This delightful little rant by Ed West appeared in the Telegraph some weeks ago, and has been sitting on the Grumpy Desktop ever since. Sorry it's late, but here it is at last ...
I turned on the radio quite late this morning, at around 7.30am, and heard a rather sanctimonious-sounding woman talking about libraries. That’s strange, I thought, Thought for the Day doesn’t start for another half an hour, and where is the churchy waffle about Jesus being opposed to the cuts?
This was just a woman attacking the Government and arguing passionately that the state and society were effectively the same thing. I even checked the radio dial because I couldn’t believe that even Radio 4 would allow someone a prime-time piece of propaganda on behalf of the opposition.
But they would. The woman was Zadie Smith, arguing against the Government’s supposed attack on libraries. Never mind that, as Richard Preston points out, it is actually Brent Council that is closing her library, not the Government.
Brent’s “chief executive” is on £180,000 a year, which presumably puts him among the rich who Smith castigates for ruining the lives of the poor by closing down these “gateways to other lives”.
Perhaps it didn’t open her mind enough. As Daniel Knowles pointed out, the wealthy do use libraries a lot, so that “while some impoverished single mothers probably do use libraries, as Pullman argues, the least deprived are the most likely socio-economic group to visit a library, while the most deprived are among the least likely. Our libraries are more full of Philip Pullmans than they are of single mothers.”
Even attempts by some libraries to lure in kids, the poor and other officially-favoured demographics by filling their shelves with DVDs have made little difference. The roots of educational and cultural poverty at the bottom of society go far deeper than that.
Perhaps the most ill-informed part of the party broadcast was when Smith said: “Perhaps it is because they know what history books will make of them that our politicians are so cavalier with our libraries.”
The Left has spent the last 50 years purposely and highly successfully erasing British history from the public consciousness, for entirely ideological reasons, and to their benefit. As Niall Ferguson wrote in yesterday’s Guardian:
A recent survey of first-year undergraduates reading history at a reputable UK university found that: 66% did not know who was monarch at time of the Armada; 69% did not know the location of the Boer war; 84% did not know who commanded British forces at Waterloo (a third thought it was Nelson); and 89% could not name a single 19th-century British prime minister.
The beneficiaries of this historical amnesia are certainly not conservatives, whose appeal lies in a complex understanding of history, including such things as unintended consequences (if you don’t know about the French revolution, you cannot understand Edmund Burke’s philosophy; if you don’t even know who Elizabeth I was, it will not help your understanding of the complex issue of state morality v religious freedom, which now rears it head in the form of anti-discrimination laws).
In contrast, the Left’s appeal is in the politics of feeling good – the Suffragettes, Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King. A populace which is aware only of those basic, accessible recent events is more likely to want the feel-good political solutions that state-worship offers, a state-worship that is obviously ubiquitous at the BBC.
After all, can anyone remember the BBC allowing anyone to have a ten-minute, prime-time denunciation of government policy from 1997-2010?
The GOS says: Spot on about "the Left's appeal is in the politics of feeling good". That's why the bastards are all so smug - they wrap themselves in a lovely warm glow of being right-on and inclusive and saving the whales/polar bears/killer sharks or whatever the latest buzz word is. The rest of us have to think about the real world.
When I was a kid in an East End borough, I was a very heavy user of the excellent large local library. I used my own and my parents' tickets and rarely had less than 12 or 15 books out at a time. I read them all, too: I was a speedy and voracious reader, perfectly capable of working my way through an entire shelf of books on whatever my passion happened to be at the time.
The library is no longer there. Some yobs set fire to it, and the borough council was too mean to replace it in any meaningful way.
Now that I'm old, middle-class and relatively affluent, I never go to a library. I'm not entirely sure where the nearest one is, and if I went there I wouldn't be able to park. I still read voraciously but these days I patronise the local secondhand book shop. I buy my Ian Rankin and Val McDermid paperback shockers for £2 each and donate them to the Oxfam shop afterwards.
There has to be a moral there somewhere, but I'm buggered if I can work out what it is.
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