Saturday, January 20, 2007

Banned Books

107467_booksSpurred by a news about the banning of various books in some countries, I came across a web page about banned books today. Guess what, you wouldn't have known how much a source of amusement it turned out to be:

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. Lewis Carroll. Ace; Bantam; Crown; Delacorte; Dover; NAL; Norton; Penguin; Random; St. Martin. Banned in China (1931) for portraying animals and humans on the same level, "Animals should not use human language."
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. C.S. Lewis. Macmillan. Challenged in the Howard County, Md. school system (1990) because it depicts "graphic violence, mysticism, and gore."
Zen Buddhism: Selected Writings. D.T. Suzuki. Doubleday. Challenged at the Plymouth-Canton school system in Canton, Mich. (1987) because "this book details the teachings of the religion of Buddhism in such a way that the reader could very likely embrace its teachings and choose this as his religion." The last thing we need are a bunch of peaceful Buddhists running around. The horror.
While it might seem all hilarious and amusing, there are grimmer sides of the banning of books. You can truly feel for all the great works that were buried for various reasons, all of which never fully justified. In my opinion, in a free and intelligent society, no book should ever be banned. All books have some truth and lessons in it, no matter how evil it really is or seems to be. It's only by a liberal and intelligent discourse of opinions that we could learn to co-exist with each other; instead of self-fulfilling and biased views, facilitated by years of scarce knowledge. No great man has ever grown up hiding in the comfort zone of preconceived notions and reading books which serve to perpetuate one-sided world-view. It's only by a balanced and level-headed learning of all ideas that one forms his integrity and humility.

"They" always say censorship is for your own good - no, it's more likely for their good rather than yours. For those who have a sense of humour, perhaps you may want to read this to have a feel for the bliss of censorship. If you don't like that, perhaps we can start reading more romance novels at home. Oh wait, do they know that most romance novels contain "obscene" stuff that they always edit out in our cinemas? If so, why don't they blacken those pages lest our pristine thoughts are poisoned?



4seasonspring said...

reminds me of Dan Brown's Da Vinci Code.....

How can u miss tat popular book in your examples??=P

it's the only book I spent 3 days 3 nights reading without sleeping...just treat it as another great fiction though.....

youngyew said...

Haha I missed it because it's neither banned in Malaysia nor US... But it's true that it is misleading as the author claimed the accuracy to the historical facts in the book, while it really is not accurate.

However, Da Vinci code does demonstrate my point about banning of books... One thing is sure, the more you ban a book, the more people want to find out more. And in today's society you can't really stop people from getting information via alternative routes, e.g. online or other countries. So banning Da Vinci code might even do more harms than good.

Instead of banning it, by allowing it on the market and encouraging healthy discourse about its accuracy, people could gain more insight into the claims in the book. If people are opinionated in the topic, they are going to find out more by their own research instead of being swayed by the claims immediately; if people don't care much, they would treat it as only a fiction. So why ban it?

jasmine said...

"My hope for The Da Vinci Code was, in addition to entertaining people, that it might serve as an open door for readers to begin their own explorations and rekindle their interest in topics of faith"

- Dan Brown

anyway chang yang, you always come up with a lot of interesting and funny come still say you are a "boring guy".

Eric Fu said...

I can see why the wolverines at Canton banned Suzuki's writing in 1989. In some sense, I think his writing is rather powerful. But nowadays, Buddhism is widely accepted and embraced in the United States.

day-dreamer said...

This is very funny.

I understand the justifications behind banning The Da Vinci Code, but Alice in Wonderland?

By the way, the article from Uncyclopedia is rather cute. ;)

youngyew said...

Jasmine: Thanks for the quote! Haha some of my friends would not agree with you, they would say that my stuff are "a nerd's jokes". :P

Eric Fu: Haha wow, you've read that book? Actually I have never heard of that book, just quoted it because the reasoning of banning sounds ridiculous. Anyway coming from someone who studied introduction to Buddhism it should not be surprising. :)

day-dreamer: Haha yeah I am glad you enjoyed the uncyclopedia article. Did you highlight the black parts to read the texts that are "censored"?

Anyway in my opinion even a book as controversial or inaccurate as Da Vinci Code should't be banned. Just think about it, yes some Christians would want to ban every book which paint their religion in a bad light. Sooner or later every organization, religion and country would want to ban every book that criticizes them, regardless of the validity of the book.

My point is, the banning of books is never justified, even when many people find the claims in the book false and misleading. The spirit of free knowledge is painfully demonstrated here: if you ban a book, how do you even know whether a book's claim is true or false? No you can't, so people are kept in the dark instead of in the clear of powerful knowledge. If Da Vinci Code is false, that's fine, let it go into the market and let people read it, discuss it, criticize it. If we are free enough and allow both sides of arguments to be presented in the mass media, then the public can decide for themselves the veracity of the claims, instead of being captivated by the claims instantly as might happen if open discussions aren't allowed.

day-dreamer said...

Of course I read the censored parts! First I read the whole page with the blacked-out parts. Then I Ctrl+A the whole page and read it all over again. Very good page indeed! LOL~

I don't really encourage the banning of The Da Vince Code, although I understand why certain countries ban it. Luckily it is not banned in Malaysia, because confusion and "inaccuracies" aside, it is a well-written book, imho.

You do have a very good point in your last paragraph. Now that I read it, I know more about Christianity (although I'm not Christian) because I discussed it with my first room mate who is a Christian.

Hmm... banned books...

ShouFarn said...

However, Da Vinci code does demonstrate my point about banning of books... One thing is sure, the more you ban a book, the more people want to find out more."

Methinks the gov should start banning newscientist, textbooks and newsweek.

Then our public will get educated. or something. It will be a more constructive way of using censorship lol

Alvin Ooi said...

cool. now everytime i visit ur blog, got flushing sound

Eric Fu said...

I have to agree. It's like visiting a virtual restroom :D

Me said...

Flushing? So that's what it was...

I was starting to get somewhat annoyed lol .. especially when I couldn't really make out what it was

kyh said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
kyh said...

Not to mention The Da Vinci Code or Angels and Demons. The only book in the modern era which I know that had brought huge riots and killings is none other than Salman Rushdie's The Satanic Verses, in the year 1989 if I'm not mistaken.

The Ayatollah Khomeini of Iran issued a fatwa demanding the whole Muslim world to unite and bring down his life, and those involved in the publishing of his novel were not spared either. Rushdie's personal Japanese interpretator was murdered in Tokyo, and another one in Milan if I remember correctly. See how a book can cause such a dangerous international outcry, especially one that deals with the sensitivities of the Islamic faith (think the Muhammad caricatures incident and the Pope's comments on Islam).

And this book has been banned in nearly all Muslim countries, including Malaysia. Effigies of Rushdie and his novels were publicly burnt by zealous Muslims across the Muslim world. Yet, his work had received good reviews from Western critics. See the huge contrast and polarization between the West and the Muslim world? If they're not able to reconcile even in the virtual world of literature, how better can they be in the ever-so-dangerous world of politics?