‘Flame purification’? I fear the burning of books in Canada is the first step towards something sinister and evil
is an author and social commentator. He is an emeritus professor of sociology at the University of Kent in Canterbury. Author of How Fear Works: The Culture of Fear in the 21st Century. Follow him on Twitter @Furedibyte
Books featuring so-called ‘outdated content’ are being burned as a goodwill gesture to Indigenous people in Ontario. This fills me with dread, as history has shown us that the torching of ideas usually has disastrous consequences.
First, a confession. I get really emotional and upset when I encounter ritual book-burning. So when I read that in Canada, more than 4,700 books have been removed from the library shelves of schools and burned, I cannot help but feel depressed.
The book burning ceremony organised by an Ontario francophone school board was promoted as a “gesture of reconciliation” to Indigenous peoples. This barbaric act against enlightened cultural norms was labelled as a “flame purification ceremony.”
In line with the current fashion for recycling, Lyne Cossette, a spokeswoman for the school board, indicated that “symbolically, some books were used as fertiliser.”
She stated that the ritual, titled ‘Redonnons à la terre’ – ‘give back to the earth’ – sought “to make a gesture of openness and reconciliation by replacing books in our libraries that had outdated content and carried negative stereotypes about First Nations, Métis and Inuit people.”
The justification for the burning of books is that they contained “outdated content.” ‘Outdated’ is a favourite term of abuse hurled at opponents by zealous culture war activists. In their eyes, any publications – particularly history books – that promote the classical outlook of Western civilisation are ‘outdated’ and therefore convey views that constitute a form of secular blasphemy.
Now that the outdated books have turned to ash, the libraries can boast that the books on their shelves have “positive and inclusive messages about the diverse communities within our schools.”
Categorised in: Canadian News