Censorship doesn’t help

I REMEMBER having my mother once buying me books to cultivate my reading habit when I was a child. It started off with Enid Blyton, Edgar Allen Poe, Arthur Conan Doyle. This was the 1990s, when such hardcover books were priced at a mere RM9.90.

Looking at book prices now – God, I feel old.

But one book I read during this period was apparently a controversial one for a standard three pupil. It was Enid Blyton's The Land of Far Beyond, which told of a bunch of children and adults suddenly having their burden of sin appearing on their backs, and having to find Jesus to remove it.

Now, I am sure we can all admit that standard three is a young age to suddenly be exposed to the concept of Christ being the son of God and the bearer of the entire world's sins through a fictitious book. But then again, Christianity was also the basis for the entire Narnia series as well.

Not that everyone gets it, or bothers reading books. I'd wager most people just fawn over the movie renditions of Prince Caspian and stop there.

Did any of these confuse me, convert me, perhaps nudge me into a church to attend a service? Nope.

Because books are only as influential as long as people who read them don't ask questions, or can't tell the difference between fiction and reality.

Thus, why should the government fear access to books and any media items that it deems unworthy?

If people are easily confused, is it not the role of the public, the government and academicians to publish their books to counter it, rather than stop people from reading a separate point of view? In other words, shouldn't more books be the answer to create a learned society, rather than a ban?

At the same time, I am curious about the speed at which censors read books. In 2014, an Ultraman comic book translated to Bahasa Malaysia was banned immediately upon publishing.

And yet, with the recent announcement of Farish A Noor's book published in 2008, it seems that censors struggled to finish his book by taking nearly a decade to ban it.

I'm guessing non-fiction reading, especially academic content, can be a struggle for some. Seems to be the same thought with the banning of the book on moderation by the G25 group of eminent citizens.

But it does raise this question as well – why don't those who believe these books are against established thought, just publish a book decrying the misinformation and setting people to read their own written book?

Surely in this day and age of writers galore, every government official and right-wing group should be able to find ghost writers to do their work for them for a price?

It would be hard to imagine that we are reaching a point where there is not enough to pay people to write what they don't believe for a five-figure value.

Censorship of books and movies is an extension of laziness from the highest levels down to the basic family structure. It is the government taking over the role of parents to somehow limit access to adult content – even when parents themselves are adults. But then again, we have adults who believe in beheadings as a suitable punishment for loudmouth lawyers. We have adults who believe fondling a cutout is acceptable. We have adults who cannot see beyond the need for a headscarf and dress codes when congratulating someone winning a scholarship or a gymnastic gold medal.

So when someone censors a media item saying that such things do not portray the Malaysian people, I beg to differ. We do have such Malaysians, which is shameful but should be embraced as what I would call "having a brain fart" moment. Happens to all of us, and we should embrace it.

But all in all, we need to be open about ourselves as Malaysians – not all of us are living a perfect Malaysian life. We are diverse in so many ways and dysfunctional in so many ways as individuals. We have those living in poverty, adultery, entire secret families, child abuse, husband and wife abuse.

Let's open up the conversations, open up the talks, write the books, watch the movies, and not censor anyone's point of view.

If not, well, there will always be Piratebay.

Hafidz Baharom is a public relations practitioner. Comments: letters@thesundaily.com