By Aloysius Chia
There is something disconcerting about the manner in which the National Library Board has decided that the way to deal with the issue of books with “undesirable” themes was to censor them.
The books, entitled “And Tango Makes Three” and “White Swan Express”, are purported to have themes and pictures which depict ‘same-sex’ relationships.
Not only was the removal of these books arbitrary and premature, they smack of an overhanded-ness which in itself implies a hypocritical attitude.
It was arbitrary because the censorship singles out a particular group and denies the fact that homosexual relationships are just as capable of affection and fidelity as heterogeneous ones.
It was premature because by censoring these books the government is sending an implicit message that children should be shielded from the realities of life.
Yes, children are vulnerable and impressionable, and they are easily influenced by the material they are exposed to in childhood.
But by this reasoning, children should also be stopped from watching films like the “Transformers” series due to the violence they portray and the “Harry Potter” series due to the dark portrayal of death and black magic.
Why should the portrayal of love and affection be worse than mindless violence? The prejudice is apparent.
The visual images of films and their easily accessible format gives reason all the more for the censorship authorities to prevent children from seeing many films which they are currently allowed to, should it find these two books offensive.
Yet, all of these do not ignore the thoroughly hypocritical policies which would leave more than a few wondering if it could be a systematic attempt by the authorities to marginalise individuals of different sexual orientations.
Take the problem of gambling. After the first half of the World Cup semi-final match there was an advertisement showing some children talking and how one boy was a victim of gambling by his father.
But the ad does not say anything about how his father could be gambling at the multitude of gambling outlets selling tickets to lotteries managed by the government, or the fact that the government was the one that allowed “integrated resorts” and their casinos to establish a presence here.
Quite clearly there is no moral high ground to speak of here.
Hence, it is not due to some “thou shall not” moral compass or orientation that has anything to do with morality, when NLB decided to ban these two books. If that were the case, the government would have been consistent throughout.
On the contrary, it suggests an utter lack of credibility, since it cannot see impartially that a mark of good public service is to treat people fairly.
In any case, this censorship has nothing to do with a desire to cultivate children and allow them to grow emotively and sensitively as moral beings, but an attempt to appease inner bigotry that only satisfies the self-centred interests of those who wrote in to request for the censorship.