“It’s just common sense”

The recent months have kept me more busy than usual with work, but meanwhile my position in a University has altogether increased my consumption of news items, both on paper and in bit arrangements. One would assume that the flurry of world events would call for a steady stream of comments from even the least energetic academic; that is, assuming also that said academic should not feel powerless and insignificant next to the intimidating momentum of mass inertia — or, in many cases, hysteria. And I do, more and more often as I get more informed.

Nonetheless, free speech and ideals are like sex performance: they tend to dwindle away when not used for extended periods of time.

So here we are. Today, I read that some sickos on the other side of the Atlantic call for censorship and some for burning the books — burning the f…ing books ! This is no national-socialist germany of the 30’s, nor any kind of dystopian government policy attempting to keep its masses inert nor a new leader clearing its kingdom of impure thoughts.

The issue is terribly simple: in a society where the right of “respect of family values” is fundamental but also individual, i.e. where every parent can decide on their own, without checks and balances, what is “best for their children”, even the intellectually challengend and religiously contaminated folk can initiate expensively time-consuming processes to discuss how to hide from children books which, ultimately, only disturb their parents.

We want parents to decide whether they want their children to have access to these books … and we want the library’s help in identifying [them through labeling and moving],” Maziarka said. “It’s just common sense.”

Slightly more enlightened discussions on the topic were quick to call for Godwin’s support, albeit remarkably pointedly:

> “All the books in the young-adult zone that deal with
> homosexuality are gay-affirming. That’s not balance,” she said.

Yeah and all the books in the History section are anti-Hitler.

And alas, since any ill-driven social tumult operates as a gravity well for the crazy and troublemakers, alternate parties quickly lowered the debate to the sewers of humanity.

But why bother to care about a local phenomenon that will likely quickly dissipate? After all, previous historical records of similar events are widely available, not to mention that fire has often been a convenient way to cleanse populations due to perceived social “issues.”

Why care? I would propose at least one reason: public disinterest in this story will be justified by utterances of the form “this is the country of free speech, the crazy have as much right to it as everyone else — although nobody will listen to them, or not for long”; meanwhile, even the casual herbalist or seasoned sociologist will notice that the seeds of intolerance are like those of mistrust and stupidity — of a thousand seeds cast in a fertile ground, only one needs to grow to cover the entire field with a vine of hatred. Social responsibility mandates the outmost care in unrooting the signs of decadence, or at least singling them out.

“It’s just common sense.”