I remember the first day I was old enough to be brought to the public library. I was luckier than most of the other kids in my neighbourhood in that I had parents that encouraged reading, but it wasn’t until I entered that dusty bastion of oak-wood and furniture polish that I really discovered just how wonderful books were.
It was in the local library where I discovered Enid Blyton, Asterix, the Moomins, Huckleberry Finn, and the Hobbit to the sound of a ticking grandfather clock and whispers of fellow readers. That hardened paper ticket was the gateway to a lifetime of learning, of enjoyment, and countless worlds.
During Ireland’s last recession in the 80s the building, which had been a public library since 1884, needed some work to be made safe and so was condemned as libraries in poor areas were considered luxuries. So we moved further afield and I found the many worlds of Clarke and Asimov, the joys of Adams, and had my noodle cooked by Ellison and Bradbury.
It was in a library that I met Roald Dahl. It was a library that started me programming. Libraries got me through school and into technical college and if it wasn’t for the groundwork laid there I’d never have made it through the Open University.
As Pullman points out, the fallacy of the market economy is going to drive out anything of worth in our society and it’ll be the less well off that will suffer. It is nothing more than greed and selfishness couched in the language of ideology and stewardship. A reduction to the lowest common denominator for those who can’t afford it, while the selfish classes get to keep more opportunities for themselves.
The Health and Safety Executive declined to comment on the issue, stating that it was a problem for the Swedish Embassy. The public is strongly advised to avoid the Oxford Circus area until the matter has been cleared up.
I would encourage everyone to check out The War Game, a BBC fictional documentary by Peter Watkins which was never shown due to governmental pressure. Appearing to be the first of what is now a genre of “aftermath” movies from Briggs’s sublime When the Wind Blows to ABC’s The Day After Guttenberg-fest, it’s in equal measures frightening, harrowing, and an ultra-realistic depiction of what might have been.
I grew up in the 80’s of Reagan, Thatcher, and Haughey and remember the all pervasive fear of nuclear war. Survivalist books were on the best seller lists. Chernobyl gave us in Europe an idea of the widespread damage a nuclear detonation could do. Even Tomorrow’s World got in on the act with a special programme simulating a Soviet Nuclear attack being repelled by Reagan’s fantastical SDI programme (if anyone can find something on this please let me know).
Of course, since I was only nine years’ of age, I truly believed there was a nuclear attack. Thankfully Mr. Tulié put me right the next day in school.
UPDATE: Ferg pointed out Threads, an eighties documentary which is just as harrowing.