The Conceptual Librarian

December 5, 2008

Libraries (and the ideas they contain) are timeless

Quite understandably you may feel that the world isn’t going your way, that the imperative for growth is destroying the environment, that opportunists in power are lining their own pockets as well as those of their friends.

How can the evils of the world be remedied? Surely not by savagely eliminating those who are perceived to be the cause. That would just add to the evil.

To deconstruct the world in a manner that would tear apart the erroneous principles dominating economic thinking, one needs to be creative – like Gandhi – and passively resist the whole concept of the modern consumer society.

There’s no point in building up a reservoir of seething resentment, then at the boiling point participate in a mob or terrorist attack to sate your frustrations only to regret these actions at a later date.

Detachment from immediate emotional action or reaction is one of the themes of the graphic novel Watchmen in which one of the characters (Doctor Manhattan) is removed from human affairs by nature of his nonlinear perception of reality.

A librarian is in the same position – impartially acquiring books and information from all points of view to create a “balanced” collection which will be accessed at any point in the present or future by anyone of whatever political persuasion or purpose. [E.g. Karl Marx at the British Museum Library.]

Librarians are the conservators of ideas – no matter how evil or perverse. Unlike many of the bleeding heart prima donnas who prance upon the world stage, we actually do live by Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

    Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.

Even in the so-called modern world, decades after the Nazi book burnings, we can find similar cases of intolerance and narrow-mindedness. A prime example is the deliberate destruction of the libraries and archives of Bosnia-Herzegovina in the early 1990s by the Serbs attempting to obliterate the cultural identity of their perceived opponents.

In the 21st century we have the Great Firewall of China. Not as destructive of irreplaceable artifacts, but just as stifling on robust dialog and the free exchange of ideas. Any free trade agreement between China and Australia must include free trade in ideas. This means the dismantling of internet filters in China and the abandonment of proposals to filter politically incorrect sites (i.e. sites which offend the most influential lobby groups) in Australia.

Those who censor and destroy have a poor understanding of humanity and our imperative to explore all paths (without shackles) in our search for a better future.

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