Penned to mark National Libraries Day this satirical piece by Julian Barnes on The Defence of the Book might raise a smile through gritted teeth as you begin your week.
As the political and economic crisis deepened in the years ahead.
Poverty threw up a few improvements, like the renaissance of the canal system. The re-establishment of the old barter system was welcomed by many. But it was the Defence of the Book that caused the most surprise. The widespread library protests of the early 2010s, more than a generation back, meant that much of the service had then been saved, an outcome for which all three parties had taken the credit (though it was thought that the ritual suicides of three novelists and a poet outside the Houses of Parliament had proved the tipping point). But little opposition was expected when the National Coalition announced that every remaining library was to be closed within a month. Since the digitisation of all forms of information, libraries – like churches under communism – were inhabited mainly by the elderly, that last generation which held on to the idea of the physical book as an item of value in itself.
Since the contents of libraries were deemed valueless, the Coalition simply instructed its enforcement agency (formerly known as the army) to burn the buildings to the ground. But after the first two incinerations, there were mass protests, and human shields were formed round many libraries. More menacingly, two offices of the enforcement agency were burnt down in retaliation. There was a broad suspicion, especially among the elderly, that once information and culture were only available digitally through the englandwideweb, truth would be easier for the government to control. To the surprise of many, the printed book began to take on a symbolic significance, as once it had done in the early years of printing.
Read on at The Defence of the Book
Perhaps we need a Youth work version.
By 2022, with the demise of the poor person’s public school extra-curricular activities programme, the national citizen’s service, spurned by most 16 year olds, with the reduction of university places, the wholesale closure of Humanities and Social Sciences departments and fees affordable only by Premier League footballers’ offspring, together with over 50% youth unemployment and the collapse of workfare, the National Unity Government [led by a troika of David Miliband, Louise Mensch and Chris Huhne] had imposed a compulsory period of 10 years’ National Service, focused at the one end on providing an armed presence in schools and at the other on organising the surveillance of ageing dissidents and free thinkers, surplus to society’s requirements and, as the Minister for Culture, Eamonn Holmes pithily put it ‘a pain up the arse’. This central plank of the Government’s never-ending austerity and disciplinary strategy was run by the Ministry of Attitudinal Control [MAC] formed by a bringing together of the Ministry of Defence, the Metropolitan Police and Catalyst, the consortium led formerly by the defunct National Youth Agency and NCVYS Ltd, formerly the Royal Bank of Scotland [assets transferred in 2020]. However unexpectedly on the anniversary of the birth of the almost forgotten punk Johnny Rotten matters took an anarchic turn…….. Neither supporters of the government, irreverently known as the NUGITS, nor the staff of MAC or indeed their burger chain sponsors could believe their eyes…..
I wonder if it’s worth playing around with such a scenario. I know it’s a cluttered para! All with a view perhaps to getting our message across to….to be honest, I’m not quite sure. Ideas as ever welcomed!
Not sure who to credit for the smart caricature.