Sunday, June 05, 2005

Warning, Ideas Ahead

Human Events Online posted their list of the 10 Most Harmful Books of the 19th and 20th Centuries on May 31. Among the winners, as I would expect, are The Communist Manifesto, Mein Kampf, and Quotations from Chairman Mao. Also on the list are: The Kinsey Report, The Feminine Mystique, and Democracy and Education. Runners up include On Liberty (!), Coming of Age in Samoa, Unsafe at Any Speed, and Silent Spring.

I think the list and their comments speak for themselves. My concern is with the twisted emphasis that this list perpetuates. Books don't harm people. Stupidity harms people. A book is by its very nature completely neutral. Paper and ink have no moral inclinations or agendas. The only way a book can be harmful is by being used to brain somebody.

It's the ideas contained on the pages that they consider harmful. Now, ideas also are not harmful or beneficial in and of themselves. Harm or benefit lies in the use that a mind makes of them. Labeling certain books and/or ideas as harmful is an attempt to create an absoute standard outside of human responsibility in order to avoid that responsibility. A More honest assessment would be "The 10 Books Which Contain Ideas that WE Consider the Most Harmful of the 19th and 20th Centuries".

We must always keep in mind that other people have different ideas. Every person in the world has a unique way of seeing the world, a unique vision of their life and purpose. Few of them agree with mine in any way, much less in all ways. For instance, I believe that the idea of Communism that Karl Marx first set out is an attractive goal to shoot for. It looks forward to a world in which each person is independently responsible for themselves and their fellow man. I think this idea is a little too far-fetched, given what I know of human nature. As witness, I call the perversion of Communism that exists in the world today, which is, in fact, nothing more than autocracy in disguise.

Far too many people cannot see past the implementation to the original concept. Far, far, too many people will believe what they are told and never bother to investigate for themselves or to think for themselves. The objection that this group has to John Dewey's Democracy and Education is that is a philosophy of training the citizens of a democratic society for independent thought. Therein lies the threat that these people see in these ideas and blame on these books.

Independence of thought is anathema to most hard-core fanatice, whether conservatives or liberals. They need everyone to follow blindly in lockstep with dictates from their leaders. Any difference of opinion is a direct threat and must be dealt with harshly and suppressed or ridiculed into extinction. Why is that? Why are people so afraid of disagreement that they see any variation of thought to be a direct personal attack?

I believe it is because they are insecure in their own beliefs. A belief based on "because I said so" is the most insecure of all. Without reasoning or logic to defend that belief, the only option a person has is to launch an all-out attack on anyone who dares to speak a different idea. Ban the books! Hell, burn 'em! We can't allow our children or neighbors to harbor any ideas that might in any way threaten to wash away the sand that holds up our temple.

I am glad that I can claim that I don't have that problem. Anyone is welcome to disagree with me at any time. I won't fight with them. I will attempt to engage in a thoughtful discussion. I also reserve the right to change my opinion at any time, should I be convinced that I am wrong. Since I have thought through my beliefs, I am secure and confident that they are based on hard stone. Hot air has no affect on them.

Books are neither dangerous nor harmful. Ideas are neither dangerous or harmful. Minds are what make the difference. I wish more people had one.


At 7:18 PM, Blogger Stationery Queen said...

My husband always says he wishes stupidity were painful for the stupid person instead of for the rest of us.

This is just as lame as people who ban books. But fear is a great motivator (along with stupidity). Lots of people don't like to talk about so-called unmentionable subjects. Small minds. Ugh.

At 10:59 PM, Blogger Carter said...

I have long thought that stupidity should be a felony. Stupidity on this scale drives me to moth-frothing incoherence. That's why it took me nearly a week to get to this.

The reason some subjects are "unmentionable" is exactly what I am talking about. We can't talk about them for fear of upsetting somebody's fantasy world.


At 2:37 PM, Blogger Demented M said...

Hmm, interesting post and list. Yes, stupidity should be a felony, but then I'd be in jail myself. :)

Hey, I've got some notes up on my blog from the convention I went to. I had some interesting conversations with an editor from Del Rey-thought you might be interested.


At 5:29 PM, Blogger Heather Lynne said...

This stinking thing ate my comment!

Trying to censor a book just makes me want to read it more.

PR people are always saying that bad publicity is still publicity. Look at Bobbit. After the fiasco was over, he made porno movies.


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