Why Ban Books?

At the end of Banned Books Week, let’s ask ourselves why people feel the need to ban books. It’s simple.

When we point a gun at ourselves, we can see it. And we know that once we pull the trigger, we’ll cause our own death. But when we use our own mind against our own self, we don’t know that’s what we’re doing. In a twist of biological irony, the most unique and powerful weapon we have to insure our own survival is our brain, but that same brain can be manipulated into causing our own destruction. And the simplest way for our minds to be taken over to our own detriment is for the information that goes into it to be restricted and controlled.

Think about it. If rice is the only food we’re exposed to, we’ll only eat rice, and we’ll have to rely on only rice for our nutritional needs. But rice can’t give the human body everything. While we can live on rice, it’s unlikely that we’ll thrive on such limited fare.

It’s the same for the brain. If we only have one small collection of facts or one collective idea with which our brain is fed, we won’t thrive, because everything we believe and every action we take will be based on only that limited information.

So, how can we tell if the ideas we have, the principles and views we hold, are ones we concluded on our own, or ones we were trained to believe by the restriction and control of the information being fed into our brains? How can we tell if our ability to thrive, to lead the fullest, happiest life possible, has been hampered by that limited fare?

We can, but we have to be willing to ask ourselves the following questions and truly ponder our answers:

1) How do I feel when I’m with my group ─ be they my family, my friends, the people at my religious institution or club? Do I feel safe and nurtured, allowed to be myself? Or am I ridiculed or criticized? Do I feel I can ask questions about the ideas held without the group getting impatient with me? Do the answers I get make sense to me, or do I feel doubtful and confused? Is my group open to my differing choices and points of view, or do I feel compelled to parrot theirs, hiding what I really think? Do I find myself feeling that I have to lie or evade when someone in the group asks me a question about my beliefs or actions?

2) How does the rest of my group react when someone within the group chooses to engage with people outside the group or chooses to go against group protocol ─ i.e ─ goes on a trip instead of coming to holiday dinner, marries outside the religion? Is the person who breaks protocol ostracized, gossiped about? Do they lose standing within the group? Are they asked to leave, or are they harshly punished, made to feel bad about those choices? Do I find myself feeling I should defend this person, but I don’t do so because part of me “understands” and therefor condones the negative reaction of the group? Do I stay quiet because I’m afraid I’ll be ostracized too, and the idea of losing my group is terrifying?

3) Do I find myself getting defensive/angry/frightened/upset when I encounter someone who thinks differently than I do? Or do I possibly feel scared because part of me that I keep carefully hidden agrees with an idea this new person holds that’s not held by my group? Do I stop myself from having a discussion with this person because I fear that by engaging in a discussion with this person my opinions might change? If so, what makes me feel afraid of that change?

4) Do I see possibly changing my mind about an issue as something a weak or a strong person does? Do I feel that if I allow myself to change my mind about any political, social, or religious issue that I’m jeopardizing my very identity?

5) Do I have panic attacks, stomach problems, rashes, or other stress-related symptoms that seem to flare up only when I’m doing what I’m “supposed” to do? Do I feel the people who are supposedly the closest to me are estranged from me, even when they’re right near me? Do I drink too much or eat too much when I have to spend time with my group? Do I feel surprised and relieved when I’m with my group and things go well? Do I feel physically drained after spending time with them?

6) Am I afraid of making new friends, or trying something new, because I’m worried that there’s someone in my life who is important to me who might not approve? Do I sometimes get angry at those who are closest to me for what seems to be no reason at all? Do people in my family or group ever tell me in a disappointed tone that I’m “different?” Do I feel that they’re talking about me behind my back?

7) Do I sometimes feel like I’m playing a role? Do I feel “stuck” in this role, not living my ‘real’ life? Does the role feel vitally necessary, despite that? Do I see myself as making many concessions in order to maintain the “status quo?”

8) Do I feel that because I’ve followed “all the rules,” things should work out as they’re “supposed to,” but if they don’t, do I find myself furious with God or with existence? When a group member confides in me that they’re unhappy because they feel forced to “follow rules,” do I feign sympathy but secretly feel pleased? If harm comes to a group member when they break a rule, do I feel they “got what they deserved?” Have I ever found myself avoiding someone I was once close to who broke “rules,” and went on to live a much happier life as a result?

9) If I were told I had only six months left to live, would I continue living my life as I am now, or would I do something so different that it would probably shock everyone I know in the group?

10) Do I read only news sites, books, watch TV programs that reinforce my world view? Does everyone I know hold my same world view? Are they all from one particular segment of society, socio-economic status, neighborhood, or ethnicity? Do I think people who are outside my ethnic group are “weird?”Do I “unfriend” people consistently on social media simply for the reason that they gave me a counter opinion other than the one I hold? Can I ask questions, have a discussion with people of a different frame of mind than mine without getting angry, rude, or upset?

If you feel any of the above a big percentage of the time, they might be signs that you’ve been “indoctrinated” into a group way of thinking rather than it being what you, as an individual, actually believe. Somewhere along the way at a period of time when your brain was impressionable, someone who meant something vital to you wanted you to think or act in a very specific way, and only in that way.

It might not have been a family member or spouse or friend. It could have been anyone who is or was important to you ─ a teacher, a religious leader, a lover, a favorite celebrity or politician. Once a specific ideology is introduced to us, it becomes habitual and easier to stay the course of that ideology,whether we’re happy with it or not. But eventually, our brains begin to realize that they’ve been cut off from their primary function: the ability to reason.And if we can’t reason, we can’t make our own choices and decisions.

That’s when we might experience some of the symptoms mentioned above that indicate we’re suffering from a mild to severe condition of group programming. Generally speaking, groups, be they religions, political parties, or other, feel that their collective mind-speak can protect them from outside dangers. Outside dangers come from those who are unlike the group. Because they’re not familiar or similar, outsiders can’t be trusted. Since they can’t be trusted, they could do us harm. Therefore, the group seeks to maintain itself for protection. In order to maintain itself, it needs to ensure that all its members stay “like-minded.”

And that’s why anything that appears threatening to that like-mindedness is forbidden by group leaders. But do they feel the need to dominate our thoughts and actions in order to protect us, or to protect their sovereigntyover us?

One way to know for sure is to question everything, and learn as much as we can. We can start by reading banned books. Books are banned not because they were written by witches, but because someone in power in any given group feels that whatever’s in that book will be a threat to said like-minded perceptions of the group. Books are banned from being read for the very reason they must be read. We must read and decide for ourselves if that banned book is truly promoting something dangerous.

But perhaps even better than reading a book that’s been banned, is to read a newspaper, view a news program or website that’s generally viewed by “the other side.” If you’re conservative, read what a liberal reads, if you’re liberal read what a conservative reads. Read a paper published in a foreign country to see if the news you’re getting is the same news they’re getting. Find out what those who voted differently than you are reading and hearing on a daily basis, and then ask yourself, with brutal honesty, that if you were reading what the other side is reading, day in and day out, if you were hearing only that one view from your group, might you not begin to believe it all too? Of course you would, because you have.

Don’t believe it? Try reading these works of propaganda, now called “news” every day for a month, and see if you come out of that experience with your brain unscathed, or if you find yourself being drawn in once again, this time to a different ideology. Our minds and souls get sucked in, and the only way to combat that tendency is to read, watch, listen to it all, and THINK. Question. Knowledge comes to those who force themselves out of their comfort zones. Knowledge is in all the writings you don’t read and in all the words you don’t hear.

Knowledge gives you back control over your own life.




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