Paper Tiger Burning Bright

Photo by Movidagrafica Barcelona on

So, contrary to my normal routine and against what we must, for now, call ‘my better judgement’ I have just read through Wednesday’s itinerant whinge and I feel it incumbent upon me to publish this short clarification: I am not a climate change denier.  I totally accept that it is happening and that my generation is in no small part responsible for it – I was raised on tropical hardwoods and disposable plastic.  These days I compost, recycle, buy loose, check air-miles, grow my own veg and don’t eat anything with a face on (unless you count that very odd looking potato that I had last week) but I am no paragon: I eat cheese, I eat milk, I eat honey and, from time to time, I do emit a fair amount of methane.  And I use paper to write on.  I don’t think that makes me a bad person: maybe not ideal, but surely not bad.

I use both sides of my paper – don’t be silly now: I mean to write on – and it goes in the recycle bin when it is done, but I do know that recycling paper (like the bottles I insist on buying my beer in) uses a lot of energy – although not, I hope, as much as starting afresh.  I really want to do my bit, although I don’t expect to be carbon neutral until some time after the crematorium’s incinerator has done with me.

I am a man of my age: I grew up reading Fahrenheit 451 and I understood that book burnings were a regular feature in the history of authoritarianism: the ancient Greeks, the Romans, the French, the English, the Germans, the Chinese, the French (again), the English (again), the Germans (again), the Chinese (again), the Russians (who arrived late to the game but, never-the-less made a fair old fist of it), the Germans (who appear to have developed quite a taste for it), the Americans, the Christians, the Jews and the Muslims have all had a go at it and I think that, all in all, it is seldom seen as a good thing.  Books are burned to stop people learning, to stop people understanding, to diminish opportunities and impoverish the mind.  It is an act of mass, symbolic vandalism that cannot be matched by a government sponsored Kindle hack.

Even today there are societies where the inflow of information via the internet is so tightly controlled that dissenting voices are never heard, that those in whose name atrocities are almost daily committed, never know of them, but books, simple ink on paper, still find their way into lives and into minds and those whose minds they enter are forever changed, forever enriched.  (I’m presupposing here that it is a truth universally acknowledged that nobody objects to the mass torching of Jeffrey Archer tomes.)  As Montag learned in Bradbury’s dystopian masterpiece, the printed word holds a truth and a power that nothing else can replicate.  Books are too important to be reduced to a stream of ones and zeroes.  Read books, treasure books and when you’ve done it, swap them for other books, because if we all turn away from the printed word they won’t have to burn it to stop us reading, they will just have to turn them off, one by one, a click at a time…

…If I’m honest, I’m not quite sure of where that came from, it is not what I intended today, but it is what I scribbled onto my little pad of once-used paper scraps and something you can only read via the magic of the internet, so if it saves you lighting matches, then at least I feel as though I’ve done my bit…

11 thoughts on “Paper Tiger Burning Bright

  1. Strange…I just posted today’s humble offering having decided to entitle it “Tiger, tiger…” Maybe I still had in mind the image you used yesterday. I totally agree about books. Always have a pile waiting. I shall be really pissed off if my time comes when I am halfway through a tome.

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    1. PS please excuse my lack of reading: little secret, I am not here, but will be back soon and will, no doubt, bore you to death with it then. But I will also catch up with the reading that lack of data currently does not allow.
      PPS I’m sure your was much better than mine 😊

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  2. Well, if the fuel crisis bites deep this winter and I run out of wood for the burner, then I may have to burn books to keep warm. I’ll start with the ones I’m never likely to read, ‘The Barbara Cartland’s’ followed by any in a foreign language, travel guides, old atlases, out of date AA Road maps, Instruction booklets, DIY manuals, cookery books, gardening books, books pertaining to health & fitness, lengthy biographies, Play in a day, the Burt Weeden Way, Kobbes Opera Guide, and the complete works of Shakespeare. That should get me through November!

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