Thursday, November 02, 2006

Saving books to save our minds

Censors. They are gatekeepers, they are also jailkeepers. For banning a book is akin to imprisoning it. Making it unavailable to the masses, treating it like some criminal, something that society needs to be protected from. Who are they to pass judgement on a piece of writing? Do we really need protection from the printed word? Alas, it seems so for our own Home Affairs Ministry(KDN) considers policing all printed material its sacred duty.

All right. Take away porn, I can live with that. Ban the Satanic Verses, if you wish to win popular favour. But the latest list of books our censors have decided are bad for us is so ludicrous that I got shaken out of my apathy. Or at least stirred enough to whine to Zona a.k.a Midnite Lily. We were thinking what Sharon, the Bookaholic was - who wants to live in a country where books are banned?

Here's Silverfish's list of banned books:

And here's a list of other bloggers who feel as strongly as we do (links from eyeris's blog):

- Bibliobibuli: Midnight's Children Banned
- Midnight Lily : Banned books
- Minishorts: The simplest reason is the right reason
- Sashiweb: Banned Books
- Suanie: sick/ mawi still sux/ banned books/ cheers/ finger/ lainie
- Sharanya Manivannan

It is high time we do something about this. When even books on breastfeeding and for reading aloud to children are not allowed into Malaysia, then what will there be left to read? If we let this stand, if we let this slide, then think about what else could be banned? We just might end up like China or Burma where the government censors even the Internet. Little by little, we might end up losing the battle for personal freedom and our own freedom of self-expression.

Don't think of it as fighting for the books. There's more at stake here than just words on paper.


suanie said...

Take away porn?!? Whatever do you mean by that?!?!?!?!??!!?!?


All I want is for a couple of folks in power to read the books, then discuss among themselves if the books are harmful to society. I have read a couple of the banned books, and personally I find them beneficial to society in a positive manner.

midnite lily said...

that's just it, suan. maybe that don't want us to think. taking the books away would keep us from that. doesn't it sound so "communist"?

Anonymous said...

I'm against the idea of banning most books, if not all.
How can books honestly be bad for society? It's not like we're sheep that can't think for ourselves, and that we're influenced to every single thing that we're exposed to. Even books about racism are good, if you read it from the correct point of view. You get to learn about other opinions, and though the Great Powers That Be don't agree with them, it doesn't mean we can't take it with a pinch of salt.

Alex Tang said...

The American Library Association has a Banned Books Week.

Banned Books Week: Celebrating the Freedom to Read is observed during the last week of September each year. Observed since 1982, this annual ALA event reminds Americans not to take this precious democratic freedom for granted. This year, 2006, marks BBW's 25th anniversary (September 23-30).

BBW celebrates the freedom to choose or the freedom to express one’s opinion even if that opinion might be considered unorthodox or unpopular and stresses the importance of ensuring the availability of those unorthodox or unpopular viewpoints to all who wish to read them. After all, intellectual freedom can exist only where these two essential conditions are met.

read more

Anonymous said...

Dear Erna, if we lose our freedom of expression it will be because some people are intolerant of unpopular opinions.

Anonymous, I cringe every time I have to disagree with someone because inevitably, some people will want to agree with me. This is not because they have their own opinions (they never say WHY they agree with me, just that they agree) so right now I'm very afraid of stating an opinion because it DOES look like a lot of people are sheep. There are a lot of barriers to freedom of expression -- some people are sensitive, if you so much as dare to disagree with them, they will get mad and call you all sorts of names. If we want them to stop banning books, we will have to show them that we are mature enough. So far, I'm sorry to say that a lot of people seem to be somewhat intolerant. It's scary to say that I would be threatened for stating an opinion, but I have. If a simple opinion can make someone write the things I've seen written, imagine what a book could do.

Even as I write this I feel funny because.. well I have no idea why I feel funny, it's just that I seem to have been educated at some stage not to rock the boat, to be complacent, to "close one eye" as the saying goes. So alarm bells are going off as I write this, but I know I have to write it. People should really think, I mean REALLY think, be more tolerant and open and understanding.

On the flip side though, it gives you a lot of power because you can convince large groups of people to buy or not buy (into) things or concepts. In this way I can influence public opinion. While I enjoy doing that though, it's not good for the future of the country.

Honestly, if I was running the government, I'd be worried too. I've stopped posting in a lot of blogs because I find that they're not honest at all.. I want to express my opinion of that, but my internal "close one eye" alarm goes off, so I don't. I've forced myself once or twice, and then I see weepy posts about it, and (horrors) people actually changing their blogs (wordlessly at that) because of what I said. Good grief, have your own opinions, don't agree with me blindly, that's too much of a responsibility for me to handle :) Freedom of expression doesn't feel right somehow, because well you hurt a lot of people if you allow it. So I guess that's why it exists. See there I go again, it makes me feel bad to express a contrary opinion, so I don't usually now.