Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Relevant thought for the day*

Local libraries are gateways not only to other libraries, but to other lives. Of course, I can see that if you went to Eton or Harrow, like so many of the present cabinet, you might not understand the point of such lowly gateways…

It’s always been and always will be very difficult to explain to people with money what it means not to have money. It education matters to you, they ask, and if libraries matter to you, why wouldn’t you be willing to pay for them if you value them? They are the kind of people who believe value can only be measured in money, at the extreme end of which logic, lies the dangerous idea that people who cannot generate a lot of money for their families cannot possibly value their families as people with money do…

What could be better than handing people back the power so that they might build their own schools, their own libraries? Better to leave people to the already onerous tasks of building their lives and paying their taxes. Leave the building of infrastructure to government and the protection of public services to government, that being government’s mandate and the only possible justification for its power.

That the grotesque losses of the private sector are to be nationalised, cut from our schools and our libraries and our social services and our health care, in short, from our heritage, represents a policy so shameful, I doubt this government will ever live it down. Perhaps it is because they know what the history books will make of them that out policies are so cavalier with our libraries. From their point of view, the fewer places you can find a history book these days, the better.

Zadie Smith, speaking on Radio 4's Today programme this morning. Because it was well worth saying.

* Unlike the irrelevant platitudes that make up the official "Thought for the Day" slot.