If you follow bookish social media, this quote (usually with some inspiring background picture) pops up every so often. It is praising the importance of books, yet I just can’t get on board with the whole concept. If you break it down in parts, there are the two worrying components of this quote.
“Books are the carriers of civilization”
Well, what about the many indigenous cultures from around the world that don’t have a written language? Basically this statement reinforces the notion that unless your culture confirms to Western approved notions of civilisation (books, writing, reading) then you are not a civilization. And this is where things can become very worrying. If you suggest that only cultures with the written word are civilised then you dehumanise, devalue, and reject the alternatives. Books are the carriers of one kind of civilisation.
“Books are humanity in print.”
This line has the same problem as the first; that humanity is associated with the written word. If your culture does not align with this notion of knowledge collection and distribution then you are not part of humanity. Oral history and the tradition of passing down stories through music, dance, song, and speech have been a part of many indigenous cultures for hundreds of thousands of years. These forms of storytelling and knowledge collection and distribution were subjugated and marginalised through colonisation and imperialist beliefs. So again, I can’t get behind something that suggests that humanity is only be the written word. Books are one example of humanity.
I found this photo on the Penguin Books Australia Facebook page and while I love the company and can understand where the naive view of the quote is coming from, I just can’t get behind the quote’s sentiments.
What do you think about the sentiments expressed in this quote? Have you found anything similar that worries you about bookish social media? As always, share the reading love.