Banning of books biggest crime committed by governments around the world

In a world where social media is taking over our lives, the need to stay relevant is real.

We can find this correlation in our everyday lives. Whether it’s a political campaign or a religious occasion, it seems that people have forgotten the true purpose of life.

From my observations, people desperately need approval for whatever they do, no matter how they feel about themselves. Is this the new direction we are heading in? Should we make decisions based on popularity, or should it be based on what is required to build a better tomorrow?

I remember about four years ago when I was in Brooklyn, the United States. I was looking for the book ‘Extremely loud and Incredibly Close’ that touched deeply on racism. I wanted to know more about it, as this was a hot topic at the time, especially after 9/11.

I searched for the book at several bookstores, only to find out that it had been banned by the US government. Hearing this, it made some sense to me, as everyone was still paranoid and had not moved on from that tragedy.

I returned to Malaysia after my holiday and forgot all about it. A couple of months later, I found the book in a bookstore at the KL International Airport. I read it, at age 13, and found nothing wrong with it. The US government is not alone in banning certain books that are at odds with their beliefs or political viewpoint. Many countries do the same.

Are governments guilty of trying to change history, and do they want us to hate a specific group of people?

Books are key to shaping one’s knowledge of the world. We are all aware of the benefits of reading.

This is emphasised throughout our lives, and I’m sure most of us enjoy heading to the bookstore to find books that we could get lost in for a few months. It is a blissful experience that is indescribable.

However, we are slowly being robbed of the freedom to browse through anything. Governments, focused on their agenda and political gains, are stripping away our rights; specifically, the right to access materials that go against their point of view.

This will turn their citizens into ‘sheep’, easily swayed by whatever they hear and read, which is often propaganda provided by the respective governments.

This is a major issue in the world today, as it questions our evolution as a society. Have we taken a step back? Is this what democracy is supposed to be? Did we fight to become independent nations for nothing?

According to the American Library Association, more than 273 books were challenged in 2020 alone. No similar statistics could be found for Malaysia.

Unfortunately, these numbers keep on rising every single year. Most of these books touch on topics like the Holocaust, sexuality, and politics. Are we simply trying to look past significant issues and refuse to acknowledge things that cannot be simplified into a one-word conclusion?

Governments claim books that touch on sensitive topics would only divide a nation. This would lead to schisms in societies due to the different ideologies.

By now, many of us are aware of politicians’ and their tactics, using the people as a scapegoat.

If this is going to be the way they deal with alternative thoughts or views, then what is the meaning of democracy? As a citizen of the world, I think we deserve to have a say in matters that are significant, especially in a world where everything is moving incredibly fast.

New issues arise every day, and we too, need to be part of the discussions by being able to educate ourselves through books. Without books, what do we do, and how can we learn?

‘Don’t judge a book by its cover’ is a cliché, yet it is still very relevant today.

Certain groups assume that people are easily influenced by what they see or read. However, aren’t humans capable of thinking?

According to researchers from the University of Harvard’s human psychology department, anger and resentment are the main causes of destruction. Restrictions and censorship will add fuel to the fire and cause huge demonstrations, which will only have negative effects on a country.

It is obvious that creating division among the people should be avoided. However, banning books is not the solution.

Instead, we should let people educate themselves, as that’s what books are for.

When people are well-read, they can make informed decisions.

We can’t stick to the old way, believing that censorship is for the benefit of the people. People are able to make decisions for themselves and do not need authorities to decide for them.

Limiting the public from gaining knowledge is the biggest crime of all, and especially worrying for the younger generation who will be leaders of tomorrow.

Knowledge has a beginning, and no end.

To give the younger generation an avenue to express themselves, Twentytwo13 has a dedicated space called Young Voices. If you are a young writer (aged 17 and below) and would like to have your article published on our news website, send your contribution to editor@twentytwo13.my.

All articles must be accompanied by the young writer’s full name, MyKad number, contact number, and the mobile number of the young writer’s parents/guardians for verification purposes.

This is the personal opinion of the writer and does not necessarily represent the views of Twentytwo13.