Thursday, July 13, 2006

Book Af-fair

What could be more Arab, more Middle Eastern, than arresting intellectuals at a book fair, confiscating books, and interrogating people about what they read?

The Cairo Book Fair was a sorry sight: more black-clad security forces, heavily armed and illiterate, than intellectuals. There is a story about how those guys are chosen. Army officers show up in a remote backwater and drag all the able-bodied men out. "Those who know the names of their fathers, step forward!" shouts the officer. A number steps forward. "Those who do not know the names of their fathers, step back!" All the bastards step back. The officer is left with a few guys who have moved neither forward nor backwards. "You," he shouts, "have been recruited!"

Why are books such dangerous tools? Why are thinking people such a horror? And is this limited to only the Middle East?

No. I see the fear in Australia as well, although it is so subtle that you need to look very closely to see it. Our (and the American) government have found means to quench the danger before it even happens. Defunding research at universities, making schooling more "fun" than content, dragging kids and adults away from books by promoting visually crappy media, encouraging shallow thinking, lack of initiative and slogans such as "If it isn't broken don't fix it", "It will be right, mate" etc. are all subtle steps towards making the coming generation dumber and dumber. And a population whose only problems lie in getting a buck to get a beer to get pissed is a population easy to rule.

Nothing, you would say, stops people in Australia for choosing the intellectual path if they want. Not true. They get shunned. They get no promotions. They don't get published, and if they manage to, they get crappy reviews. It does not apply to writers only; I know of architects of international renown who are not given any government jobs because of the fear of the changes they will instill. It doesn't matter if we are tens of years behind Europe - as long as we keep intelligent, gifted Europeans out (and we do, by means of a screwed up skilled migration system) the masses will have no knowledge of the sad fact.

I would have liked to write more about this, but I have to run and do my 1K words of translation. But I will be back.

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