Burning Books

Heinrich Heine (German poet 1797-1856) is reported to have said, “burning books will end by burning man.”  A pastor of the perversely named ‘Dove Church”, threatens to burn a Qu’ran. A South African Muslim threatens to retaliate by burning the bible. An Australian aetheist frivolously burns both a Qu’ran and a Bible, saying, “they are just books, who cares just takes life too seriously.”

When an educated western man says, “a book is just a book.” I wonder whether he understands what a book is. In this day of plenty, it is possible, I suppose, for a man to believe that a book is a disposable consumer item, a feat of engineering of paper and ink. It seems possible that an educated man can fail to understand what a book is. However, if a man really did fail to understand what a book is, then it would not enter his mind to burn it for any form of publicity. Rather, the man who stands on the modern soapbox and declares to the world that it is ‘just a book’, has understood both that the book is nothing if not more than a book, and certain books are in a special category of more than. Knowing this, as we all know this, means that the idea of burning books has only one purpose, to expunge an idea from society. As Heine implied, once the purpose of expunging ideas has been enacted, it is not a far step from killing other people to fulfil this purpose.

For those who continue to argue that, it is just burning paper and ink, let me ask, If someone bought 1,000 copies of  ‘The Day My Bum Exploded” for the purpose of burning them in public, what would be the response from the community. If, as I suspect, the community response to such a wonderfully tawdry story, would be to defend its right to exist, even though many thousands of more copies would still exist. For at the heart of the existence of all books and publications is a social contract with the idea of freedom of independent thought, and the freedom to communicate that thought. That social contract is premised on a ranking of the endearment of those thoughts and communications, such that some at the very pinnacle of endearment, will raise a community response that reflects both the message behind the most endearing thought, and a just defense of those thoughts and communications. Thus we know that the burning of the Qu’ran and the Bible, shall not occur without it reflecting the degeneration of their message from the minds of the instigators.

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