I have avoided admitting to myself that Readers were growing scarce. I cannot overlook the awareness any longer.
My most recent work has awakened me to the public’s ambivalence about reading. I am thrilled that people are buying my latest book, but when I ask many of my contacts for feedback, very few have read the book in its entirety, and most have read only twenty or thirty pages after having the book for several weeks. Most people have studied the photographs, and have read selected sections, but only a few have read it cover to cover conventionally. A cynic might say it’s the book not the people, but everyone says they love it, and that it’s a major work, and congratulate me for writing THE KING OF CANE GARDEN, an autobiography.
A Democracy demands an informed public. To be informed one must read. One needs to read all forms of writing, from books to editorials, to sermons, to magazines, plays, sports pages, to political commentaries and opinion pieces. In short, one needs to read, and read widely. It is simply not good enough to listen to our favorite commentator confirm our selected Party view. The public is constantly polled for its opinion on weighty matters, but how can we state a considered opinion, if we do not have the capacity to analyze information? And if we have not garnered different points of view through the habit of reading original material, how can we really have a point of view? Won’t we be falling victim to the propaganda of our captive ideas?
“Propaganda” you say! “Isn’t that something totalitarian societies use?” The answer is yes. We expect it from them, but society does not function in a vacuum. Behavior is copied and perfected. A democracy must be saved from the invidious. The people must protect their democracy by being informed. Reading is the sine qua non of that protection.