The other day, at the New York Public Library, I serendipitously pulled an original copy of Great Britain and the Congo, by E.D. Morel, with a forward by Arthur Conan Doyle (picture above).
This book - deeply damaged- came wrapped in a string (swoon). First published in 1909, Great Britain and the Congo is an incredulous and angry screed against Belgium and the UK for the attrocities committed in the name of 'progress'.
Holding this tattered book was a visceral reminder that there have always been humanists, dissenters, and activists pushing back against the rich, dumb, and powerful.
It was a moment of hope, summoned up from the stacks beneath the NYPL.
Here's an electronic version of the book:
Humanity's Greatest Achievement
Our ability to collect, store, and retrieve information across generations is our species greatest asset.
Here's a short piece I wrote about libraries a few months back. Check out the Code of Conduct of the American Library Association at the bottom.
As civilization disintegrates, humans will try to control a world that's increasingly out of control. This pulls people towards fundamentalism and fascism.
In the days ahead we will witness increasingly efforts from across the political spectrum to burn, ban, and bury sensitive information.
That's a swerve towards barbarism.
And it's not just Neo-Nazis burning books in the backyard. Online repositories of information like Wikipedia and Sci-hub are under threat from corporate interests.
Wise civilizations and organizations share knowledge. Fascist civilizations hide knowledge, and it leads to their downfall.
If we lose the libraries, we lose civilization. They must be protected at all costs. That's why Neil Gaiman calls libraries the "thin red line between civilization and barbarism."
My advice, if you're asking, is to be vigilant against efforts to exclude information from libraries, and go to the barricades for libraries, and libraries only. It's the only thing we've got worth defending.
Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.
(2 mins video)