Many years ago I asked my good friend, an endocrinologist, if he ever thinks about the people he treats, whether they are good or bad people and whether he’d refuse medical treatment to anyone. He told me that he can’t allow his personal feelings to interfere with his professionalism. He’s a doctor and he treats people in need, sometimes saving their lives. But I wonder, in promoting books and encouraging everyone to write books and to read the books of others, if I have an obligation to promote the books of people I think morally bereft or to encourage others to read bad books, even if penned by good people.
My general belief is that books themselves are good – ethically so – and that most writers are well-intentioned. Those who want to do illegal or unethical things don’t tend to write books but rather they just go out and act on their impulses, desires, or needs. But there are many books that contradict or undermine humanity’s long-term goals.
On the extreme side, you have Mein Kumpf by Adolph Hitler and books that espouse potentially harmful financial and political systems, such as a Karl Marx’s Communist Manifesto. You have people penning books of hatred – racism, sexism, homophobia – and books that support issues you may not agree with, on hot-button topics such as gun-control, abortion and population control, the environment, animal rights, religion, and dozens of others. Should these books be shunned by booksellers, the media, libraries, universities, or consumers?
To be an educated person, one must consume a lot of information, analyze it properly, and expose one’s self to all ideas, even if offensive or hateful ones. Why? Because once exposed, he or she is armed with ammunition, shooting down disturbing premises with facts, sound judgement, compassion, and moral reasoning. But to simply ignore and dismiss others without reading firsthand of their ideas, experiences, and views, is to leave you in the dark, a dismissive elitist without the ability to learn from others.
The more repulsed you are of certain people or ideas, the more exposure you need to them. Somehow you must come to understand them well enough to use their own logic against them. But from all of that exposure to what you feel is reprehensible you must also discover what you can negotiate on. If you can’t simply avoid those you oppose, you have to find common ground to work with them, to at the very least, find a way to live with mutual respect and division. Otherwise all that we are left is with two sides who hate each other and fail to see the good in one another. We owe it to all to read the books on subjects we know little about, of authors we disagree with and find interminable. Who knows, maybe as we seek proof of their wrongful thinking we may even come to adopt some of those ways, recognizing that they may not be 100% bad, wrong or mean.
On the topic of bad books – ones that are boring, not well written, poorly edited, or just plain stupid, do we have an obligation to expose ourselves to them? Yes, of course.
Because some books may have weaknesses, significant ones, but they also could offer some real moments of pleasure, truth, and justice. Besides, in order to appreciate the good or great we have to read a dud every so often.
Maybe the books that annoy or even frustrate and offend us need to grow on us. Maybe we need to consume more – not less of it – in order to find its redeeming qualities.
There are movies that I felt like walking out of and then, after sticking it out, I felt satisfied, sometimes leaving me days later to still think about them. There are take-aways from all books, even bad ones, that may justify reading them.
Of course, realistically, our time is precious and our minds valuable, so we won’t want to overly expose ourselves to polluted books sharing bastardized views from repulsive individuals. But we must try, on some occasions, to expose ourselves to the virus of unintellectualism in order to strengthen our own immunity.
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Brian Feinblum’s insightful views, provocative opinions, and interesting ideas expressed in this terrific blog are his alone and not that of his employer or anyone else. You can – and should -- follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at email@example.com. He feels much more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog © 2018. Born and raised in Brooklyn, he now resides in Westchester. His writings are often featured in The Writer and IBPA’s Independent. This was named one of the best book marketing blogs by Book Baby http://blog.bookbaby.com/2013/09/the-best-book-marketing-blogs and recognized by Feedspot in 2018 as one of the top book marketing blogs. Also named by WinningWriters.com as a "best resource."
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