There was a story on the news this morning about residents of Aurora, Colorado, and their library access. Many Aurora libraries have been closed, so Aurora residents have been forced to go into neighboring county’s libraries to check out books. Because this has put so much strain on those libraries, they have been forced to limit the number of books residents of outside counties are able to check out, as well as prohibit them from being able to extend rentals, etc., thus further restricting Aurora resident’s access to library services.
While watching this, my mom said something that struck me as rather profound. “Well that’s what we want to do, right? Restrict learning.” It’s true. What has essentially happened here is that we have restricted The People’s access to information and learning. Specifically, it restricts poor people’s access to information, those of us who can’t afford to go buy a bunch of books are the ones who use the library the most. And in Aurora, not exactly the most prestigious county in Denver, there are sure to be an awful lot of people hurting for the library’s services.
What happens when we restrict people’s access to educational materials? We restrict their access to education. And education is power, particularly in a political system in which we vote. Uneducated people are easy to manipulate, lie to, and get to vote in ways that don’t serve their best interest. Anyone who wants a free country should be outraged at the prospect of any citizen’s right to educational materials being restricted. Furthermore, restricting access to educational materials means that gradually we’re dumbing down our society. We’re already way below most every other industrialized country in the world as far as education goes, do we really want to make that worse? We’re on the fast track to being literally the dumbest developed country, and very likely dumber than many developing countries. How well do you think that bodes for our place in the global community? Do you think the dumbest country in the world can also be the strongest? The richest? Think long and hard about that.
You can argue that there’s still the internet (of course, many people require library computers to access the internet), there’s still public schools (or what’s left of them, after their budgets are plundered), and these people can still check out three books at a time from libraries in neighboring counties, but the fact is that the people of Aurora have still lost a major source of education, and therefore a major source of power. We here in Jefferson County, populated mainly by the rich and the upper middle class, still have access to that source of power (although, to be fair, our libraries are facing budget cuts too, forcing them to close one day a week from here on out). This is just one more way to restrict power from some people while maintaining it for others. It is no coincidence that the poor and people of color are the ones more restricted.
Maybe the loss of libraries wouldn’t be such a big deal, if The People didn’t have so much going against them already. We as a society glorify being dumb. Being smart is considered wimpy, effeminate, elitist, while at the same time we recently spent 8 years under the rule of an “average joe” president, and his supporters were very proud of the fact that our president may not have been able to pronounce a three syllable word, but he sure would have been fun to drink a beer with (if he hadn’t had to give up drinking because he could not manage to do it responsibly). Potential candidates for the next national election include, I shit you not, people who regularly appear in reality TV shows. It’s not just our politicians that tend to run to the dumb end of the scale, either. Everywhere you look in the media there is either someone who is actually dumb being dumb, or someone acting dumb in the name of entertainment. Has anyone seen the movie Idiocracy? I swear to God, that movie is prophetic.
But what are we supposed to do, right? Libraries just aren’t in the budget. Taxes pay for libraries, and The People of Aurora obviously feel their $14 a year in property taxes would better serve them in their own pockets. They shouldn’t be able to vote to shut down half of their libraries, then go into other counties to use libraries that other people’s tax dollars paid for, I agree. But what happens to the people who’ve lost their libraries? I don’t think this was all some scheme for people to use libraries without paying for them. I think our national priorities have left the poor out in the cold. Again.
Meanwhile, we are in the process of extending tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires, which is expected to add billions to our deficit. So let me get this straight … libraries are frivolities that should be cut from budgets, but it’s okay to borrow 150 billion dollars from Saudi Arabia and China, give that money to people who are already BILLIONAIRES, in an attempt to improve the economy? Hey, if I thought it would actually improve the economy, I would be all for it, but the fact of the matter is that millionaires and billionaires have had these tax cuts for the past 9 years, and the economy is still shit. If giving rich people tax cuts really helped the economy, we would have never gone through a recession in the first place. Don’t they say that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting different results? What do you call giving rich people more and more tax cuts, and expecting each time that this time is going to be the time it actually works to improve the economy?
Rich people aren’t going to use that money to grow their businesses and hire people! They never have, and they never will! If they do grow their businesses, it’s going to be by exploiting poverty in a developing country, not by hiring people here!!! This is what rich people have always done, and it is what they will always do, and they don’t need any more tax breaks to help them do that!!!
As my mom left for work this morning, she said something else poignant that I thought deserved repeating, “When are people going to fight back?”
I suppose those of us who are angry now should take the first step.