The last week of September is one of my favourite weeks of the year. Is that, you may ask, because World Maritime Day happens to fall on the last week of September (the 29th, to be exact)? Well, no, and that’s not just because the only time I ever went sailing I got hit in the head with that giant log that they throw around the boat. What I’m referring to is Banned Books Week.
The ability to mass-produce and easily distribute books, letters, articles, and the like at a low cost has objectively been one of humanity’s greatest achievements. Widespread literacy is more than simply a way of gaining more business for public libraries: it’s a major contributing factor to, among other things, lowering poverty rates, and enacting positive social change. The rise of the novel has even been linked to a general rise in empathy among people – being able to place ourselves in the shoes of a fictional character can have real-life effects on our perception of others. Those of us who have been taught to read and write at a young age probably can’t appreciate just how frustrating life would be if we were completely unable to do either. However, as long as there have been readers, there have been people trying to control what, exactly, others are reading.
Outright banning a book or publication from public consumption is possibly the most extreme form of censorship there is. The practice of banning books is closely related to the hated practice of burning books, in that both are a symbolic way of killing an idea. The fact that any sort of literature ban is often backed up by fairly arbitrary reasoning is further evidence of it being a form of outright social control – take The Diary of Anne Frank, for example (for being “too depressing”), or To Kill a Mockingbird (for – ironically – racism). Banned Books Week, in drawing attention to and condemning this practice, is – without being melodramatic about it – therefore not only protecting ideas; it’s protecting our intellectual freedom.
Books are simply a way of putting ideas into words. Radio or video can only do so much; it’s the written word that allows for the most discretion, the most freedom, and the most influence. And that’s why we have a responsibility to use it wisely. People too often confuse fact with opinion, or fall into that old trap of thinking something must be correct because, well, you want it to be. Read everything, but choose what you believe wisely. If you disagree with an idea, remember that it can’t be written down if nobody’s thought of it. Don’t ban: refute.
So, by that logic, can I say that Byline is a testament to human innovation? That’s a rhetorical question, because I’m going to. You can now say the same of that assignment you got a lower mark on than you were expecting. With all the wonderful stuff there is to read in the world, we’re glad you’ve taken the time to add us to your list. I’m sure you will be, too, mind – we’ve got a pretty excellent selection this week in Byline, whether you’re after fashion or gaming or anything in between.