Friday, September 26, 2014
Banned Books Remind Us
If you have ever read 1984 by George Orwell, you know that contrary to what the NRA would have you believe, unarming the public is not the first step in controlling a society. It is all about controlling information. In the novel, Orwell writes “He who controls the past controls the future. He who controls the present controls the past.” More aptly, this statement of double-think in the book is about managing all aspects of information and creativity. In Orwell's dystopia, even children's songs have been carefully altered. It is this reason why remembering horrific incidents accurately or having events like Banned Books Week are important.
1984 is more than a warning about the rise of the totalitarian state. It is also a guide to how such states exist and how they come to be. We see the control of both an entire society, as well as individual brain washing. Many have understood how to accomplish these states. Josef Stalin and Adolf Hitler were two such leaders. They understood that first a ruling class must have a common enemy, and they must control information. Finding an enemy is easy. Simply keep plugging away at one person or group. The next is to make sure that fewer and fewer have information. Teachers and Professors become evil and vilified by these dictators. History is wrong. Science is wrong. It becomes a matter of opinion. I read an article which pointed out that in few other places do we expect the uninformed to be experts. Politicians tell us the evils of climate science and school board members announce that the history is wrong. This despite the fact that the historians and scientists have spent years becoming experts. We would never expect the local and highly skilled plumber to come into the hospital and do sucessful surgery; and yet, we let the local dentist tell us that the curriculum at the school is wrong, or a business man announce that science is an opinion.
This is the reason for Banned Books Week. A well-read person is harder to mislead. I am not talking about someone who reads the news, but someone who reads be it fantasy, romance, classics, biography or history. If we are not vigilant, we become like the hero at the end of 1984. Winston Smith "gazed up at the enormous face. Forty years it had taken him to learn what kind of smile was hidden beneath the dark moustache. O cruel, needless misunderstanding! O stubborn, self-willed exile from the loving breast! Two gin-scented tears trickled down the sides of his nose. But it was all right, everything was all right, the struggle was finished. He had won the victory over himself. He loved Big Brother."
If a free society is to survive, then a price and commitment must be paid. Just turn off the propaganda of those who divide us. It is what Banned Books Week reminds us to do.
Just turn it off.