No one has the right to spend their life without being offended. Nobody has to read this book. Nobody has to pick it up. Nobody has to open it. And if you open it and read it, you don’t have to like it. And if you read it and you dislike it, you don’t have to remain silent about it. You can write to me, you can complain about it, you can write to the publisher, you can write to the papers, you can write your own book. You can do all those things, but there your rights stop. No one has the right to stop me writing this book. No one has the right to stop it being published, or bought, or sold or read.

Philip Pullman on reactions to The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ

 

'Ban This Book' by the brilliant Grant Snider / Incidental Comics
‘Ban This Book’ by the brilliant Grant Snider / Incidental Comics

I recently found this post lost in my drafts section since 2011. Despite there being more pressing issues going on right now in the good old US of A, this one seems more relevant than ever.

This week (Sept 25 to Oct 1st) marks the year’s Banned Books Week, organized by the American Library Association.

Having been raised in a country that had to endure 50 years of a fascist regime – a regime that ended only 8 years before I was born – the idea of censorship makes me cringe.

My dad often told me the tale of how he was once tapped on the shoulder when walking on the street by a man who advised him to put away the book he was carrying under him arm: one of Henry Miller’s Tropics. This is a very light example. The political police were everywhere and were more than willing to find an excuse to take you away and torture you into Communist confession so they could lock you up for a very, very long time.

As, I hope, anyone from the so-called free countries of the Western World, knowing that books are still being challenged and banned across the self-proclaimed Land of the Free (or any other democratic country) is downright grim.

Does a book talk about politics, race issues? Ban it.
Does it discuss religion or does a female character show her nipple in chapter VI? Ban it.
Is it a fantasy novel or a fairy tale that is clearly trying to corrupt the young and getting them interested in witchcraft so they can summon the devil on their lunch break at school? Ban, ban, ban.

Because when you prevent the masses from having contact with worlds or people different than themselves (or – gods forbid! – any “difficult” themes), you ensure those masses never learn to think beyond their backyard.
They may even want to build a wall around them to ensure no one strange and alien can disturb them and their way of life.

In a year when this book-banning country is on the verge of electing an ape for President, let us all remember how an ignorant and uninformed mind is far more dangerous than any book.

 

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