Saturday, November 04, 2006

Why are we here?

I do not doubt some people think that what we're doing here is rather silly. Why should we care so much about banning books? Books aren't starving, in need of medical aid and no one would hold a star-studded concert to benefit anti-banning efforts.

Personally, I am what I am because I read. Reading gave me my command of the language, reading helped me learn critical thought, reading is the foundation from which I have found my vocation - to write. The written word is a powerful, precious thing and to deny others the joy of free access to good, quality reading material is no different than denying them access to education.

Let me share a quote from a book I've just finished: Ursula Le Guin's Voices. It tells the tale of a people brought under subjugation by a race of illiterates, a race so afraid of the written word they destroy books and libraries. At the end of the book, one character pleads to another to read to people, to let them know books won't hurt them - "To let them know, to let them see that books aren't demons, that our history, our hearts, our freedom's written in them?"

Books embody the soul's creative flight. Why must we cage our souls?

5 comments:

The Eternal Wanderer said...

I couldn't agree more, Erna! Like you, I am what I am today because of my voracious appetite for books as a child. I never leave home without a book in my hands and I would read all the popular series such Hardy Boys, Famous Five, Three Investigators, Nancy Drew and Enid Blyton and the Bookworm books.

I think it's safe to say that I had learnt many things about the world from these books - through the adventures of the characters in the books - providing a window into the world at that time. These books also helped sharpened my thinking and helped me to have a very imaginative mind as well. I don't think I would be a writer and a blogger today if it weren't for my love for reading.

It's true that there are a lot of books out in the market now, a few banned books are not going to make much of a dent in the bookstores. But this is not about bookstores losing money, it's about a society deprived of valuable information that could have paved the way for a more intellectually-driven society.

Books on sex are most frequently banned in this country - why? Why is this country so fearful of an act that is necessary and vital for pleasure and pro-creation? Why can't we talk openly about sex? Don't these officials know that the act of banning books on sex will lead people to look into more untrustworthy sources on sex on the Internet? No they don't.

Books on religion, specifically Islam, Christianity and Judaism are also frequently banned. Books that talk about Islam in anyway that is construed by the officials to deviate from the form of Islam that they believe in are banned. Books that were well-researched on Islam too got banned, simply because they think it's written by an "infidel" who knows nothing about religion. Christian books and books on Israel as well as Judaism are also banned simply because these are perceived to be enemies of Islam. Thankfully, most Christian books are not banned as much as books on Islam but I don't understand why a Bible in the Sabahan language (Kadazandusun) was banned?

I believe that there is a hidden agenda behind the act of banning books and other sources of information. Books that don't sit well with the higher ups or don't agree with the way the higher ups think will forever be victims of bans. Until we have leaders who are confident, liberal and open-minded, the act of banning books will forever be prevalent in this country. It is up to us, through means like this blog that we, the public, defend and fight for our rights to own, access and read these books.

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