When Zadie Smith defends public libraries, you know that it’s not because it is fashionable to do so: it’s because, in her estimation, she owes her life to them.
Really? According to popular music, it’s possible for a DJ to save your life, but a library?
“When we were children, you’d never imagine that you’d get into a right/left argument about the purpose and use of a library. It seems extraordinary to me,” she said on the BBC.
“I really don’t find it a political argument,” she added. ‘”It’s about equality of opportunity.”
I thought the left believed in equality of outcome now?
Not everyone who uses public libraries goes on to become an award-winning novelist, but that’s not the point. Every day that a library is open there is also opened a window of opportunity for someone’s life to be changed.
A visit to the library sure changed Damilola Taylor’s, though not for the better…
Smith’s childhood aim, she has said more than once, was “to become middle class”, a state she equated with being free to do what she wanted, namely to live an easier life than the one she and her family knew.
Funny. Seems to me, these days, it’s increasingly the underclass who lead such lives, while the middle class toil away to pay for them to do so.
In 2010 David Cameron launched his “big society” idea with a speech that suggested that, like Marx, he really believed the state was on the verge of withering away. It was nothing he or his Thatcherite antecedents did – people really did have everything they needed to run things for themselves.
“It’s about people setting up great new schools,” he exclaimed of his grand project. “Businesses helping people getting trained for work. Charities working to rehabilitate offenders. It’s about liberation – the biggest, most dramatic redistribution of power from elites in Whitehall to the man and woman on the street.”
And yet, strangely, for all his rhetoric and the left’s anguished screams and rending of garments, the ‘bonfire of the quangos’ has failed to materialise, government spending on vanity projects and pointless world grandstanding still carries on regardless…
As Zadie Smith observed in another recent interview: “Belief in the state – and in the very idea of communal responsibilities – has evaporated.”
Except it hasn’t.
People clamour for the state to do more and more and more every day, and not to ‘liberate us’ (unless it’s from the awful nightmare of having to take personal responsibility, that is..) but to make our decisions for us, for we are too stupid to take any responsibility ourselves.
It’s going to take far more than a few libraries to cure that.