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The Day of the Triffids - Ch. 1 - 3

#188: August - October 2023 (Fiction)

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Re: The Day of the Triffids - Ch. 1 - 3

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Robert wrote:
“The level of stupidity in this commentary is rather like the recent climate change movie Don’t Look Up with its blank inability to comprehend a major public issue. The absence of any genuine curiosity or fear or seriousness about this bizarre new discovery seems to reflect a very low level of scientific understanding. I wonder how well Wyndham has captured the mentality of trash culture here?”

Wyndham, certainly was on to something, not having been born until 1964, I cannot picture in my mind such a wide spread and advanced amount of cognitive dissonance of those decades. It seems to me that because of the abundance of products and general satisfaction of life people perhaps weren’t captured by the trashy ideas that have become so prevalent today. My parents generation is gone, it’s the boomers show now. The children who were first consumers of Wyndhams fiction, and others like it.

Science fiction have somehow tainted actual science. Cultural zeitgeist is advanced maybe because of the modern era of communication. We see some of the downsides getting more and more absurd.
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Re: The Day of the Triffids - Ch. 1 - 3

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Taylor wrote: Wed Aug 30, 2023 6:33 am Wyndham, certainly was on to something. Not having been born until 1964, I cannot picture in my mind such a wide spread and advanced amount of cognitive dissonance of those decades. It seems to me that because of the abundance of products and general satisfaction of life people perhaps weren’t captured by the trashy ideas that have become so prevalent today. My parents generation is gone, it’s the boomers show now. The children who were first consumers of Wyndhams fiction, and others like it. Science fiction have somehow tainted actual science. Cultural zeitgeist is advanced maybe because of the modern era of communication. We see some of the downsides getting more and more absurd.
There is a tendency to view the past through rose-coloured glasses, imagining that people were smarter, more courageous and more compassionate than the reality, because those sort of stories provide inspiration and comfort. The Second World War was fought through a haze of alcohol and tobacco, serving to numb people’s sense of horror and trauma. Wyndham’s commentary about the first appearance of the triffids reflects the popular assumption that the stories are just from crazy drunkards.

Overall education now is far better than when Wyndham wrote, but there is still a vast Springerite Trumpite lumpenproletariat who serve to dumb down mass culture.
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Re: The Day of the Triffids - Ch. 1 - 3

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In case you were wondering how a triffid might walk, here is Wyndham’s explanation. He shows both remarkable creative imagination and clear power of description, enabling the reader readily to visualise the walking plant. And of course the popular name triffid comes from this tripod locomotion.
The bole was shaggy with little rootlet hairs. It would have been almost spherical but for three bluntly tapered projections extending from the lower part. Supported on these, the main body was lifted about a foot clear of the ground. When it "walked" it moved rather like a man on crutches. Two of the blunt "legs" slid forward, then the whole thing lurched as the rear one drew almost level with them, then the two in front slid forward again. At each "step" the long stem whipped violently back and forth; it gave one a kind of seasick feeling to watch it. As a method of progress it looked both strenuous and clumsy-faintly reminiscent of young elephants at play. One felt that if it were to go on lurching for long in that fashion it would be bound to strip all its leaves if it did not actually break its stem. Nevertheless, ungainly though it looked, it was contriving to cover the round at something like an average walking pace.
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Re: The Day of the Triffids - Ch. 1 - 3

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“And now, folks, get a load of what our cameraman found in Ecuador. Vegetables on vacation! You've only seen this kind of thing after a party, but down in sunny Ecuador they see it any time-and no hangover to follow! Monster plants on the march! Say, now, that's given me a big idea! Maybe if we can educate our potatoes right we can fix it so they'll walk right into the pot. How'd that be, Momma?"
(p. 27).
Robert Tulip wrote: Wed Aug 30, 2023 2:53 am I wonder how well Wyndham has captured the mentality of trash culture here?
Wyndham is poking fun at the news media. But it’s also possible he’s showing the hubris that allows such stupidity to fester in the first place. Trash culture can only thrive in a society that has otherwise forsaken common values and purpose. Probably Wyndham could not have anticipated how bad things would get—that an entity like Fox News could become the most popular news outlet in America, its goal not to inform but to entertain and manufacture outrage with the only purpose of expanding viewership and, thus, to make money.

In the novel, similar motivations of profit are what allow triffids to be released into the environment. A guy named Umberto is paid by a fish oil company to steal some triffid seeds from Russia. When he is shot down somewhere over the Pacific, the seeds are dispersed across the planet. This is Bill’s conjecture at least.
I cannot see a more probable way in which that plant, intended to be kept secret, could come, quite suddenly, to be found in almost every part of the world.
And these capitalistic machinations that set up Umberto’s mission are present but largely hidden from the masses in Wyndham’s novel. See this passage:
The laws of supply and demand should have enabled the more enterprising to organize commodity monopolies, but the world at large had become antagonistic to declared monopolies. The interlaced-company system, however, really worked very smoothly without anything so imputable as Articles of Federation. The general public heard scarcely anything of such little difficulties within the pattern as had to be unsnarled from time to time. Hardly anyone heard of even the existence of one Umberto Christoforo Palanguez, for instance. I heard of him myself only years later in the course of my work.
But anyway, this is one of Wyndham’s themes in this novel, how clueless and misinformed the masses are. Triffids are not seen as a threat at first, only immediately exploited as part of the Capitalism dream to make money. Bill, alone, is one of the very few who rightly sees their threat.

Great novel, by the way. I already consider it a "classic" by which I mean it's a great story with universal themes that very much still resonate with us more than fifty years after it was written. Bravo, Robert, for recommending it! :up:
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Re: The Day of the Triffids - Ch. 1 - 3

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Wyndham calls the discussion of how the triffid got its name a “philological gymkhana”. The ‘tri’ part is based on the novel active, three-pronged walking root, while ‘ffid’ just sounds good.

Philology is the love of logic and language, while a gymkhana was a gentlemen’s social and sporting club in British India where skill based contests were held.

Wyndham’s love of language comes through with his description of the “argument, public, private, and bar-parlor, with heated championship of one term or another on near-scientific, quasi-etymological, and a number of other grounds.”

There are many instances where a new word enters the language in a similar way. “Gradually one term began to dominate.” In its first form it was not quite acceptable, but common usage and custom quickly left no doubt about it. “And so emerged the standard term. A catchy little name originating in some newspaper office as a handy label for an oddity-but destined one day to be associated with pain, fear, and misery-TRIFFID.”
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Re: The Day of the Triffids - Ch. 1 - 3

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The discovery that triffids were carnivorous and could sting a man to death from ten feet away prompted mass removal of the weeds in temperate climes, “where man had succeeded in putting most forms of nature save his own under a reasonable degree of restraint.” However, in the tropics, they became a scourge, cunningly lurking beside jungle paths, uncannily sensitive to any movement, and hard to take unawares. Shooting, knifing and then spring-operated steel boomerangs were used to decapitate the vermin.

The whole question of the ability to control nature thus becomes central. Human hubris, assuming that ingenuity will not have unanticipated side effects, has been a major source of ecological destruction, on the model of Prometheus, COVID 19 and various plagues such as cane toads in Australia.

Various examples are raised by Elizabeth Kolbert in her 2021 book Under a White Sky, an exploration of the risks of solar geoengineering. The Chicago canal was used to create a transport connection between the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River, with the severe unwanted impact of joining previously separate watersheds and allowing pests to move between them. Efforts to manage this have included electrifying parts of the canal.

Overall, such invasive vermin simplify and destroy previously complex and diverse ecosystems. Triffids are a paradigm of this impact of globalisation, like pigeons, cockroaches and rats.

Here is a list of 100 of the world’s worst invasive species - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/100_of_th ... en_Species
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Re: The Day of the Triffids - Ch. 1 - 3

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Chapter Three, The Groping City

In “a vast and not merely local catastrophe, … the only signs of life were a few people here and there cautiously groping their way along the shop fronts.” Everyone is blind. Bill shares with us his initial uncertainties about taking food from shops that now have no protection. The psychology is interesting, that despite the scale of the calamity, he still feels committed to traditional morality about stealing. It is only gradually that it sinks in that all concepts of property and law and money are now obsolete. The slide toward looting is aided by coming to a food shop whose window is already broken. Wandering through London, he encounters a real blind man, and explains to him what has happened. Then he watches the newly blind using sighted children as their guides to find shops with food. He comments that the day of wrath predicted in religion has arrived. A group led by a sighted man is collecting young women, which Bill finds offensive, until he realises that his head was still full of standards and conventions that had ceased to apply, since anyone adopted by this gang would stand a far better chance than on their own.
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Re: The Day of the Triffids - Ch. 1 - 3

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“I think it was while I was sitting there comfortably with a brandy in front of me and a cigarette in my hand that I at last began to admit that what I had seen was all real - and decisive. There would be no going back - ever. It was finish to all I had known . . . .”
Here Bill reflects on the psychological impact of the apocalypse. The near total blinding of humanity has brought the collapse of civilization.

Coming to terms with the scale of the collapse in this way is helpful for thinking about the climate crisis. A recent interesting article on collapse risks is at https://www.okdoomer.io/10-reasons-our- ... -collapse/

Being able to see in the kingdom of the blind then brings Bill to a feeling of release, no longer a cog in a machine, free from being “shoved hither and thither by forces and interests that I neither understood nor cared about.”
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Re: The Day of the Triffids - Ch. 1 - 3

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Slightly related: At 73 I spend a fair number of days each year in hospitals, mostly the VA. I have a little fun by directing the staff person's attention to the IV tower's base. They have five wheels on spokes, this design increases stability. I ask them if they have ever seen "Day of the Triffids". Some of their responsive expressions are very funny. :lol:
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