The destruction of books—whether as acts of political censorship, rage, or symbolism—has been a recurring component of social movements in the West for centuries, from the early Christians to the Catholic Counter-Reformers to the Nazis. One could say that book burning has been the Western equivalent of the voodoo doll, a way to annihilating one’s enemy—or rather his ideas—if only vicariously.
Interestingly, during this summer’s rioting, looting, and burning across London and its outskirts—an episode that bore all the hallmarks of a mass uprising against “The Man”—the “urban youths” involved avoided bookstores as if they were infested with plague.
Let’s allow a little sunshine to enter into the STIHIE world in which we live—Our cities may burn, but Western high culture shall not be harmed!
London Evening StandardBy David Cohen21 September 2011
On the worst night of London rioting almost every shop in Clapham Junction was ransacked – except one. The bookshop.
In one of the most telling images of the summer, looters stole TVs, hair products and iPods, but the Waterstone’s branch was left untouched.
The “joke” the next day was that the rioters do not know how to read. Simon, the manager of camping shop Blacks, watched it all from an upstairs window, hiding in terror as hundreds of looters plundered his shop and the street.
“They smashed our window, ripped the plasma TVs off our walls, took all our jackets and rucksacks. I saw them go into Claire’s Accessories, break into NatWest, liberate our neighbours Toni & Guy of hair products. They carted off iPods from Currys, clothes from Debenhams, mobile phones from Carphone Warehouse. I was horrified.
“But Waterstone’s, directly opposite us was untouched. For the looters it was as if it did not exist.”
When Waterstone’s deputy manager Alicia Baiger arrived next day to a street littered with broken glass and debris, she was amazed to find that her shop – with its £199 Sony eReaders and three-for-two £10 paperbacks – had suffered “not even a scratch”.
What this free-for-all revealed better than any consumer behaviour poll could, is that many young people have no desire for books. Not even when they are apparently free.
Something must be done to address illiteracy in London, and the Evening Standard is trying to play a small part in the solution. In a packed, buzzing conference room in Islington library, our first volunteers are being trained as reading helpers.
From undergraduates to retired bankers, they will shortly be placed in schools to support children who have fallen behind in their reading. They came because they were inspired by the Evening Standard’s Get London Reading campaign which seeks to fund an army of helpers trained by our partner charity, Volunteer Reading Help.
All summer, VRH has been processing applicants. Of the 700 people who applied, 350 have been interviewed, 330 have been dispatched for Criminal Records Bureau approval, and 68 have already been trained and placed in schools.
“The quality of applicants has been extremely high and now it’s all systems go,” said VRH chief executive Sue Porto.
“A further 200 Evening Standard volunteers will be trained this month and next at 20 special sessions across London, from Hackney to Hounslow.
“We expect to have 170 volunteers in schools by the October half-term, which means a critical helping hand for more than 500 children. VRH aims to phase in the rest of the volunteers to help at least another 500 children as the school year unfolds.”
Violent Black youths spare a few neighbourhood bookshops—out of illiteracy or anti-literacy—and our White liberal columnist’s solution is to teach them how to read…