Thursday, 30 September 2021

The Importance of Books

"Put down all your pens and notepads. Bring out your knitting, and listen. When I want you to write something down, I'll tell you what to write!" So spoke the economic historian David Eversley as he addressed a class of young undergraduates at Birmingham University in the early 1960s. We took his advice, and I have never regretted it. The only facts we were instructed to note were the authors and titles of the books being introduced to us. We were instructed to find the books and read them for ourselves so that we could form our own opinions about them in order to write our own essays.

As my personal tutor, Eversley advised me never to read a book first, but to read reviews. If interested, one should still not waste time reading it from cover to cover. Use the contents and index to get a feel for the book as a whole, before reading what is relevant to your thinking and needs of the time.

When, much later in life, I returned to postgraduate studies that advice stood me in good stead. Over the past three decades I have written innumerable reviews of excellent books sent to me by the editors of substantial journals. As editor of The Social Artist (formerly The Social Crediter) for nearly two decades I have introduced writers to readers, and vice versa. Copies of this small, readable, and highly portable quarterly journal are available for free download, and can be run off to be read on a journey or over a cup of coffee. Each edition contains extracts from the work of socially committed writers of the past, reviews of recent works of significance and commentary of current social issues. As such, they can be circulated to be read, shared and discussed be people of all walks of life within their own local communities.

For example, take the Winter 2014 edition, in which an extract from Aldous Huxley's Science, Liberty and Peace was quoted in the last (Understanding Life and Debt) blog. The quote continues:

"Now it seems pretty obvious that man’s psychological, to say nothing of his spiritual, needs cannot be fulfilled unless, first, he has a fair measure of personal independence and personal responsibility within and toward a self-governing group, unless, secondly, his work possesses a certain aesthetic value and human significance, and unless, in the third place, he is related to his natural environment in some organic, rooted and symbiotic way. But in modern industrial societies vast numbers of men and women pass their whole lives in cities, are wholly dependent for their livelihood upon a capitalistic or governmental boss, have to perform manual or clerical work that is repetitive, mechanical and intrinsically meaningless, are rootless, propertyless and entirely divorced from the world of nature, to which, as animals, they still belong and in which, as human beings, they might (if they were sufficiently humble and docile) discover the spiritual Reality in which the whole world, animate and inanimate, has its being. The reason for this dismal state of things is the progressive application of the results of pure science for the benefit of mass-producing and mass-distributing industry, and with the unconscious or conscious purpose of furthering centralization of power in finance, manufacture and government." Aldous Huxley (1947)

Written in the immediate aftermath of World War II, Science, Liberty and Peace sought to promote thought and discussion on political, economic and cultural thought necessary to build a better world. As all readers of this blog will be well aware, the advances in education for all (from which I benefited as a grant-assisted student), in the rights and freedoms of the Welfare State in general, and the National Health Service in particular, are fast disappearing. Surrounded by talks, news bulletins and documentaries, it is difficult to determine what or who to believe.

My suggestion, at this stage, is to take that Winter 2014 Issue of The Social Artist (see PUBLICATIONS page of ) from which the above quote was taken, and discuss the relevance of each contribution to today's current issues, news and events with friends and neighbours. In the meantime, I plan to contact all contributors to The Social Artist since 2013. Watch this space.

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