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[Blogging] Books As The Antidote

Paul Grech Saturday, March 25, 2017 , , ,
The term “fake news” is ubiquitous these days. Everyone has heard it and we’ve started peppering our conversations with it too. Occasionally we’ve even started believing this fake news business too.

Of course, this is nothing new. A look at history books confirms this. For one thing, history is written by the victors and these tend to be a bit economic with the facts which don’t exactly paint them in a glorious light.  An examination of the propaganda output preceding and during World War II also reveals a shocking amount of mistruth.

What is perhaps an advantage today is that people have the biggest encyclopaedia humanity has ever seen - the internet - which can help them determine whether something is real or not. However, at times readers still believe preposterous news items – simply for the reason that they would reinforce their own view of the world.

This tendency to believe only what we want to believe is a symptom of the overall lack of desire to really challenge our own views.  

Reading can fight that.

Books allow you to visit new worlds, meet different cultures and better understand divergent ideas. Books help us to see that perhaps, what we think is right, is not right for everyone.

Obviously this also depends on what you read. George Orwell’s 1984 is a classic that everyone should be familiar with (especially now) because it examines the dangers of a totalitarian regime.

The same goes for Maragaret Arwood’s A Handmaid’s Tale which is another brilliant examination of a society ruled by a totalitarian regime. Also, anything written by Kurt Vonnegut is brilliant and poignant: he is undoubtedly one of my best discoveries of the past few months.

For the younger generation, there’s the Hunger Games trilogy and other young-adult dystopian fantasies that have ridden on its success.

Talking of younger audiences, it is impossible not to mention the Harry Potter series that is littered with examples showing up those who very clearly do not want to share their world with anyone who is not as ‘pure’ as they are. Less well known is Wonder by R. J. Palacio, which is a book about a boy with a facial deformity who starts going to school for the first time in his life.

Then are the more biting – adult oriented – books that put the reader into direct contact with other realities. I Am Malala, for instance, which talks about life under the Taliban and the repercussions of standing up to them. Or Between The World And Me where American writer Ta-Nehasi Coates talks about being black in America.  There is then Censoring an Iranian Love Story by Shahriar Mandanipour, a beautifully written novel that examines the heavy censorship that people have to live with in Iran.

These are all books that either examine the present for people living outside our cosy bubble, or about a very possible future.

My parting recommendation shall be  Dave Eggers’ The Circle. The storyline is set in a world where people willingly expose every aspect of themselves on social media and is an insight into what happens when there too much unfiltered reality out there.  

The scariest part is that we are not too far away from that.


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