By Mankh (Walter E. Harris III). Axis of Logic
“What a rag-bag of singular happenings! But surely the most valuable hunting-ground that ever was given to a student of the unusual!”
- Sherlock Holmes
Far more disconcerting than the recent closings of big chain bookstores is the wave of destruction and censorship of books and information. Ray Bradbury’s 1953 novel and subsequent movie, Fahrenheit 451, portrays a futuristic world where firemen routinely take on the job of burning books, the title representing the temperature at which paper bursts into flame.
While on one level, book availability is now greater than ever -- e-books, used-book sales online, and a revival of small independent stores that dotted the landscape before the chain stores blotted it -- on another level, is the rearing of a mindless book-eating head, perhaps what Lewis Carroll had in mind when penning: “Beware the Jabberwock my son!”
Some of the Occupy Wall Street/Zuccotti Park People’s Library books were trashed during the NYPD’s raid in November of 2011.1 The recent firebombing of the Institut d’Egypte2 has put books and historical documents in jeopardy. And perhaps most publicized is Tucson, Arizona, high schools’ banning of Mexican American studies, hence books.3 Whether deliberate or incidental, whether conspiracy or coincidence, this pattern reflects a desire to squelch, or eliminate, knowledge, art, and inter-cultural exchange. This, however, is not new.
A quick historical look reveals that Homo sapiens have been wrestling with the issue for millennia. Examples: the burning of the Ancient Library of Alexandria, “book burning following the 1973 coup that installed the Pinochet regime in Chile, obliteration of the Library of Baghdad (1258), the burning of books and burying of scholars under China’s Qin Dynasty, the destruction of Aztec codices by Itzcoatl, and the Nazi book burnings.”4
Another notable suppression helps explain some of China’s more recent turning away from book wisdom and toward a rampant march of industrialization: “After the Communists took over China in 1949, the I Ching was denounced as a book of feudalism and superstition. It was banished from the market, and reading it was not allowed.”5 The author of the translation, The Complete I Ching, Taoist Master Alfred Huang, studied underground. The I Ching is one of the most influential and best-selling books of all time.
In the e-burning department, China is known for filtering web content. In June of 2009, “On the eve of the 20th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square revolt, China is censoring information about the demonstrations on the Internet. Reporters Without Borders said this week that Chinese media cannot refer to the incident, which took place June 4, 1989, and information has been suppressed so effectively that most young Chinese are unaware of the event, which led to the deaths of hundreds of demonstrators.”6
While now seeming prophetic, Bradbury’s story wasn’t totally futuristic to begin with.
The “New York Society for the Suppression of Vice,” founded in 1873, advocated book-burning. Vice . . . vice . . . where have I heard that word in the news recently? 21st century-ish... Ah! “The Vice and Virtue Ministry was a government department during the reign of the Taliban in Afghanistan. It set and enforced the moral standards required to be followed in society. Utilizing a squad of over 30,000 men, shopkeepers were forced to close during prayer time, video and cassette tapes were banned, television and kite-flying were outlawed.”7 Oh yeah, those are the people that supposedly hated America for its freedoms.
The Unusual Becomes Usual
It is helpful to note what The Powers That Be wish to exclude. One, they don’t want people to peacefully assemble (hence the wave of raids on Occupy encampments), and two, they don’t want people’s hearts and minds to learn different approaches to reality. Again, not much new here, as much of all history is built on deliberate amnesia; we are trained to, uh, what’s that word, oh yeah, forget . . . because remembering the truth is a powerful thing! Memory can be painful, too, yet is part of the path to recovery.
Charles Hoy Fort, who lived from 1874 to 1932, researched and wrote about those who are forgotten and excluded. Fort considered modern science the new religion and he sought to resurrect the “unusual” by showing that it was, in fact, usual, or simply, a part of the fabric of Existence that much of science so readily ignored (in order to prove its theories).
Fort’s The Book of the Damned begins:
A PROCESSION of the damned.
By the damned, I mean the excluded.
We shall have a procession of data that Science has excluded.
Battalions of the accursed, captained by pallid data that I have exhumed, will march. You'll read them -- or they’ll march. Some of them livid and some of them fiery and some of them rotten.
Some of them are corpses, skeletons, mummies, twitching, tottering, animated by companions that have been damned alive. There are giants that will walk by, though sound asleep. There are things that are theorems and things that are rags: they’ll go by like Euclid arm in arm with the spirit of anarchy. Here and there will flit little harlots. Many are clowns. But many are of the highest respectability. Some are assassins. There are pale stenches and gaunt superstitions and mere shadows and lively malices: whims and amiabilities. The naïve and the pedantic and the bizarre and the grotesque and the sincere and the insincere, the profound and the puerile.8
To give but one example of the “excluded” that Fort researched voluminously (before there was Internet access!): “Scientific American, July 12, 1873: “A shower of frogs which darkened the air and covered the ground for a long distance is the reported result of a recent rainstorm at Kansas City, Mo.” As to having been there “in the first place”: Little frogs found in London, after a heavy storm, July 30, 1838. (Notes and Queries, 8-7-437); Little toads found in a desert, after a rainfall (Notes and Queries, 8-8-493)."9
The unexplained makes us slow down, take time to ponder, and attempt to understand. On the surface, the news may appear to be the mere reporting of isolated events, yet as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s consulting detective reminds us: we must study the “unusual” . . . so as to connect the dots. Two wrongs still don’t make a right, but several unusuals can make a usual.
Weltanschauung: from the German, Welt = world & Anschauung = view
Reflective of Fort’s approach, is the following quote from a recent article by Adrian Salbuchi:
“It’s high time we make the necessary quantum leaps that will allow us to start joining the dots. We need to move away from silo mentality paradigms, and towards a much more holistic Weltanschauung. We have become too 'specialised,' which leads to narrow-mindedness. We talk about finance but never join the dots on its geopolitical overtones. We talk about politics but are blind to underlying social forces. We think Hollywood is only about 'entertainment,' not realising how they implant ideas and behaviour patterns into our collective psyche.”10
Mistreatment of books and related information sources is but one category, a dot that connects to a wider system of suppression. Basic guidelines for playing the educational game of connect- the-dots (so as to avoid suppression of one’s consciousness and lifestyle) include: notice repeated storylines and taglines; follow the money; observe the lineage, the people, the behaviors. An example:
“Japanese anti-nuclear protesters defied a government order Friday to vacate the area in front of the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry in Tokyo’s Kasumigaseki. Protesters have been occupying the Ministry grounds since Sept. 11, 2011.... Maekawa said the protesters have been technically breaking the law since Sept. 29, but METI effectively allowed them to stay because 'people can have different opinions.' However, the ministry changed its attitude because the protesters kept using open flames to cook and keep warm despite METI's admonishments.”11
This reflects a similar progression of events and complaint from the NYPD before raiding Zuccotti Park, as city law prevents such outdoor cooking. (It was ok to beat protesters with clubs, but god forbid they should burn themselves!) I don’t know for sure, but the similarity of NYC and Kasumigaseki district guidelines smacks of orders or protocol coming from . . . somewhere. As for the Occupy protests in the US: “Although laws and municipal ordinances vary from city to city, there is a consistency in the tactics being used to stifle the movement.”12
For better, for worse, For richer, for poorer
Connecting the dots can reveal both the positive and the negative.
Sigmund Freud’s nephew Edward Bernays ushered in the modern era of public relations and propaganda, yet “Sir Robert Heath’s Patent 5 Charles 1st; October, 30 1629” shows the mindset of colonizing, Christianizing, and consumeristic madness as nothing new:
“…yet hitherto untild, neither inhabited by ours or the subjects of any other Christian king, Prince or state But some parts of it inhabited by certain Barbarous men who have not any knowledge of the Divine Dietye) He being about to lead thither a Colonye of men large & plentifull, professing the true religion; seduously & industriously applying themselves to the culture of the sayd lands & to merchandising to be performed by industry & at his owne charges & others by his example.”13
A negative example of lineage is that Hitler got some ideas for concentration camps from the US’ Indian reservations aka POW camps . . . and on to Guantanamo.
A positive example of lineage is that Henry David Thoreau, who spent time all by himself in the woods, was a big influence on Gandhi, who helped un-Empire his people, and Martin Luther King, Jr., who tried to. And today’s protest movements are ever-inspired by those who have already walked the trail.
Connecting the dots is more likely enhanced by using both left and right brain, finding facts as well as following a hunch or intuition because something sounds . . . not quite accurate. The Lakota phrase, Mitakuye Oyasin, typically translated as “All My Relations,” reminds us of the inherent connection of EVERYthing. Learning to think and see the world as such, enhances one’s ability to connect the dots, rather than getting trapped into isolated corners. Not wanting to feel alone is a basic human instinct that makes connecting with others that much more enjoyable. And so it goes with information.
Rather than being played a sucker by the Three-card Monte System, you too can play connect-the-dots and help find out what’s going on behind the scenes, yet actually right before our very eyes.
Mankh (Walter E. Harris III) is an essayist and resident poet on Axis of Logic. In addition to his work as a writer, he is a small press publisher and Turtle Islander. He recently edited and published the book, The (Un)Occupy Movement: Autonomy of Consciousness, Practical Solutions, Human Equality. You can contact him via his literary website.
READ MORE OF MANKH'S POEMS
AND ESSAYS ON AXIS OF LOGIC
- NYPD raid on Occupy's Zuccotti Park camp destroyed thousands of books
- Culturecide: Saving Egypt's precious fire-bombed books
- Arizona School Censorship”
Writers caravan smuggling banned books into Arizona
- Book burning
- The Complete I Ching, Taoist Master Alfred Huang, Inner Traditions International, RochesterVermont,1998/2004.
- China Knocked For Censoring Tiananmen Square Info
- Vice and Virtue Ministry
- The Book of the Damned
- The Book of the Damned
- War for Total Control
- Occupied: Japanese Nuclear Foes Defy Order to Remove Tents
- Most Absurd Laws Used to Stifle the Occupy Wall St. Movement
- Sir Robert Heath's Patent 5 Charles 1st