Literature, the Arab spring for eccentric “ethno-nationalists”?

It is Friday afternoon, Jumu’ah prayers have begun, and the muezzin’s prayer time calls have come to an end. My Muslim brothers recite “Allah Hu Akbar” – (God is great), little did they know that all don’t consider them, their brothers and sisters.

An MSSA rifle then tears down their skin at a rate of approximately 100+ rounds a minute and all that remains of the prayer is a ghostly silence.

Was this an extreme act of callousness? What was the sadist shooter inspired by?

The “Great Replacement” as he calls it, a seventy-three-page manifesto referring to a right-wing conspiracy theory. Since time immemorial, we have always looked up to literature as the few means of diverting our thoughts into something original, conspicuous and personal to us. Little did we know that works of legendary poets like Dylan Thomas, Rudyard Kipling, and William Ernest Henley could be used as part of a manifesto to promote bigotry. The very lines of Kipling’s poem “The Beginnings” where misused in order to promote Neo-Nazi sentiments.  The lines of the poem “Where the English began to hate”, refers to anti –German sentiment in Britain during World War 1, which have been misused to promote and glorify Nazism.

It’s quite surprising to see that literature is able to ignite such deep thoughts amongst all of us, and allows our imagination to flow in all possible crevices whether those lead to light or infinite darkness. We can never afford to forget how literature has helped shape our thought process. People often quote, “what we eat is what we become”, on similar lines “what we read is what we become”. When I was eight, I had an affinity towards R.L. Stine’s “Goosebumps” which would infuse fear in me overnight as I would have eerie dreams. According to the ongoing research at Haskins Laboratories for the Science of the Spoken and Written Word, reading, unlike watching or listening to media, gives the brain more time to stop, think, process, and imagine the narrative in form of us.

This implies, that reading literature is a much more powerful form of assimilating information as compared to viewing or any other form of information input, the reason being that reading actually gives the brain an opportunity to imagine the narrative in form of us. How many times have we imagined ourselves as part of the elite CIA’s national clandestine services after reading novels by David Baldacci? or for that matter being able to taste all those chocolates while reading Roald Dahl’s “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”? I think we all know what the answer to these questions is.

On the contrary, in order for the beauty of literature, not to be misused by sadists and fascist’s alike, I would recommend readers to follow the epigraph as below:

Read literature not to contradict and confute, nor to believe and take for granted; nor to find talk and discourse, but to weigh and consider. Some literature is to be tasted, the rest to be swallowed, and some to be chewed and digested; that is, some literature is to be read only in parts; others to be read, but not curiously; and some to be read wholly and with diligence and attention

Keeping this in mind, I truly pray for the victims and their families of the unfortunate attack in Christchurch and hope that not a single soul, in future, misuses the timeless beauty of literature to spread terror and bigotry.

Picture by Annie Spratt

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