Wednesday 30 September 2015

Banned Books and Censorship (or, To #@!% or Not To #@!%)

Warning: In the spirit of anti-censorship, I'm going to swear like a sailor with no symbols to protect your innocent eyes.

This week is Banned Books Week 2015, and while it's largely an American thing, the rest of the world are often more than happy to jump on the proverbial fucking band wagon and celebrate books which have been banned and challenged. Intellectual freedom is a founding stone of any society that's worth its shit.

Book banning is something which still happens alarmingly regularly - and we need to be more aware of it. Unlike in the US, where the ALA attempts to keep record of fucking challenges and book-banning, there are very few such records kept in the rest of the world. I have no idea when, or if, book banning happens in the UK, having to rely instead on bloody anecdotal evidence.

I know, for example, that at my old school (I'm in my 20s, and finished school in circa 2013... or was it 2011? It might've been 2011. Maybe. Time's never been my strong suit,) every Dan Brown book was marked as 'Sixth Form Only.' Presumably because they didn't want parents coming back at them about the religious/controversial aspects. 'Naughty,' books with sex etc were often confined to these shelves. And sometimes books would have one copy on these shelves, and one on the shelves of the main library (e.g. The Book Thief.) I have no bloody idea why the fuck this was, and neither did the librarian.

So, why ban books? I have no fucking idea. But the reasons given are often about religion, violence, sex, nudity, and swearing. Basically, fucking reasons. Except that kids do not live in a shitting bubble - they know that the world is a complex and shitty place in which people fuck with everything - themselves, each other, and people's minds.

If you want your kids to be good people, they've got to come to that decision by themselves, not because you've prevented them from accessing other opinions. And sometimes, it's just fucking ridiculous. You don't like gay penguins? Fine, go be fucking bigoted on your own time. Just don't stop your kids from realising there's a world out there. And don't even get me started on the religious narrow-mindedness. You can believe what you want, but please allow others to make up their own minds. And don't ban vampire books just because they scare you.

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