It’s been a while since I have posted on this blog. General indifference, work and laziness are the standard excuses. I have also been lax on the travel blog as well. I am still figuring out a space which I can work on which is quite unique but which I can identify with. With so many blogs, longform, shortform or microform, virtually everything that can be blogged about has been already blogged leaving me with no real enthusiasm to churn out ideas on the same issues.
This subject of banned books is also in that category. Everyday, there are pieces on this issue whose spectrum ranges from the ideals of freedom (of expression) on one side to the specifics of book distribution and literacy. In that, Nilanjana Roy is posting a series of pieces on her blog (this is the banned books week).
I think there is enough for everyone to get all the answers to all the questions you may have on freedom of expression.
Of course, it does not cover the views of people who want books to be banned but then being an absolute free speech fundamentalist does not mean you are devoid of bias or prejudice.
Personally, freedom of expression is a non-issue to me. I personally don’t think there can ever be a state where people are free to say / write anything. Just because the government does not arrest you or ban you does not mean there is freedom. As long as it is possible for any random guy to throw a stone at your house in protest of what you have written, there is a state of repression.
In the story of mankind till date, from cave paintings to modern day Internet cartoons, human beings have always found new ways of expressing themselves. More importantly, the quality of the content (IMHO) is directly proportional to the amount of restriction and totalitarianism that is put on people. Utopian society will, I feel, generate mediocre stuff. The depth of blues and jazz cannot be felt without understanding the history of the African-American peoples, their suffering, their repression and the wretchedness of their existence in the ghettos of America. The White Negro therefore is, like Gypsy fashion, quite farcical.
Where there is repression, constraints, control, censorship, etc., there is, automatically, innovation. The use of dialogues and narratives, a form of dialectic, in the works of Plato and many centuries later Galileo, were attempts to present possibly blasphemous material in ways that could be intuitive and, well, less incendiary. Plato was echoing the views of his master, Socrates and in the voice of Socrates, continued to present his own view of the world. Galileo did get into trouble but that has not stopped the world from accepting his view of the world.
In this day and age, the extent of content that is available has increased exponentially but what has changed even more dramatically is the speed with which content can be distributed, consumed and commented upon. Socially, there is a greater conflict between cultures, an offshoot of the globalisation across every walk of life – football teams, university admissions, manufactured goods, film crews, etc. There are tensions and fears every where. Locals fear loss of income and property when they see immigrants coming in, imposing their cultures, their lifestyle, their privileges. A casual, almost careless word on a football pitch in a corner of England leads to a divide. A tweet by a random person in one corner of the world can cause outrage in another part of the world. It seems unstoppable.
The only thing to do, rather than waste time on discussing the (de) merits of censorship, freedom, laws, etc., is to just keep expressing. Let those cave paintings continue. Just like water finds its own path, knowledge will find its own way of spreading.