Fearing words

Words matter.

They matter to writers so much they spent lifetimes crafting them, breathing life into them, showing them to the world and often defending them from that same world. Until the last word standing. No other art form raises emotions as powerful as the written form does. Books have been banned, burned, and otherwise destroyed, and writers persecuted, exiled, even sentenced to death, since the primordial times.

(photo credit: Wikipedia)

Ancient Greeks and Romans believed that the ideal governance is only achievable by shaping people’s character. The censorship was not only regarded as necessary, but an honourable task. Anaxagoras, a pre-Socratic Greek philosopher was forced to leave Athens, and his writings burned as ‘derogatory to gods.’ Socrates was sentenced to drink poison in 399 BC for his ‘corruption of youth.’

Since then, there has been no shortage of those pronouncing all kinds of written work unsuitable, or dangerous for all kind of reasons; from political and religious leaders to bureaucrats, school headmasters, classroom teachers, or simply those in charge of your local library.

This passion for banning a written word from seeing the light of a day was practiced throughout the history, in all cultures and societies. The only variance is in the degree of persecution; the more totalitarian the regime is, or the more exclusive the society is, the more severe persecution and consequence will be. Think of Inquisition, or Stalin’s Gulags, or Mao’s Cultural Revolution, or Hitler’s Book Burning, or Khomeini’s Fatwa, and many others.

Those who believe themselves called upon to lead tribes share the same burning desire to prevent those tribes from seeing, reading, and learning from materials they deem unsuitable, dangerous or unworthy. In other words; in any way different or challenging to those believes, and value systems they approve of.

Whether one presides over the local school, or leads millions of faithful followers, the task remains the same; moulding and guardianship of collective consciousness.  And while ideals, ideologies, morals and doctrines have changed over the centuries, the urge to shape, control and direct human mind has not. Because unsurpassed power lies within that mind.

While tempting to dismiss those who ban any different or opposing thought, as simply small-minded, power-hungry despots, it might be wise to consider some facts.

Science shows that human species are programmed to exist in tribes and follow all-powerful, all-knowing leader, whose love and wisdom keeps them and their families safe.  And while those tribes have evolved into communities and complex societies we now inhabit, the same primal need for safety remains engraved in our DNA. Because safety is critical for survival of species.

By their very nature tribes function cohesively, they are united around the same leader, and same set of values and believes. Those who are perceived to pose a challenge, or in any way threaten the establish order by voicing different views and believes are expelled.

Because if their views and teachings spread and take root, the supremacy of the accepted truths and existing leader may be questioned. No supreme leader can afford to tolerate that. And so those expelled become outcasts, dissidents, émigrés, and sometimes form rival tribes of their own, based on the set of, although different to the original, but equally unquestionable doctrines. When that occurs; one set of burning books is simply replaced with the different one. Stalinists burned religious scripts as ‘the opiate for the masses’; only to ban ‘One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich and exile its author, together with many others.

Ascent of internet gives us impression that it is no longer possible to prevent, at least those with the access to it, from seeing and reading whatever they wish. Not so fast. It is no secret that internet is control by handful of global players and some governments doing their best in filtering what is and what is not suitable for populous in their countries. Number of books are banned, or at least objected to every year. Most recently, calles were made to ban ‘Fifty Shades’ from some libraries.

Therefore, despite the internet, those believing themselves tasked with ensuring that our minds remain unpolluted by whatever material they deem toxic, have neither vanished, nor significantly diminished.

Whenever and for whatever announced reasons books, or any written material, is banned, burned or prevented to reach readers, the same, most primal of human emotions is in play; fear of unknown. Fear of what is different, not familiar, not known, and what it might do to the minds of those, ‘guardians of minds’ deem; too young, too fragile, or simply too impressionable to access.

When written word is banned, or in any way prevented from reaching readers, those doing banning not only place themselves on the throne of knowing what is best for thee, but also deem the thee incapable of deciding for themselves whether they like it or not.

There is however something ‘guardians of minds’ almost always overlook. The power of another typically human trait; curiosity. Because curiosity will induce humans to go to any length to access what is prohibited. And because of that, the opposite effect of that intended occurs; what is banned or pronounced controversial becomes highly valuable and sought after. Nothing works better for popularity than the label of ban or controversy. Consequently, on the long run, it is both short-sighted and counter-productive to ban written word.

If you are writer, could you imagine writing something so potent, so significant, to cause such stir? As for me; if I can only produce such work I will gladly take any consequences ‘guardians of minds’ can possibly devise.





Author: Daniela

Reader, Writer, Mother, Freethinker, Habitual Day Dreamer, Blogger - Sharing Ideas, Poetry, Prose, and Conversations on the Lantern Post!

27 thoughts on “Fearing words”

  1. I would consider it a great honor to stir thousands of people! The power of words is indeed potent. We always have a choice what to set before our eyes – I would hate to shut down freedom of speech…


    1. Hi Melody,

      Thank you very much for visiting and commenting! I am really glad to hear you would consider it an honour to write words that would cause a stir as so would I.

      Best Wishes from


    2. Censorship is needed when children are involved. My daughter read a book for a book report in high school (it was on the national highschool reading list, we fond out later). She brought it to her father and I to read a section she was on. We were floored and went to the teacher. He had not personally read the book so he was taken by surprise when we handed it to him to read. He began to squirm and get very uncomfortable and began apologizing. From there we were sent to the principle who also had not personally read this book and he ended up apologizing too. The book eventually ended up flagged but not taken off the list.
      Here’s the point, my daughter should not have been subjected to a graphic description of the rape of a daughter by her father! She was not even sexually active yet! So, while I agree that there shouldn’t be censorship for adults, there is a fine line of what is appropriate for kids. As my husband said, our daughter would not have been allowed to watch that seen but it was ok to read it!?


      1. Dear Melody,

        Thank you very, very much for your comment. I am glad you brought the issue of age into discussion. First, I found it disturbing that a book listed on the school’s reading list has not been read by those who are tasked with teaching the material. That in itself is non-excusable. Secondly, in the same way parents decide on type of schools their children will go, what movies are allowed to watch, places to go, and countless other decisions parents make for their children before they reach the age of independent decisions makings. Every parent is different; they are those who are rightfully disturbed with books vividly describing incest, and they are those who believe that such books are necessary to fully understand horrors of such events. My point is that both set of parents must be allowed to their views and respected for them. Accordingly, I would suggest that flagging the book is appropriate. In that way parents are put on notice and thus able to decide whether or not they will permit their children to read it. Movies are rated for the same reasons; as a parent you decide whether or not take your child to watch the movie rated to contain explicit material.

        Thank you once again. I enjoyed reading and responding to your comment,
        Kind Regards,


  2. great post,very interesting.it’s very true about the groups of humans and leaders,because say if a group of people are in any situation where they remain a cohesive group a natural leader will sort of come to be in control of them and the others will look to him or her for guidance. it amazes me how writer types feel so passionate about words,but then that is your calling in life. i couldn’t and don’t want to imagine a world with out writers and books even if they are “e books”…it also amazes me how you all can stir souls through words and make people able to “see” things and places in our minds that we have never and may never see in person. that’s why i love to read so much.. i can go into a whole different world,courtesy of you writers.


    1. Hi Morrighan,

      Thank you so much for this wonderful comment! There is nothing more encouraging to a writer than to hear that a reader can see the world, or idea, or image, through their eyes!

      Many thanks and
      All The Best,


    1. Hi Janet,

      Thank you so much for commenting and for the resource, I am truly grateful as I am always on the lookout for such resources. I did not know about Qin Shi Huang, but now I do thanks to you!

      Many thanks,


      1. The emperor is normally referred to 秦始皇帝(Qin Shi huangdi) as well. It means literally, Qin (the name of the dynasty); shi (beginning); huangdi (or huang, emperor). He built the Great Wall of course.


  3. Daniela; Thank you for another well written post (I had to say it even though suletta had already used the same words). The way you said it made me think of Darwin’s “On the Origin of the Species.” What he was able to convey about the evolution of corpulant bodies you have clearly conveyed the evolution of the written word; and all in one post! Thanks again for sharing your insights with us. Wally


  4. Lovely lovely! I would take the same course with you and try as much to get people to get people to read and think for themselves.
    on a different issue I started reading Lolita, how interesting 🙂 am loving it


  5. Great post – I love these sentences “The power of another typically human trait; curiosity. Because curiosity will induce humans to go to any length to access what is prohibited. And because of that, the opposite effect of that intended occurs; what is banned or pronounced controversial becomes highly valuable and sought after. Nothing works better for popularity than the label of ban or controversy.” It’s so true – there’s also the nature of rebellion. Just yesterday we went apple picking. Before we were allowed to pick we were gathered around and given some rules….just the fact that she called them rules made us want to break them. Same with bans – just calling a ban makes me want it! Thanks for the insight and well written words!


    1. My dear Marilyn,

      Thank you so much for reading and commenting! I am truly glad we found each other in this wastes of blogosphere -:) And I just love the ‘apple rebellion’ … it is so true; bans, rules and alike always motivate humans to do try and brake them or somehow circumvent them (just think of kids and especially teens). It is our nature!

      Take Care,


  6. I love words that set us free and your post reminded me of this poem;

    “words and words speaking mind, eyes deaf, ears blind”

    I think that words are feared when they break the veil of habituated ignorance and remind us of our forgotten potential.

    Kind Regards,


    1. Hi David,

      Thank you very much for you beautifully thoughtful comment. What you said touched me because I feel it is true; when words pierce through ignorance, there is often nowhere to hide.

      Kind Regards,


  7. For me who live in the multiracial nation, ban or not to ban some words, are like deciding what kind of food is good or bad for our health, most of the time, we take those which are deemed safe to eat, and this come the meaning of banning.

    In Germany, and in the world, it is a taboo to glorify the Nazi, and we might still able to stir a few thousands souls, do I really want that? In 1960s, a stir in racial tensions had a few thousands of Chinese killed in Malaysia, the same thing repeated in Indonesia in the 90s. Recently the American movie that stirred up the condemnation of the muslim is another example.

    Another aspect about free mind and media influence, may be a bit off topic, is that it can lead us to understand the world in a better way. There are many westerners (apology for the generalisation) who come to Singapore and sigh at the amount of air conditional units installed in every household (though I do not use it), but non of them would sigh when they turn on their radiator in their home country during the cold seasons. I have to discussed the problem of deforestation with many of my European friends, regardless of whether they have a PhD or a professor, and equally ignorant in the damage that they have done to the Europe continent, and the excuse is that the damage is already done, what can they do? I told them, you can plant and get the forest back? But how? Then to sacrifice thousands of jobs. Think about it, this is what the country with huge forest reserved face.

    In the philosophy of Taoism, or IChing, anything in excess or less is not a good sign, and we should always achieve a delicate balance, like guarding our health. After all, if everyone is humble at what they know, and what they do not know, the World would be a more peaceful place without any censorship. Just like the ideal world paint in communism, can we achieve it?

    I still have no idea and solution on how to set our mind, free, in its real meaning.



    1. Dear KC,
      Thank you so very much for sharing your thoughts with us all -:)! That indeed is the idea; to hear many, many ideas. The Taoism’s teachings on importance of balance are as relevant today as they were centuries ago.

      Many thanks,


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