An old standard of measurement of the ignition temperature of paper, and the title of a perhaps, forgotten book. Ray Bradbury, across the now yellowed and brittled pages, forecast in novel form, the mottled and contrived change of an occupation from the extinguishing of fire, to the prediction of the demise, then the active pursuit of burning unwanted books. The fireman had egressed from deliverer to destroyer.
First, the fuel were those books which were ethnically distasteful. The exalted goal being the eradication of offensive literature, by offensive people. It was not hard, and I found myself nodding in agreement….it’s easy to agree, when a significant portion of society roars “Crucify!”, only the object is a small tome that may castigate by color or creed.
Then it progressed to historical inaccuracy or, God help us…the History of Philosophy!
It only requires the exigency of cleansing to provoke the populace to expunge books from the catalog of useful research. History is long and replete with iterations of aspergation by flame and smoke, reminiscent of ancient inquisitions, the fuel, the pages of “disgusting” text, rather than the sweetish stink of burning flesh.
Today, we use less violent means, more adjudicated, rational, excused, to purge a volume of print, some poor author out of taste, out of time, out of favor. Did Aristotle really know his subject when he wrote of philosophy, history, mathematics, or science?
Did Luther? Did Hegel, or Herodotus, or Josephus, or Prescott?
There is a move afoot in our country, to slowly revise what is written about history. It has been attempted at least twice in Texas. This is nothing new in “history” as nearly every victor of war has attempted to replace the facts with fiction that sorted the events to favor the conqueror. From ancient times, this has transpired. It is chilling that a world whose academia worship at the shrine of truth and order, would bow to another god. But, we, they, all of us are guilty of changing facts to suit us, whether in court, or in the court of the vast libraries of the world. It is just as uncomfortable today, to have the bare facts written about losers and victors, about survivors and victims, about a holocaust, and the fleeing monsters of a regime that wanted to topple the world order.
No one escapes the bony finger pointing at them, no country is exempt. And that very possibility was the subject of Fahrenheit 451. The expurgation of unwanted books, the castigated tomes of distasteful sentences, words piled on words, until the stack of literature reaches the orange night sky with the burning, the pages flopping about like gasping fish, dying a slow, flaming death….
James McPherson, a Pulitzer winning historian once wrote, “Revision is the lifeblood of historical scholarship..” . There are as many gains as negatives about rewriting the view or facts of historical events, and many are the historians who would attempt it. There are in fact, events that were wrongly reported, with a nudge or poke from political authorities. Wrongs to be righted.
The danger lies not in exposing, but harshly criticizing those who went before. One case in point…Christopher Columbus was the discoverer of the New World…..well, until archeological digs unearthed earlier explorers…..Horribly, still today, Columbus is the butt of jokes, as if what he did, had and has no importance. The truth is, he embarrasses the historians.
And I arrived at the fire outside the library…… The thousands of hard and softbound books, their consuming smoke reaching for an empty, silent sky. In the novel, a woman dies rather than give up her home library….commits suicide.
About a week and a half ago…I saw an ad on Amazon, for a Kindle reader. Says it stores up to 1500 books! How do I know it stores them and doesn’t change them……Is there an Office of Literary Accuracy?