Thursday, January 15, 2015

On Freedom and banned books

"Think wrongly if you please but in all cases think for yourself."~ Doris Lessing

In this era of television screens everywhere, drones and cookies I think of George Orwell and conclude that he was indeed a visionary. Television screens are highly efficient at manipulating the masses, and then there is another issue that curbs freedom: censorship.
 Those who ban books may believe that they have a higher “sense of morality” but I doubt the morality of those who abuse their power by banning books.
 I believe censoring a book is a violation of people’s freedom: the decision to read or not to read a book belongs to each individual person.
  What does the act of banning a book entail? Let’s analyze it.
 When somebody bans a book or makes an attempt to ban it, they are taking for granted that their opinion is more relevant than anybody else’s opinions. They do not give others the chance to read the book themselves and to reach their own conclusions regarding the quality or the significance of it.
   Do the people who censor books believe they are superior to the rest of the population? They are certainly not an example of humility but the epitome of manipulation and control which George Orwell portrayed so well in “1984” and “Animal Farm”. Not surprisingly these books have been censored and are still censored in some places.
 Another term that I want to challenge is that of the “challenged books”. When they say that a book has been challenged, they mean that a group of persons made an attempt to censor it or to restrict the access to it in some way.
 Challenging a book should carry a different meaning, though. It should be about reading a book and having an open discussion about it. In order to grow and learn we should all be allowed to read the book first. Then we can have a healthy discussion on it.
 I appreciate the opportunity to read other people’s opinions on books I read.  I may agree or disagree with them, but in both cases I find it enriching to learn what other people think about the same stories I have read. It is also thrilling to discover the different paths that a book can take in the minds of different readers.
 When I was writing this post I came across the news that a blogger in Saudi Arabia will be flogged 50 times every Friday during 20 weeks in a public square because he criticized Islam on his blog. His name is Raif Badawi.
 Raif Badawi is also jailed for ten years  due to the fact that he was brave enough to express his opinion.  (George Orwell shows in his novel 1984 how  prisoners of conscience  are subjected to ill-treatment and boundless cruelty.)
   Raif should be in Canada with his family now, but he is currently in prison, suffering the consequences of this torture.
I have signed a petition to ask the authorities to release him and to drop the charges. Here is the link.
"Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter." — Martin Luther King Jr., who was born on this day in 1929.


  1. When an individual or organisation attempt to prevent people criticising them, it seems to suggest they may have something to hide. I trust them more if they accept questions and tolerate differences of opinion.

    1. Excellent, Patsy.
      We should never stop asking questions. Questions lead to critical thinking.

  2. The thing on earth I personally cherish the most is freedom of thinking and speech, which of course I could not get from my mother country. China has been a champion of censorship of books and thoughts. It has been a "great tradition" since day one that empire was born 2000 years ago: the notorious Emperor of Qin Dynasty burned all the books and buried alive 400 scholars, in order to unify people's thoughts. Right now, it's still not any better because there are still people in jail being tortured just by thinking differently. The best example is Liu Xiaobo, the Noble Peace Prize winner a few years ago. Different from what happen in middle east probably is, in China, it is easier to cover such things.

    I also found, from time to time, governments in all these different countries really have saved themselves great trouble of bothering in censorship of anything, because most people on this earth already dislike different ideas. Most people take truth according to chronological order: whatever they heard the first is always right!
    This happens everywhere, except somewhere it seems more severe than somewhere else. I suppose, censorship really is a touchstone of how civil a culture is.

    The case of Raif Badawi is horrible! I signed!

    1. Thank you for awakening us to the dreadful reality of what is going on in China. It is an eye opener to those who praise the "economic progress" of China.
      We live in a cynical hypocritical world.

  3. So sad about Raoul. Islam extremists now represent and exhibit the worst in destroying personal freedoms. What they did in Paris recently is reprehensible.

    1. Thanks to the public outcry the flogging did not take place today. The case was referred to the Supreme Court.
      I hope Raif will be released and that he will join his family again.

  4. I could not agree more. However, we should look at the regimes that censor, like Russia and China, for example. If people actually take the time to learn what Communism is and where it begins, they might have different attitudes in this country. Government control over our lives never has and never will work.

    1. Hi JJ. Russia and China, yes. But communism is not the only regime that censors.
      And also people try to censor books, not just governments.
      I don't think Saudi Arabia is a communist nation.

    2. Julia: You are correct. In my view, censorship is the first step toward oppression in any political system.

  5. Julia, I agree that George Orwell was indeed a visionary, I often think about him these days too, and I completely agree that censorship curbs freedom. Banning books goes against everything a true democracy is supposed to represent.

    Those who ban books and justify it by some moral authority are presenting a false premise. They are not only putting their opinions above the opinions of others, they are taking away the right of others to decide for themselves. Yes, censoring a book is a definite violation of individual freedom. Very distressing to hear about the blogger in Saudi Arabia being tortured and imprisoned for expressing his opinions. I am signing the petition too. We are so lucky to have freedom of expression in this country and we cannot allow our freedoms to be limited by those wanting to censor what we read. Because if we allow that, next they will censor what we say and do, and it will really be like a George Orwell novel. Great quote by Dr. King.

    1. Thanks, Madilyn. I agree with you.
      And I believe that every culture has its own control freaks. In some cultures these people gain power and violate people's freedom. They think they are morally superior, of course.
      Thank you for signing this important petition.


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