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Books vs Guns

Last week I wrote about why I think owning books is subversive and those of us that can afford to own books should own as many as possible. Then in the comments Dan pointed out that if you changed the word “book” to “AK-47” (or any gun) the article becomes a gun nuts argument for why we should own as many guns as possible. Then he asked a good question, how do we cheer one argument and argue for control on the other?

I see Dan’s point, though I don’t like it. At this moment I still stick by my response, guns are around to deliver metal at speed. Some of these uses I don’t have issues with, like hunting for food, but it seems to me that most uses of guns are likely not for food purposes. They’re used to enforce the will of the person holding the gun on someone else via a threat of violence.

I can’t see a world where me holding a book and threatening someone with it’s use puts them in danger of death. At least not from the physical impact of the book on their person[1].

Books are a place to retreat to and engage with people that are unlike yourself as you inhabit the worlds brought to life.

I’d appreciate any other thoughts, either by replying if you get this by email or making a comment below.

Control of Books vs Screens

Then I also came across a post about Fahrenheit 451 and the control of books. In Fahrenheit 451[2] books are controlled, but screens are everywhere and you’re encouraged to have “relationships” with others via those screens.

Reading through Danah’s post I can’t help but see the parallels to life today. Screens are pushed by companies all the time. Even the latest feature of iOS 17 called standby mode, feels mostly like a way to make sure your phone is in view all the time being “helpful”, until at some point in the future Apple will find a way to push notifications that are helpful to it’s economic goals even if they are at the expense of your goals.

Physical books are just books. They can’t be modified later like Darth Vader modifies deals after purchase has been made. Kindle books can be modified later, or removed from your device.

For those that can’t afford more books, we need to support libraries and their freedom. Even if we don’t use libraries because we can afford to purchase books, we should be donating and supporting them so that everyone no matter their economic circumstance has access to knowledge.

Your Notes are a Huge Index

I first found out who Mortimer J. Adler was by reading How to Read a Book, which I think should be on the lists of everyone that wants to learn to take better notes and understand more. Then this week Chris Aldrich wrote a post highlighting Adler’s collaborative synopticon.

One of my goals with my note process is to create a huge index of all the content I’ve consumed so that I can go back at some point in the future and delve into topics. I’m currently reading Cory Doctorow’s How to Destroy Surveillance Capitalism where I tag lots of things like Page 70 mentions the Ring Doorbell and Ronald Reagan is mentioned on Page 60. Doctorow talks about pogrom on Page 24.

By indexing books in this way, I can go back in the future and how many authors referred to a term. This allows me to do my [[syntopical reading]] (see Adler’s book above) by finding my tagnote on a topic and then dig through all the instances I’ve come across referring to it.

Also, if you haven’t read How to Read a book check out the Making History book club on it.

Something Interesting

I to lament the death of physical libraries. I know it’s expensive to own books as I suggested last week, so the loss of libraries and the books contained in them means that you have to be [3] because you need the disposable funds to purchase books, and the funds to have a space big enough to hold books. In the capitalist market covering most of the world, workers are having a harder time affording both.” class=”js–wpm-format-cite”>rich[3] to be able to hold on to knowledge.

Okay I like free shipping, but I don’t like Amazon. Maybe they’re going to get broken up?

Yup I use affiliate links sometimes to support the newsletter. If it’s on Amazon, it’s an affiliate link for sure.

  • [1] Don’t want to hear any zebratic arguments about a big book, or that a book has sharp edges. You’re purposely finding the best way to misunderstand my point.
  • [2] I have heard of this book before but never read it. I now have a copy waiting for me at my local bookstore to grab later today.
  • [3] I say rich because you need the disposable funds to purchase books, and the funds to have a space big enough to hold books. In the capitalist market covering most of the world, workers are having a harder time affording both.

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4 responses to “PKM Weekly Oct 1 2023 – Issue 090”

  1. Dan Barnett Avatar
    Dan Barnett

    Hi, Curtis,
    I appreciate your comments distinguishing what a book is capable of doing vs. what a gun does (“deliver metal at speed”).
    But I’d imagine those reading the Second Amendment in absolutist terms focus not on this difference but on “government overreach”: Physical books, and people themselves, need to be hidden from the government to protect their lives, both literally (people) and metaphorically (books), and guns need to be hidden or stockpiled for the same reason–to protect the owner from what is perceived as (evil) government overreach.
    Guns are of course more deadly than books, but maybe that’s too easy to say. Certain books (those dedicated to promoting this or that conspiracy theory) may well convince people that the government is coming for them, because of their beliefs (from books), and that an AK-47 is the only way to push back.
    Perhaps the argument can be reframed around the importance of books and their ideas as central to human flourishing and the very notion of civilization, so that since physical books have a longevity that digital iterations do not, having a physical library (and/or supporting the local library) is core to the human enterprise. Maybe we don’t need to talk about “government overreach” but of what is required for human flourishing. Does this reframing extricate us from our dilemma?

    1. Curtis McHale Avatar
      Curtis McHale

      I like the argument. I admit I also struggle to have a good understanding of the Second Amendment argument at all. I don’t live in the US and the whole “We need to own guns” thing is entirely baffling to me. I may not be the best person to argue this, though I’m sure someone out there has a coherent argument to make a difference between books/guns.

      I also freely admit that ideas can be dangerous, take eugenics. It would seem that to really make the idea most dangerous though it would also take guns (or weapons) to enforce the ideas on a population. In that case, which is more dangerous? The idea that lead to the violence or the weapon used to make the idea a reality?

  2. June Avatar

    No one needs more than one gun. Being enabled to read multiple books seems to me to be an obvious good.

    1. Curtis McHale Avatar
      Curtis McHale

      I agree with you, but Dan’s point still stands. This is not an obvious good to many people. Many people feel threatened by books they don’t agree with. They are seemingly incapable of understanding ideas that are contrary to their beliefs. They fall into the trap of thinking that anything they deem as bad, is thus bad for everyone.

      I don’t think Dan is trying to say otherwise, he’s trying to construct an argument to show how the two are not the same idea.