Within the 2.1 decades that have compromised my life thus far, I was witness to some things that, when I look back upon them at this point in my life, make me recoil in disgust. I am not talking about the events of 9/11 or some other bloody struggle. Nor am I talking about some or other death or birth of a great thinker of our time.
The stigma of books
I, like some others out there, probably a bit too few out there have a passion for the written word. I, like even fewer out there, have a passion for reading philosophy. While I am unaware of my ability to actually do philosophy at a high enough level, the purpose of my reading it, is to better my knowledge and understanding of the world around. Take the new ideas I am confronted with, I run them through the spectrum of my principles and discard or adjust my principles depending on how much sense I believe the author is making. Even if I come to the conclusion that the author's ideas were misguided in any way or they do not end up as a ideology I will myself endorse, the experience of reading that book will remain and help my future arguments. The last statement I believe, or hope, is true for most of my brothers and sisters in books out there.
However, I said stigma in the title of this post and I will get to that soon. In my observations of the actions of those around me, I have come to the conclusion that, people in general dislike to read. Well... aside from the usual morning newspaper that most of us read either out of boredom, desire to have something to talk about with our colleges at work around the water cooler, or simply the desire to be informed. We all read ... a bit. However, the reason of my rant today, is the attitude children have towards their peers who have a passion for books. And more worrying these attitudes of .... I'm not even sure what to call them, but I will use oppression in lieu of a better word... have crossed over to the adult world.
"Say, I've noticed a certain anti-intellectualism going around this country man, ever since around 1980... Coincidentally enough... I was in Nashville Tennessee last week, and after the show I went to a waffle house. Right? I'm sitting there, I'm eating and I'm reading a book. I don't know anybody, I'm alone, and I'm reading a book. And this waitress comes over to me "Tsk, tsk, tsk, tsk... What'cha readin' for?" Wow, I've never been asked that... Not 'What am I reading?'... but 'What am I reading ... for?' ... Well god damn it you stumped me.... I guess I read for a lot of reasons but the main one... is so I don't end up being a fucking waffle waitress. Yea... that'd be really high on the list... Then this trucker in the next booth gets up stands over me and goes "Well... looks like we got ourselves a readah"... What the fuck's going on here?" ~ Bill Hicks - Sane Man (1989).
So, if we are to believe Mr Hicks words, and we would add the social delay that occurs when things that happen in the western world approach the old soviet block countries we should expect this in the near future, or that it has already been happening. It is my belief that children are the way the future will look. If I remember correctly from my early years, the fact that you had a passion for reading (which in my childhood was not so developed as it is now, and I have to thank a few friends for opening my eyes and my desires to actually read) was looked down upon by most of the other children in your class, and other classes in general. This continued through high school, where most people, while a bit less intolerant to books, were more than happy to let the jesters of the class poke jokes about the few who wanted to reach higher reason. College was not as scrutinized as high school for I have attended less than was wise to, so an educated opinion can not be performed. However, I hold most of my current classmates in a bit of higher regard that those of my select highschool (and I don't use the term ironically).
So how is this possible? I was never educated to have any disdain for those who read, and with time, I actually came to admire then join the few who read more than the newspaper. Did parents then not teach children the value of books? Do parents now not teach children the value of books? Will we, when our turn to be parents, will we not teach our children the value of books? I am not saying that they are obliged to like it. I am saying at least respect those with the patience and determination to go through things they cannot do.
"The library is the temple of learning, and learning has liberated more people than all the wars in history". ~ Carl Thomas Rowan
I will never understand intolerance, but intolerance to readers is something that simply does not make sense to me. Dear readers, am I overly sensitive about this? Are these observations of mine distorted, or mere exceptions, isolated events?