A Florida pastor, Terry Jones, made the headlines by burning a number of copies of the Quran last April. A revolting act. Last week publishing company Gramedia symbolically burned 200 copies of “5 Kota Paling Berpengaruh di Dunia“. The ceremony was attended by and watched over by clerics of MUI. Allegedly on page 24 the book contained a less than flattering description of the Prophet.
It’s publication had been a golden opportunity for FPI and their soul-brothers to cry foul and for the company to obsequiously and hastily give in to their demands.
In 1967 or 1968 I watched a film, “Fahrenheit 451“ by the famous French director Francois Truffaut. It’s script is from a book by Ray Bradbury and it pictures a dystopia - a society where all books have been or will be burned. The title indicates the temperature at which paper catches fire. The book and the movie explore the abject mentality that banishes free thinking and free expression.
Book burning is a fascist method to wipe out dissenting opinions, unwelcome framing and inconvenient facts. It has been coined by Adolf Hitler’s minister of propaganda, Joseph Goebels. He was the one who spoke to a vast crowd of University students ( mind you !) who at his initiative in a semi-sacramental way set fire to 25000 books by authors who criticized NAZI ideology, on that doomed night of May the 10th 1933: “No to decadence and moral corruption!” Yes to decency and morality in family and state! I consign to the flames the writings of Heinrich Mann, Ernst Gläser, Erich Kästner.”
Is the incidental political or ideological destruction of a book or a few scores of book or some hundreds of books really a problem worth paying attention too?
Well I guess it should be of some concern to eggheads and artists. After all libricide -committing mass murder of books- is anti intellectual extremism. And actually there has been some raising of eyebrows over last week’s incident.
But eggheads are relatively marginal people in any society. Their worries about intellectual integrity are not likely to cause large scale public protests. They are not likely to inspire grass roots to protest. Probably to 95% of Indonesia’s population the real issues in life are how to make ends meet, how to provide for good education of their children, how to get affordable healthcare, how to find a decent roof over one’s head and have a few modern facilities. It’s quite understandable if they hardly bother about abstract luxuries as human rights and intellectual freedom. If they give it any thought at all they will think destroying and banning intellectual and artistic products probably will have no serious impact on their daily life.
No indeed, I don’t think either there is acute danger which compels decent civilians to hide books or learn them by heart in order to save them before they get destroyed. That’s what those two main characters of “Faherenheit 451” , Guy Montag and Clarisse, heroically did in their totalitarian society.
But danger is definitely looming. I would like to point out that pastor Terry Jones revealed himself as Joseph Goebbels’ heir. And so did FPI members Habib Novel and Irwan who filed charges. As well as Gramedia’s president director Arsidi Wandi S. Brata and the chairman of MUI’s fatwa commission Ma’ruf Amin. These men, involuntary paying tribute to Berlin of 10th of May 1933, directed the books’ autodafe at Bentara Budaya last Wednesday.
The infamous propaganda minister’s mentality obviously is among us.