Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Destroying books and the message this sends

My love for music is only surpassed by my love for reading. I read all the time, always have a dozen more books to read and am always carrying at least one book around with me. How can you ever be bored anywhere when you have something to read? I also know how lucky I am to live in a country where I can read pretty much everything I want to read. That includes reading Lawrence's Sons and Lovers at the age of 13 (don't know if that was a good thing but I definitely learnt something from it), reading a revolutionary communist manifesto to reading a terrible right-wing-apocalyptic novel that some skinhead told me I should read because it contained an amazing message (of course it didn't, but I gave it a shot in order to better be able to shoot it down afterwards). My point being that books are available everywhere, you can even publish your own nowadays, and distribute it yourself. If I look hard enough I can pretty much find anything I want to read, and won't really get in trouble for reading it (although I may find myself on some watch list or another).

Literature, in it's broadest definition, has always been a way to learn and to teach others. From scriptures and drawings written on tablets and walls, to today's e-readers, the history of writing and reading goes back so far in history that we probably can't pinpoint when it even started. Literature is never innocent, even the trashiest of novels contain some type of story or a lesson (even if that lesson is just to never read anything by that author again). Words always contain meaning, and meaning can be interpreted differently, based on how you read it. Meaning can also be hidden in words, and literature then becomes a great way to pass along a hidden message, especially in times of dire censorship.

In the past (and not even that far back may I add) the public destroying of books was mainly because someone, or a group of people objected to what they contained. Or, even more frightening, books were burned because of who they were written by, and were burned to display contempt or hatred towards the authors. A lot of public book burnings were religiously oriented (a way of trying to stamp out a certain religion or scriptures), but this has not always been the case. Take the Nazis burning piles and piles on Jewish literature in the 1930's, or the burning of history books and scholars in Ancient China during the Qin Dynasty, or the large numbers of books that were destroyed during the Communist regime in the USSR (the censorship programme is actually interesting to study - but we will save that for another day). So call me dramatic, but destroying books always makes me think of how much of a message this sends across to the rest of the public. Probably because the last time I looked back into history, every time a large amount of books were destroyed it was always because of some ulterior motive that usually involved censorship, oppression and more censorship.

So, when I heard that the police/city/city government had decided to just throw over 5,000 donated books in the garbage this morning, when they were "cleaning up" Zuccotti Park of all the OWS activists my blood started to boil.

Do they know what type of message this is sending across to not only the rest of the country, but also to the rest of the world?

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