Belle of Liberty

Letting Freedom Ring

Monday, August 01, 2011

Hand-Me-Down Knowledge

E-book readers and tablets are all the rage these days.  Rather than loading your house with tons of dust-collectors, you can call up Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations or J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings with a slight tap of the tablet.

There is a catch, however; you have to buy Amazon’s Kindle e-book device.  The cheapest version is $114.  The complete trilogy is $18.99.  You can keep for as long as your device has the memory for it.  But the Lord of the Rings is a huge book.  You won’t keep it for any longer (unless you’re a Frodo fan) than you would a typical library book.

The quarterly tax bill arrived this weekend.   The tab for the library is $53 per quarter and will rise with inflation.  Libraries have been quietly closing since the beginning of this current economic crisis.  Writers have a tendency to be possessive of their books, keeping the most useful for reference.  We look for the newer books on sale and online and older volumes at library and garage sales.

I spent this weekend finishing up on my purchase of the Conservative and history essentials.  I also bought two more bookcases in which to place my treasures.  Columnist John Derbyshire wrote in the National Review that a friend of his, in moving from England to France, moved five tons of books.  Derbyshire measured his own collection.  Using a tape measure and a bathroom scale, he writes:

“Reckoning an average 15 pounds to the foot, my 250 feet of shelved books comes in at close to two tons.”

Having the essentials at hand, once my job disappears next March, I will have to rely on my tablet, my public library, and the college library, which is only about 20 minutes away.  How glad I am thatI  listened to my mother and went to a local college.  Imagine trying to use the library at, say, The University of Southern California?

In another cost-cutting measure, I chopped off the cable this weekend.   I felt sad at the prospect of being so poor in the future that all I’ll be able to afford is the basic cable (all local news and some Spanish channels) and the Netflix on my Roku.  It meant buying yet another device, just like the tablet, but at least I own it.  My savings realized comes to about $35 a month, taking into account the Netflix subscription, and the increase by the cable company in my internet and telephone prices.

It’s not so bad, really.  While I can’t get Fox News on cable, I can still get it on my computer or my tablet.  For free (other than the cable charge).  The tablet, it turns out, is a very handy device for checking on the weather or the local news while I’m watching a movie, or more likely, reading. There’s an even an app that offers 100,000 free books.

The upfront investment in tablets, books and bookcases is expensive, but I expect it will pay off in the long run.  For one thing, I foresee in America’s socialized future only two sorts of workers:  the service people (i.e., hamburger flippers, order takers, Wal-Mart greeters) and the government elite who will tell us what to think and do.  They will also need an assortment of scientists and engineers to “save the world.”  My nephew, happily, falls into that second category.  But he’s dissatisfied.  He’s really interested in history and politics.  Once he’s through with his engineering master’s and is safely ensconced in his job, I intend to set him on the path to a doctorate degree in his favorite subjects.

The worry is that once the Socialists complete their “transformation” of society the first thing to go will be the dissenting books.  As the Communists tore down statues of local heroes in Eastern Europe and replaced them with statutes of Lenin, they will tear down the culture of Western civilization and replace it with a fictional utopia.

My alma mater doesn’t even have any sort of Republican or Conservative club.  You couldn’t get any of those kids to read Adam Smith or William F. Buckley Jr., even if their books are offered for free on e-book.  The Progressives did too good a job of brainwashing them.  Still, we must break through that mental wall somehow.  We can’t do that if we don’t have the concrete information in hand.

Memorizing quotes from the Founding Fathers is all well and good, but there’s a linguistic concept called “Telescoping” that says oral traditions only encompass a scope of only about 200 years and whatever came before is lost.  They must read it for themselves and internalize the information.  Reading is very much an individual act, regularly and thoroughly denounced by society, while hypocritically espousing its virtues.  Liberal elites are filmed in front of shelves full of books to let you know how smart they are; they don’t want us to be as well-read as they are, though.  In fact, to them, the idea of “hobbits” reading Plato’s Republic is simply laughable.

In clearing space for my book collection, I came across a now-ancient cell phone from the 1980s.  We laugh at such technological relics.  Indeed the old cell phone is useless, dependent as it is upon electricity and technology.  That’s not necessarily the case with the manual typewriter, transmission, or lawn mower.  Or the printed word.

We’ve traded self-reliance for self-indulgence and are caught in a trap of our own making.  We pity the poor souls who tear themselves away from cable television, balk at the notion of cars with roll-down windows, and consider book-reading quaint and boring.

With our country facing a deluge, you might want to read at least your car manual and have one of those emergency hammers ready to break that window you didn’t want to have to roll down yourself.  Don’t get me wrong; I love the ease of being able to roll down my passenger side window with the push of a button.  Still, I worry about the rainy day when the electronics fail and the interior of my car is inundated with water.

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