'One should not ignore the small steps'
0 comment Friday, December 5, 2014 |
A while back, I read something about this new law, Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008 (CPSIA), which was passed quietly (as most laws are) last year and which came into effect last week or so. I paid scant attention to it, but I've just read about one curious feature of this new law, after Laurel Loflund posted about it at the Kinism forum. The article to which she linked was in the City Journal:
The New Book Banning
byWalter Olson
It�s hard to believe, but true: under a law Congress passed last year aimed at regulating hazards in children�s products, the federal government has now advised that children�s books published before 1985 should not be considered safe and may in many cases be unlawful to sell or distribute. Merchants, thrift stores, and booksellers may be at risk if they sell older volumes, or even give them away, without first subjecting them to testing�at prohibitive expense. Many used-book sellers, consignment stores, Goodwill outlets, and the like have accordingly begun to refuse new donations of pre-1985 volumes, yank existing ones off their shelves, and in some cases discard them en masse.
The problem is the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008 (CPSIA), passed by Congress last summer after the panic over lead paint on toys from China. Among its other provisions, CPSIA imposed tough new limits on lead in any products intended for use by children aged 12 or under, and made those limits retroactive: that is, goods manufactured before the law passed cannot be sold on the used market (even in garage sales or on eBay) if they don�t conform.''
Laurel also linked to Gary North's piece on this law
Children's Books in Dumpsters: Washington's Madness Continues
Here is the new reality, one week old. If you can still find any pre-1985 books, it is because the thrift store's managers don't know they are breaking the law and could be fined or sent to prison if they persist.
The bureaucrats are now enforcing the letter of the 2008 law. Congressmen will feign ignorance. "Gee, how were we to know?"
Too late. The books are in landfill.
But why? "Stop dangerous lead paint!" Right. The lead paint in pre-1985 kids' books in minuscule traces. There is no known example of any child being injured by lead paint from a book. No matter. The law's the law.
This seems insane, but it is the relentless logic of the State: "Nothing is permitted unless authorized by the State."
The Federal government has authorized abortion on demand. But, once a parent allows a child to be born, that parent is not be allowed to buy the child a pre-1985 book. Such books are too dangerous for children.
This is the logic of Washington. This logic is relentless. It will be extended by law into every nook and cranny of our lives until it is stopped.''
Now, most of the criticisms I've since found of the law are concerned with the minutiae of it, or about other aspects of it, like the banning of certain clothing items like buttons or snaps which may contain toxic materials. But from my perspective, the most troubling thing about it is that it seems, beneath the surface, to be concerned with what our rulers consider 'toxic ideas', not lead in ink or in items of apparel.
Our government has different ideas of what is 'dangerous to our health' than my own idea. To them, it seems anything which comes from the pre-politically correct era is toxic. Our school textbooks and popular histories, in book form or on TV or the Internet, have been 'corrected' to conform with the present ideas of acceptability. We are all familiar with disputes between educators and parents, and complaints by ethnic agitators over 'racist' and 'xenophobic' words, images, and ideas in old textbooks and literature. I don't for a moment believe that the government would not like to wave a magic wand and cause all pre-PC books, movies, and recordings to disappear forever. Anything that would further that cause, even if only incidentally, would be just fine with them.
Some time back, I blogged about the 'cleansing' of old books from public libraries nationwide, and the overall dumbing down of libraries, usually under the guise of ''updating" and digitizing and changing the emphasis to electronic media. If some old, pre-PC books happened to be casualties of the march of progress, then -- oops, too bad, what a shame.
Most people don't question this; we have this ingrained idea that newer is better and that progress is inevitable and unstoppable, and that overall, all changes are part of progress and therefore we just have to accept it with a shrug. But I think we may lose a great deal of our heritage and history in those old books that are being unceremoniously thrown out or dumped in landfills, and what is being left in its place is not an improvement.
As a society, we no longer value the old in general, and every day it seems another article appears somewhere about the coming demise of the printed word. Books in general are valued less than ever before, as people passively accept that the book will soon be a relic of the past, of no use to us in the computer age. And old books generally are regarded as irrelevant if not downright backward and harmful to our delicate PC sensibilities.
This commentator understands the importance of what is happening.
...It used to be that the older the book, the more it was treasured as part of the collection. Now the opposite seems to be true: the most recent interpretations of human affairs are valued, while the older ones are discarded. Instant and untested knowledge trumps the wisdom of the ages.
Western civilization (or any other civilization worth its name) depends on written texts for its preservation, perpetuation, and development. Dead civilizations are studied through archeology, live ones are reanimated by reading books.
The removal of a sizeable percentage of books published before the 1960s truncates the memory of the present generation. If a significant chunk of interpretations of culture committed to paper is removed from easy circulation, the culture built on these interpretations will eventually wither. This was predicted by Marxists like Antonio Gramsci who wrote in the 1930s that it is not necessary to engineer bloody revolutions to change political systems and affect a transfer of power: it is enough to change culture to affect such a change. The massive removal of old books from university libraries is a small step in this direction. While many steps have to be taken to bring Gramsci�s vision to fruition, one should not ignore the small steps.''
I agree; the 'small steps' often go unnoticed but they are not insignificant.

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