Sunday was the beginning of what used to be a fairly newsworthy event in the United States: Banned Books Week. Libraries and bookstores around the country often had exhibitions of literature which both here and abroad had been subject to censorship. The purpose of Banned Books Week was to remind Americans of the purpose of our 1st Amendment; that a well-educated public with access to the free exchange of ideas was essential to maintaining our survival as a free people. Of course, today in the Prozac Nation, the 1st Amendment became a dead letter in 2020; and Cancel Culture and Political Correctness defines what is and isn't censorship. Libraries caved in the National Lockdown just as fast and as thoroughly as our schools, churches, and State Legislatures did.
In our postmodern era, the American Library Association is, predictably, focusing on 'censorship' of outright homoerotic propaganda. The fact that this is an issue at all says more about the state of American parenting than it does anything else; but since American parents have, for the most part, abandoned their responsibilities to institutions run by arrogant social engineers such controversies were bound to arise. However, given that the Literacy Rate in the United States are now on a par with Sub-Saharan Africa one would think that our libraries would have higher priorities. If Americans actually had any sense of shame left, they would see our educational system for what it is---an international disgrace---start demanding reforms and, at the very least, teaching themselves how to read.
The would-be totalitarians here have taken a radically different approach than outright censorship. In Canada, for example, where the Literacy Rates are much higher than ours, Tiananmen Trudeau has had to resort to barbaric methods like book-burning, banning literature, internet censorship, and speech codes. We've actually done many of the same things here; although our suppression of literary material has been done more indirectly. The stranglehold that Corporate America has over production, publication, and distribution of all media materials allows the Oligarchs much latitude to impose censorship under the shield of being private businesses. Schools and libraries have also engaged in this kind of 'soft' censorship by purging their stocks and archives in the name of cost-effectiveness. They claim that much of their material is digitized now; of course access to this material is contracted out to private media agencies which are notoriously lacking in commitment to the First Amendment.
Like the rest of America's infrastructure, public libraries are woefully underfunded and incompetently managed. Most of them are really nothing more than Internet cafes, and their bookshelves look more like what's currently available on Amazon's storefront. In the big cities, libraries seem to double as homeless shelters and rent out meeting-rooms for such essential services as Drag Queen Story Hours. In most of our rural communities, it's rare to find a library open more than half the week. Such are national priorities in the exceptional United States.
From time to time, however, a city will decide to engage in some Virtue Signalling and pump billions to
private contractors 'community investment' by making a grand show of building a new library. A few years ago, a foreign con-man gulled the Seattle City Council into constructing this monstrosity:
Long-time local residents christened the structure 'The Toadstool' both because of its shape and because of the foul stench radiating from the multitudes of street bums who congregate there. The unbelievably chaotic interior design is just as bad as the exterior: most agreed that in a natural disaster this building would be a death-trap. There's one narrow stairwell in the whole building that doesn't even connect all floors and is both the emergency exit and the emergency entrance for response teams. The massive amount of glass and the steel framing for it would, for example in an earthquake, cut everybody and everything into ribbons for half a block when it came down. As for actual library purposes like research, it's nearly useless, not only because of the bums and violent drug addicts haunting the place, but because the stupid architects made the auditorium open, so that any event held there creates more internal noise pollution than being out on the open street would. In a glass building like this, the noise reverberates on every floor like an echo-chamber.
Seattle isn't the only example of this kind of civic flummery; but it is a typical specimen of the superficial approach that American communities take towards solving our growing literacy gap and the very real compromises against our First Amendment. As for a solution to the problem, I wish that there was an easy answer. As it is, when we have politicians and their Corporate Masters who depend upon a population of arrant ignoramuses to keep them rolling in power and profit, there's naturally going to be very little impetus to build or maintain an enlightened and illiterate public. It's a much easier strategy to convince morons that they are intelligent and well-informed than it is to control an astute and aware populace with raw police power.
But High-Level Corruption aside, this is yet another crisis entirely of the American people's own making. For short-term gain and to evade our responsibilities as parents and citizens, we Americans turned over our children's minds to ideologues and charlatans who grabbed the opportunity for control and ran with it. As an example of Ameroboob priorities today, note that Banned Book Week doesn't even register on top stories on search engines. Here's a sampling of what does however:
1.) Taylor Swift, Hugh Jackman and Ryan Reynolds headline A-list fans at Chiefs-Jets game;
2.) Sam Asghari Defends Ex Britney Spears Against ‘Bully’ Donald Trump Jr.;
3.) The 2023 MLB playoffs are finally here after a season full of surprises;
4.) Jamaal Bowman draws doubts after claiming fire alarm pull just a mistake as GOP demands socialist House member be prosecuted;
5.) Arrest In AMC Movie Theater Incident Where Patron Was Brutally Attacked In Dispute Over Reserved Seats – Update;
6.) 'That won’t fly': Former Defense secretary warns Vladimir Putin is hoping Donald Trump wins reelection;
7.) Government Shutdown: 4 Immediate Consequences to Your Wallet If Another Deal Isn’t Reached in November;
8.) John Fetterman’s hoodie and gym shorts on the Senate floor are roiling DC.
One would think that the fact that we have Congressmen who can't read the label on a fire alarm and Senators who can't read a Dress Code would be a wake-up call to our illiteracy problem in its own right; but then again, they are mere reflections of what elected them. Our Corporate Overlords want a population just intelligent enough to do the required work, but just dumb enough to accept substandard wages and working conditions; the politicians that the Oligarchs choose to manage us have roughly the same qualifications.
Thus today there really is neither the political nor popular will to do much against either Censorship or Illiteracy. Reading has actually become part of the Counter-Culture in many ways. Being seen with a tome written by a Dead White Male would be considered a subversive act in many public venues (including schools and libraries). For my own part, I frequent used book stores and have a decent library at home---full of material that the Oligarchs would rather not be seen and disseminated. Maybe instead of a Banned Books Week we should promote Reading as an Act of Resistance. So honor this week by checking out a good used book store.