“Das war Vorspiel nur. Dort, wo man Bücher verbrennt, verbrennt man am Ende auch Menschen.”
“That was a mere prelude: Where men burn books they’ll end up burning people, too.”
—Heinrich Heine, Almansor (1821)
When NY police cleared Zuccotti Park of demonstrators Nov. 15, they threw more than 5,000 books–cataloged here–into trash containers.
The books were part of the People’s Library, built on copies donated by supporters and by the Occupiers themselves. The library building (a big tent) came courtesy of erudite rock icon Patti Smith, and its collection included Mayor Bloomberg’s autobiography.
Though city officials initially denied destroying the books, the truth turned out otherwise.
The Occupy movement thrives on information. The countless participants at hundreds of sites nationwide have been motivated to come out by stunning–and easily documented–facts like these:
♦ In 1980, American CEOs made about 40 times more than average workers – now CEOs are paid almost 200 times more than regular employees.
♦ Over the past generation, the richest One Percent almost quadrupled their incomes yet during the past decade, earnings for middle-class Americans actually fell. In fact, working Americans’ wages are now a lower percentage of our economy than they’ve ever been.
♦ Student loan debt is on pace to reach a trillion dollars by year’s end. Remember that when you get a loan you are, in effect, buying money—and that particular type of money-selling has increased by more than five hundred percent in the last dozen years.
♦ The average wealth of the One Percent is 225 times bigger than the wealth of the typical household – the highest that number has ever been.
♦ The gap between the richest and the poorest is bigger in the US than it is in nearly all of Europe and Asia, and bigger than in many African nations. It’s about the same as it is in Rwanda – a fact that does not help our economy.
Rohrbach Library, with the blessing of Zuccotti Park librarians, has opened a local ‘branch’ of the OWS People’s Library in our lobby. It includes books, videos, and audio recordings that take a critical view of policies and practices that facilitate the abuses noted above. Thinkers such as Naomi Klein, Noam Chomsky, and Michael Parenti are represented from our own stacks, and the table is also building a collection of donated books. If you have something you think everyone ought to read, drop it off at the main Information Commons desk and say it’s for the People’s Library.
Our little branch also offers an array of information about OWS and about the nascent Occupy Kutztown movement.
Occupy Kutztown participants have brought to the attention of KU administrators the problem with Chik-Fil-A doing business on our campus while pouring millions of dollars into anti-gay causes; the OK group has also stood publicly against Wells Fargo’s rapacious ways and urged University administration to look for a new bank; in addition, it has brought to the table the prospect of KU Dining Services supporting the local community by buying some fresh food from Berks and Lehigh County farmers.