March 24, 2006

Freedom of Thought
The West takes free thought and free speech for granted. Each freedom has become so ingrained in our culture that we presume the rights to be inalienable. Yet much of the world disagrees. For example, a Muslim who converted to Christianity now faces the death penalty for such a choice in Afghanistan, a country for whom Western armies went to defend its liberty against the Taliban. (By the way, the West, particularly the United States, went a long way to buffering up the Taliban after the Soviet Union occupied Afghanistan under more or less the same arguments the West has used for its occupation.) The man’s name is Abdul Radman, as reported by the New York Times.

Several hundred miles to the north and east, the People’s Republic of China is detaining Chinese journalist Zhao Yan. ZhaoThe government has suspected him of passing “state secrets” to the New York Times. What state secret? The prediction that Jiang Zemin would retire as PRC president. Even though the case has been dropped, he remains detained.

Writers depend on freedom of thought. They understand its value better than most. Yet why no outcry about these two incidents? I have no answer.

Manly Discussion
Just as the Booker Prize announced a five-year agreement to stay with the financial organization Man Group, a former Booker Prize winner, DBC Pierre with Vernon God Little, is releasing his second book. And he’s hoping he too is not a one-hit wonder. (Read the BBC’s report.) He might have something to fear. GalleyCat reports that the book, Ludmilla’s Broken English, has received mixed reviews.

GC also notes that while Random House, publisher of the DaVinci Code,  reported a 13 percent increase in profits, the company’s parent—Bertelsmann—remains on “shaky ground.”

On April 6 at seven, the NY Writers Coalition will sponsor its Best New Poets of 2005 reading. The New York City poets—Gary Joseph Cohen, Chip Livingston, and Leslie Shipman, are featured in the inagugural edition of Best New Poets, edited by George Garrett and published by Meridian/University of Virginia. The reading will be at the McNally Robinson Bookstore at 50 Prince Street.

Poetry ‘Journal’
The Poetry Foundation has started a journal, a blog-like Web site where an invited poet muses about of all things poetry. The current featured poet is Jonathan Galassi.


2 Responses to “”

  1. A.R.Yngve Says:

    Living under a society with no freedom of thought can work, if this society never changes or is threatened by change.

    The citizens are more inclined to think alike, if their culture stays stable and insulated from outside impulses, upheavals in climate and economy etc.

    But was there ever such a place on Earth? Not for long, anyway.

    Television, Internet and mobile phones have destroyed even the possibility of isolation. What we see in Afghanistan is not a successful defense against reform, but a desperate attempt to stave off the inevitable.

    The news that the accused may get away by being declared “insane” is telling: the Soviet Union often declared its dissidents “mentally ill”.

    But even that verdict is really a concession to freedom of thought: THE FREEDOM TO BE INSANE without penalty of death.

    Only the mad are truly free. 😉

  2. will Says:

    Very needed information found here, thank you for your work

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