This week is banned book week. One of the best gauges of the freedom of any given society is its free access to literature. The freedom of speech and of the press and of self-defense are the most important fundamental natural rights because they protect the other rights.
Banning books is a sin. It is a sin against the individual because it stifles free expression and it is a sin against nature because it halts the progress of the evolution of our society. Without expression we are no better nor are we more advanced than any animal.
The monster that is the drive to ban books is still alive today and banned book week is a call to action. A list of banned books is a shopping list and a reading list as far as any enlightened individual is concerned. For the unenlightened and barbaric crowds who attempt to ban reading material, or worse and God forbid, destroy reading material, you have the right to abstain from reading. You have the right to remain ignorant. You do not have the right to keep others ignorant. Any man or woman of any nation or creed who endeavors to ban books can count themselves among the worst tyrants and barbarians man has ever known. Men such as Hitler, Nero, Stalin, and the like.
I have a wonderful book that lists banned books called 100 Banned books. It can help grow a better library. It gives me a special kind of satisfaction reading books that were burned by Nazis such as Franz Kafka and Albert Einstein.
Why are people still trying to ban books? Books are banned for simple and base reasons. They are always banned because they threaten power because they enlighten individuals. They are banned because they offend someone’s sensibilities (more like lack of sensibilities) and they can not stand not controlling other people. They must read as they do.
Books are banned because they threaten a weak argument. No position can be said to be valid if it can not stand up to criticism and argument. This is true no matter the apparent silliness of the challenge. This is the Socratic Method of arriving at logic.
To this day books are constantly being challenged. They range from the wonderful children’s scary book series “Goosebumps” which engages the imagination of children and encourages reading, to modern political censorship such as early copies of “Operation Dark Heart”. Many other governments such as Iran ban Gene Sharp’s “From Dictatorship to Democracy” because it threatens their stranglehold on their people.
Sometimes it is hard to pinpoint which books are “banned books” because they are banned quietly by library staff, bookstores, and publishers.
Many such books come to the attention of library staff when a patron returns the book. The subject sometimes makes the staff uncomfortable and it is withdrawn from the library shelf. Sometimes this is done obviously to simply dump damaged copies of books and replace them with newer copies but other times it is admittedly done to censor the material from the public. This can be done out of complete ignorance. I was actually contacted by the public library when I was in High School and questioned in a very threatening manner over the books I was checking out. They claimed that they didn’t keep a record of my books but that was an obvious lie. That also didn’t stop them from scrutinizing books that I currently had out.
The ignorance in this case was astonishing. They said my reading habits had been flagged by all of the “extremist material” that I had been reading. My response at the time was “you mean the extremist material you provided?” I also pointed out that the books were diametrically opposed to each other. I was actually reading Karl Marx, Adolf Hitler, Adam Smith, Thomas Hobbes, and Ann Coulter over a period of a few weeks. I’m not sure which book set them off. Needless to say, this experience put me off of public libraries for a while. This was unfortunate but I didn’t want to go back there.
Omission is the scariest and most common book banning problem today.
Libraries across the country are throwing out old books and never replacing them. For reasons as outrageous such as “No one has checked it out in months or years.” That is the main purpose of a library. Normal citizens of a city can’t keep every book that they will ever need in their home. That is why the library stocks it. Beside the obvious problem now we are faced with the wasted money of stocking books then throwing them out.
This problem becomes even worse when libraries are “converted” to digital. This is not a conversion. This is a small selection of what may have been on the shelves before. In the age of the internet when massive amounts of reference data can be saved and stored without taking up hundreds of feet of shelf space, many books are simply disappearing during the digital transition. This can easily be demonstrated by searching the inventory online.
Obscurity is a very annoying problem with access to reading material. There are classics and well-known famous and important books that are just hard to find in some areas. It is not entirely clear why but it is very difficult to find books on entire subjects in many libraries and physical bookstores. It is very difficult to find reading material on Charlemagne, Emperor Constantine, and unabridged editions of many books. It is also difficult to find books on the roots of Nazism with source documents and first hand accounts. Two very useful (and seemingly hard to find) books on that subject “The Cultural Roots of National Socialism” by Hermann Glaser and “Unholy Alliance” by Peter Levenda . Unholy Alliance: A History of Nazi Involvement with the Occult The cultural roots of national socialism
Feel free to comment on any difficulties you may have finding books or any banned book news.
Stock up, read up, preserve, protect books. Remember if someone doesn’t want you to read it, read it first and read it more.
The importance of this day surpasses almost any other. It is certainly more important that most of the most popular holidays.
I want all the parents out there to talk to you children tonight (or any night if you are reading this after today) about our Constitution. Not just in The United States. It is the duty of every citizen of every country that has a constitution to learn its history structure and content. Constitutions are the framework of government and help decide many of the most important issues of our lives.
Most constitutions, no matter how imperfect, ensure domestic tranquility. When they are followed the security of the nation and its people are upheld. Failure of a government to follow its own laws is one of the biggest problems of our day. It damages the citizenry’s respect for the law and de-legitimizes the government every time it happens.
I encourage everyone who reads this blog to read and have your children read not only the United States Constitution, but also a collection of letters called the Federalist Papers. The Federalist Papers were written by James Madison, John Jay, and Alexander Hamilton to explain the new constitution and encourage its ratification by the several states. Most who complain about the clarity of our constitution are either deliberately acting in a disingenuous manner or are simply ignorant of the proper material. Beyond the obvious clarity of the United States Constitution, this collection of letters explains intent and historical context for almost every constitutional question. The Federalist Papers (Dover Thrift Editions)
Today I want everyone to be mindful and thankful for the genius and elegance that went in to the document. The Tenth Amendment to the United States Constitution for example protects what has been called the “laboratory of states”. Any power not specifically given to the Federal Government in the United States is left up to the States. They can exercise that authority or stay out of an issue completely. This has created great innovation because our citizens can vote with their feet. This means that local governments know that if they do not fully ensure the liberty of their citizens and stay out of the way of their prosperity they can leave and move to a more free area if they wish.
I also want to remind our readers of the difference between the Bill of Rights and the Constitution. Many people think the Constitution is a list of twenty or so amendments. That is not so. The entire constitution lays out the structure and function of each branch of government and it does so beautifully. Many more people memorize the preamble at some point in their lives then never look at the body of the document.
One could say that I am an electronics hobbyist. I recently needed a new oscilloscope so I checked the local sources. I don’t need anything too fancy. I am just looking for a used CRT or Digital scope. Preferably 40MHz bandwidth or higher. I’m looking for the good reputable brands like Tektronix, Hameg, B&K , HP, Kikusui, etc.
For those who don’t know what an oscilloscope looks like this is a public domain image of one from wikicommons
Typically these things are dirt cheap and can even be had for free if the local college is throwing them out. The problem is, between two community colleges and one major state university in my area, no one knew what an oscilloscope is. At the first two community colleges I spoke to professors in the Computer Science Department and with several “Lab Techs”. I spoke with “Engineering Professors” and the heads of the departments. I was floored. I asked: “I’m just looking to see if you have any electronic testing equipment that you might be getting rid of?” When asked to clarify I said I was looking for an old oscilloscope. The reply was “I don’t even know what you’re talking about.” At the local major State University I spoke with the heads of Electrical Engineering, Computer Science, the Engineering Department Head, and the Head of the Petroleum Engineering Department. They didn’t tell me that they didn’t have them or that I would have to check an auction, or even that they aren’t allowed to give them away anymore. They told me they didn’t know what an oscilloscope was and they seemed to be suspicious that they actually exist when I tried to explain what they do. These are people with Masters Degrees and Doctorates in various fields of Science and Engineering. Someone please help, I have found myself in the Twilight Zone.
Concerned yet? I am after this and my last news post about the busting of the peer review ring. I suggest reading books.