by William Gaylord
Today I saw a word. That word multiplied and it grew and flowed into a river of endless seams of sentences woven with dreams into a tapestry of wonder. Today….I read a book.
Most of us are privileged enough to be able to read with freedom in the tranquility of our own hearths and countries, but some “books” on the other hand have to fight for their right to be read, to be appreciated, to be in the light when they are regarded as being from the dark.
Have you by any instance read one or more of the following books? The Bible, How to kill a mockingbird, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Ulysses, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, The Scarlet letter, Lady Chatterley’s Lover, Moll Flanders, Anne Frank, The Call of the Wild, Catcher in the Rye or The Color purple? I, for one, was fortunate enough to read each and every one of them.
What do all of these have in common? All have been banned at some point on grounds of “inappropriate” content whether it was racial, sexual, social, political or religious of nature. Some of these were written quite early (1759 – Voltaire’s “Candide”) and yet was “burnt at the stake”. (Ironically the majority of them have been produced as movies and due to the label of “no-no” became increasingly popular. J )
The purpose of censorship is to maintain the status quo, to control the development of the society and to stifle dissent. For instance, James Joyce’s 1922 work, Ulysses, was confiscated and burned at the New York custom offices in 1923. The ban was only lifted in 1933 after Justice John M Woolsey, decreed that this book indeed has literary merit that justified publication thereof.
The questions remain now:
Would we have been “better” off without these books?
Would we have been “better” persons because of NOT reading it?
Are we worse off for reading it, did it impair our judgement?
As Winston Churchill so eloquently put it: “Everyone is in favour of free speech. Hardly a day passes by without it being extolled, but to some people’s idea of it is that they are free to say what they like, but if anyone else says anything back, that is an outrage.”
Personally I think that Michel de Montaigne, Essays, 1559, had an excellent point about censorship. “To forbid us anything is to make us have a mind for it.”
And the crème de la crème is from a man who was renowned for having his books censored and banned; Mark Twain who stated: “Censorship is telling a man he can’t have a steak, because a baby can’t chew it.”
To censor or not to censor, that is the question. (sic) That lies in the hands of the people who want to keep the truth hidden away from the light. If it were not for books, some dreams would seize to exist. But censorship won’t stop. Just as we, won’t stop reading the censored books.