I will explore a variety of youth texts and popular culture for various reason. However, Feed, began my interest in the controversy that surrounds this topic. It is this novel that began my journey.
I first encountered Feed by M.T. Anderson during my 3rd year at the University of Wollongong, in a Youth Literature class. Out of all the YA (Young Adult) novels I read during this time, this was my favourite. It’s message of an ominously bright future, consumed by money, advertising, selfishness and material wealth concerned me. This novel was well written, and afforded me a terrifying look into the future.
A future we can all be afraid of…
Our story began on the Moon… yes… the Moon. Where our protagonist and his friends are bored… BORED!!! ON THE MOON!!! This thing, this object, that has captured the wonder and imagination of humanity for thousands of years… is boring. Titus describes something almost like an amusement park, a place of excitement and low gravity. The absence of gravity being something many of us (in the 21st Century) only dream of. Some even pay incredible amounts of money just to experience this zero gravity for 30 seconds. And yet, this low/no gravity is one of the things Titus hates most. Titus even briefly mentions a trip to Mars… THE RED PLANET… though it to was boring.
“The Red planet was a piece of shit.”
Imagine for us to be able to travel to and experience another planet, just on a whim. For so long being an astronaut has inspired countless children, and yet, it was “totally null”. The fact the children find the Moon and Mars boring, concerns me greatly. Have we become so overloaded with what we want all the time, that nothing pleases us? However, the fact that the Moon is an amusement park frightens me more than anything else about this first scene. This magical and beautiful thing in our sky. This object we have stared at and wondered about for thousands of years. This giant, beautiful orb, that so wonderfully lights our nights, is owned and operated by a corporation. It is nothing more than a money making machine, stripped of beauty and wonder for a few bucks. Not only has greed destroyed our world (Violet and Titus’ father have an argument about a forest being destroyed), but it has expanded and engulfed the Moon and even Mars. I feel that immediately, our innocence and wonder dies here, in the first scene of our story. The Moon should mean so much more to us.
School is scarily labeled School™ … trademarked… School is… trademarked… As a school teacher, this terrifies me. Corporations owning school. Education, nothing more than corporate brainwashing for youth. Titus explains that this is a good thing as he no longer has to learn useless things as the Feed reads, does math, studies history, explains science and anything else he has needs. The Feed is his education. School™ teaches Titus how the corporations are so ‘wonderfully’ controlling everything. How the businesses are out to help them. Violet manages to point out how awful this is when she asks Titus if he can read. The fact that he can’t (the Feed translates words for him) should terrify us all. Violet is considered strange for using big words and knowing how to read and write. Titus is astounded when he discovers she can write with a pen. I honestly wanted to begin this paragraph with a positive, and lead into the negative. However, I found no positives here. The idea that no one wants to pay for proper education, so big business offers (and everyone was just OK with this) is an incredibly scary concept. I see our Australian government ignore the GONSKI campaign (please join and support, it’s a great cause) and waste millions on a plebiscite that isn’t even binding. This all seems to me to be a step in the way of corporate schooling. Our government withholds educational funding. Our schools lose teachers whilst our politicians live on hundreds of thousands of dollars a year. The rural school near me can’t afford enough teachers to cover classes. With class sizes of 30 + and no money for casuals, the school struggles. If a teacher calls in sick, no substitute is called. The classes are sent to the hall to do various activities supervised by minimal teachers. But hey, John Howard still deserved his $100,000 – $200,000 pension each year despite the fact he does nothing for our country now except talk about how bad Marriage Equality is. School™ is a scary insight into an all too realistic future. Kids in the school I teach at already value business over education. I have seen many wag school to go to work. How are they and their parents OK with this? It has already begun… that’s how. Education has begun to lose its value. This novel merely demonstrates the future we will have if we continue on this path. A path our government will not deviate from. And we are letting them get away with it.
I can see our government giving up on education, they have already begun.
Violet is honestly a breath of fresh air in this novel. She is the closest we have to a light in the dark. She is home schooled and as a result, she is able to read and write. She follows politics and is concerned about the lives that everyone is living. She is the only one that mentions the legions. The human race has become so disgusting that their bodies begin to fall apart. Literally. The legions are tears in their skin that have become fashionable. FASHIONABLE… cuts, breaks, tears. Big enough to see muscle tissue. It is all somehow… fashionable. Violet is the only one to point out the absurdity of this. What has happened to us that allows our bodies to deteriorate so alarmingly? Violet appears to be our only voice of reason. She expresses our concerns for us, though she is labeled ‘weird’ for doing so. She is a pleasant character and our only respite from the horribly bright, dystopian world. Although we hope for the best, hope she will be able to wake up her friends and perhaps be the hero this story needed; she falls victim to her own morality. She is defeated by the very corporations she is rebelling against. Our hero lost. And yes, she is our hero. Titus is not a hero in my eyes. I don’t know about you, but I am not used to this feeling. I am not used to the bad guys winning. Violets rebellion against the system is her downfall, she is refused treatment until she becomes a better consumer. Yes, that’s right… corporations own healthcare too.
The Feed… where do I even begin? This is possibly the single most amazing, awesome and terrifying thing in this entire book.
Imagine, having the world wide web literally only a thought away. Feel like buying something? Just think about it, send payment details, and it’s yours. Computer too far away to do homework? Access your inner web and get the information you need. Don’t want to interact with those around you? Watch TV in your mind. Too lazy to text? Think the words and your Feed will send it for you. Can’t be bothered to learn how to read? Don’t worry, the Feed has got your back, it’ll translate everything for you. Want to completely forget about anything even remotely important in the world? The Feed will hide it all by bombarding you with bulls*** so you NEVER have to worry again. Be the sheep you were MADE to be.
Brutally honest? Good. The Feed seems like an incredible feat of ingenuity. What an amazing product, to have the entire world a mere thought away. What a beautiful idea. But humans have long taken beautiful ideas and destroyed them. Music, an expression of feelings and a way to oppose oppression and injustice. All I have seen lately has been so called “music” about drugs, ass’ and sex. What an amazing expression of feeling, condensed into nothing but mindless dribble to numb the masses (yes I know some of you won’t agree). We take science and create the most incredible things, but greed always wins. Science has been used for horrid purposes. Hiroshima and Nagasaki anyone? I view the Feed the same way I have seen anything else we create or use as a species. We WILL (and have) f*** is up.
The Feed in this novel is hardwired into the brains of approximately 70-78% of the U.S. population. The powers that be have been known to tap mobiles and bug computers. Imagine the horrors if they would be permitted access to our brains. We have not stopped them tapping our phones, I doubt we can stop them taping into our minds if given the chance. But, this is not even mentioned in the novel (it is my own concern), the main problem mentioned is the overt bombardment of advertisements. Capitalism at it’s finest. A world controlled by big business in an effort to sell, sell, sell. There are numerous moments in this novel where Titus explains that his feed is going a little crazy bombarding them with constant ads for them to buy various items. Every now and then, among these advertisements, there are snippets of news. Politics where the U.S. President makes an idiot of himself in front of various world leaders. Where the world begins to deem America as less than it used to be. These moments of real life are the highlights of this novel. It feels real. I enjoy knowing that there really are problems in this place, and that people are noticing them because I often feel alone worrying for the inhabitants of this America. However, these moments demonstrate a stark reality that we can even notice today. There are far too many ads, and not enough news. Ever watch a news program and think “where is the news? This isn’t news!”? Well, M.T. Anderson’s world demonstrates what would happen if they stopped trying to disguise advertisements as news. They don’t even have to try in this novel.
When looking at the Feed, all I saw is a way for big business to marginalise, manipulate and control the masses. Whilst simultaneously making money, controlling politics and dumbing down the people… one generation at a time.