPECIES, but it really puts a pin in the kinds of assumptions that keep such bullshit going.
Suffice to say, it's a smarter, more intellectual, and heartfelt novel than most of the movies it has since spawned.
This is a book that deserves to stand the test of time. I think it's as valid now as it was back in the fifties.
Let's ignore the movies for just a moment. They're important in their own right for capturing a cultural zeitgeist and for showing us all how damning cultural bias can be. One can make the argument that the Planet of the Apes movies underscored the 60's, put it all in sharp relief.
But I'm going to talk about the book -- about why the book needs to be read now.
Cultural bias is everywhere. All around us. It's in the very air we breathe. In general, we don't see it.
Our assumptions make us prisoners.
The apes are the epitome of Western Thought. Casually racist in everything they do, they rationalize everyone OTHER than themselves into a kind of slavery. Whether it's about cultural superiority, scientific superiority, military superiority, or ANY reason to make themselves appear more important than the OTHER, they take it.
Because what would happen otherwise?
Rhetoric would fall apart, giving way to a careful observation of the real circumstances.
People are being kept in cages. They're experimented upon. They are left in atrocious conditions and made to fight for scraps to survive. The purpose is to turn them into animals FIRST in order to prove the original assumption that they are animals.
If this isn't classic racism, I don't know what is. Every argument they make must revolve around the basic assumption that THEY are better than US. If the argument doesn't fit, it is thrown out.
Only OVERWHELMING evidence to the contrary can lift a single human out of this bondage, and but the great emancipation only works for this single human.
The pervasive racism persists.
Classic cultural bias.
We are fully immersed in it. We feel the hopelessness underlying their bulwarks of rationalizations. We are made small, helpless, even as we retain our dignity in all the tiniest of ways. And ultimately, we lose.
It takes a whole society to change a whole society.
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