LONG BEACH (coup2k.com) March 5, 2001 -- Watership Down, The Diva's favorite fictional book, is a prescient novel that foretells Americans' willingness to trade their birthright for cold, hard cash.
PART 3: "INTERVIEW WITH THE VAMPIRE"
I can't tell you the number of times in my life someone has said to me, "You simply MUST read this book." I always cringe a little, since many of the books recommended to me over the years have ranged from the excruciatingly awful (The Bridges of Madison County), to the just plain disappointing (Jurassic Park). Every once in a great while, however, someone recommends a book that changes my life. Watership Down is the best of those books, and My Consort, Chuck, was the person who put it on my radar. (I should tell you that the first book Chuck recommended I read was Cancer Ward, which I couldn't stand, so I was worried I wouldn't like this book, either. I have never been more wrong about anything in my life.)
This book, you must understand, does not easily fit into any category, and in fact its subject actually sounds a trifle silly -- a book about the many adventures of a group of wandering rabbits. (Before you click to the next page, bear with me.) These rabbits must leave their home and find or found a new one. It is not really a book about rabbits at all (though it is), but a book about society, psychology, and most of all, about politics.
What makes Watership Down required reading after Coup2K, is the portion of the book that deals with "The Warren of the Shining Wire." You see, after long, hard travels, injury and hunger, our band of rabbits come across a warren (a society of rabbits living together) where all the rabbits are healthy, well-fed, beautiful, and strong. These rabbits have plenty to eat. These rabbits do not shiver in the cold. These rabbits have it GOOD.
At first, our rabbits are thrilled to be taken into this warren, where they can load up on fresh and delicious food, sleep in warmth and comfort, and mate with beautiful does, but then... but then they start to notice things. They notice that these rabbits have a lot of rules, live very regimented lives, have no heroes (our rabbits tell many stories of their great hero, El-ahrairagh, who could very well be Bill Clinton), and most bizarrely, ask no questions. That's right. Any sentence that begins with a word like "where" or "when" or "why" sends their rabbit hosts into a tizzy. At first, our brave band of rabbits chalk this up to the eccentricity of their rich new friends, but they soon find out why questions are forbidden -- why they are utterly taboo.
You see, the warren is not really a warren at all. It is a rabbit farm. The reason the host rabbits are well-fed, is that they are being "kept" by a farmer who, every once in a while, sets traps ("the shining wire")... Now before you start thinking that the host rabbits are simple, and do not understand their situation, let me tell you that they DO. Not only that, when our rabbits discover the awful truth, and try to persuade their hosts to escape with them to safety, they are met with either disinterest or hostility. Their rabbit hosts, it seems, are more than WILLING to trade their personal freedom, and the lives of their peers, for comfort -- they are HAPPY to. To NOT do so is what makes no sense to them. After all, they have it good, they LIKE nice things. (And if they have to trade their freedom... the freedom or lives of their peers, to live that lifestyle... Well, what of it?)
These rabbits -- the rabbits of "the shining wire" -- decided to make a trade. These rabbits made a conscious decision. Were these rabbits practical? Were these rabbits decadent? Were they immoral? Were they evil?
Richard Adams, the author of Watership Down, wasn't the first person to see into the mercenary heart of man, nor was he the first to warn us of the temptation to trade freedom and justice for comfort and possessions. He was, however, one of those who did it best. The tragedy is that so few of us have learned this lesson, or care to.