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Free Books Hurt No One

2020-05-13

When I was a junior in high school, I volunteered at my public library in the "Booktique," a store where they sold overstocked donated books and retired library books for a quarter each. I was really into quiz bowl at the time, so I figured I could fuel an extracurricular education that would contribute to my quiz bowl chops by building a library at home. Fortunately I had an entire wall of my bedroom made out of bookcases, so I managed to fill my shelves with interesting books spending about $6 each weekend at the store when I was done volunteering (I got a discount as a volunteer too, natch). That library is ultimately what made me become a liberal arts major instead of a physics major. I realized that Penguin Classic books were in abundant supply and practically free, and really darn enjoyable. I built up enough of a library volunteering at the library my junior and senior year that when I went to Reed College my freshman year, I barely even had to buy any books on the Hum110 syllabus because I already owned them (for a quarter! beat that!). I obviously saved a lot of money freshman year (and the additional books I bought on Amazon for just a few dollars -- a novel experiment, as this was 2003).

At the same time I was exposed to Lloyd J. Reynolds through a paideia class and the Lloyd Reynolds book stocked in the school bookstore. Within it was a list of art history books recommended to art history majors. This was weirdly attractive to me, as I realized that for about $15 in the bookstore I had just purchased an undergraduate degree curriculum in art history. I didn't really even need to go to class, I could just read these books and get a good education that could fuel an art history degree. I sort of became obsessed with this bibliography. My freshman spring break I was visiting my sister at Georgetown and I read Count Goblet d'Alviella's 'The Migration of Symbols', happy to have found this book (I remember going one by one down the bibliography at the Goergetown library computers finding out which books they had in their stacks). Even when I flunked out of Reed because of my developing schizophrenia my sophomore year, I wasn't perturbed about the disturbance to my art history education because I just emailed the Reed Archive historian and asked for the full listing of the recommended art history books (the book from the Reed bookstore only contained a scan of the first page). Things were going good. I had an art history college curriculum completely independent of any school I was attending, and the impetus was on me to sit my butt down and read rather than pay for classes. I often considered taking time off from enrolling at university just to finish reading this bibliography on my own time and dime.

Of course, this was a little naive. I had a hard enough time finding those books in the Reed library, let alone at the small-town college I was attending in Topeka now that I was no longer at Reed. So I tried but ultimately decided against reading these books because I didn't want to purchase them at Amazon. In fact, I'm not even sure Amazon had these books for sale at the time, if I remember correctly. Still, getting these books was like pulling teeth, I was making my way through the list very slowly as an undergraduate attending multiple colleges. KU had more of those books. I remember as a music student at KU I made a webpage for my music technology class that... of course... was all about the bibliography for art historians (and also copyright/open source natch). I didn't even need to take art history classes because I just needed to read this bibliography. It was very liberating, if frustrating because the books were hard to find.

Ultimately when I became a senior at Reed I decided to do my senior thesis on the bibliography. I had to compromise when I was instructed to focus on the sociology of higher ed using Bourdieu... I would have preferred not to have an assigned theorist, let alone a Marxist one, but I wrote up a senior thesis on Lloyd Reynolds fine and dandy. Upon leaving Reed and still having books on the biliography left to find and read, I started relying on Archive.org to get these books (this was around 2008). I celebrated each time one of those books was added to Archive.org.

This is going to sound ridiculous, but I realized what I had found was that college could be completely separated from classes and degrees as long as you had access to books. Books that a brilliant person had compiled and curated for you. When I was reading books like Count Goblet d'Alviella, I never thought to consider that being an art historian was something that came about due to degrees and certifications, advanced or otherwise. I saw that the task as a "student" was to read books by history's best historians, and that this transfer of knowledge happened through reading the appropriate esoteria history that would never appear on a modern curriculum but was before any of the hipster postmodern stuff. That is to say, when I studied postmodernism I realized after a good struggle that it paled in comparison to the knowledge that is considered in my opinion more "freemason"-y knowledge. I realized this when we were assigned a journal article about how we shouldn't ever use Panofsky again because of some stupid semiotic reason or other from a book that began each chapter with a quote from Derrida. It was bullshit, and I saw that it was bullshit, and I said so in class that I disagreed with it. My professor's response was to ask at the end of class, "Everyone now disagree with Panofsky's notion of 'hidden symbolism?'" After I shook my head no, she said to the whole class, "You'd better!" Okay. And this was from a professor of Northern Renaissance art, the very time and location of the birthplace of freemasonry. It's hard to look at the Arnolfini Portrait, and see a man wearing masonic clothing holding up a masonic sign with his hand and not wonder, hmmm, what exactly was going on back then? Durr. What a farce postmodernism is, and results in some of the most closed minded hipsters I have ever met, who criticize valuable work and eruditition just to add a bullet point to their CV. The feeling I have about 'hidden symbolism' and art history/Northern Renaissance is perfectly summed up by this YouTube video: "Secrets in Plain Sight."

This was the kind of shit that happened at my time at Reed that made me realize the "modern" curriculum I was getting in class was conspiratorily stupid compared to the freemason-y education that was in research circles around fifty years prior (at Reed). It's just the simple fact that Marxism can suck a left one compared to freemasonry, and no one can convince me otherwise. If you ask me if I want to join a Marxist club or the freemason, you can bet my answer would be the freemasons. In fact, because I worked at the public library's booktique, I came home with books like the Gulag Archipelago and A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, which were some of my favorite books. I am an atheist, so I can't ever join the freemasons, but I feel as if it is superfluous anyway as I am an art historian 'trained' by this bibliography compiled by Lloyd Reynolds and years of reading Penguin and Oxford Classic books for a quarter each from the booktique. It's amazing how free thought comes at the butt end of a free freemasonry bibliography, instead of a Marxist's gun. Good books to train future masons will always conquer passive-aggressive pomo journal articles written to pad a CV to score a hipster a professorial job.

Now, the reason I wanted to write this article was to explain why Holm School is so focused on compiling syllabi instead of creating new content. Because I sincerely believe good content is already in the public domain because it was written centuries ago. These books are so affordable that they can be purchased for $0.25 two decades ago. The simple fact is, now with Library Genesis, these books are free.

You no longer need to concern yourself with access to books. Book access is no longer the driving force behind affordable self-education. There was a time when I struggled to find access to the books on the art history bibliography. Now I can download each one of Library Genesis. There was a time when I had to take a loan out in order to buy the books on my Hum110, Hum210, and Hum220 syllabi. Now they are all online for free.

This is the inevitable outcome of human culture. Culture is free, you do not need to take out loans to access it. Knowledge will generate ways to ensure that it is free in a capitalist, liberal democracy. That's why liberal democracy was invented, to perpetuate knowledge. The fact that I couldn't complete my quest to read the totality of the bibliography fifteen years ago isn't disappointing to me. I simply couldn't access those books until 2020. Sometimes you just have to be patient for the knowledge of the world to be finally be available to you. Did postmodernism create Archive.org? No, it was the ideal of democracy engendered by "free culture" that views fair use as just as important as intellectual property. Does anti-humanism stand any chance compared to humanism? No, it does not, no matter how many times it is assigned by hipster professors on college syllabi. This horrible cult that has taken over the university and turned a place of integrity and respect of humanity and culture into the autistic beating of the dead horse that is the anarchist critique of power/hegemony. A fool can see humans don't relate to each other through power, simply by reading the history of literature over thousands of years. Yet this is the paradigm that infuses 100% of humanities departments, and calls brilliant masons and freethinkers "dead white men" as if some humans were more valuable than others based on genetics instead of the content of their thought and character. The irony of freemasonry being called "dead white men" is obvious to anyone who explores their thought.

This is an ode to the booktique and Selected Bibliographies written by extremely erudite people. Those bibliographies, as in my Bookstore book, can simply be photocopied, emailed, or put up on the internet for anyone to read. Those books, just like the booktique fiften years ago, can now be acquired for chump change through Library Genesis or Perlego. It doesn't really matter anyway, because the people worth reading are now long out of copyright. If you think ubiquitous free books hurt authors, you aren't realizing that the authors worth reading in an education curriculum are dead anyway. New books from new "critical theorists" are bullshit and not worth reading, let alone pirating. The real meat and potatoes of education (in all fields other than STEM) happened more than 70 years ago. Those books are free and readily available online now. That's because those books were always free and always readily available, they were just at the Booktique instead of LibGen. But it's the same idea, and that idea has been in perpetuity since the beginning of time. There will always be free or affordable books, because the best ideas worth learning are going to find a way to be free, whether that means changing the laws to accomodate this feat or not. Anyone who tries to ban books on justification authors living in the cornucopia of wealth that is 2020 can't make ends meet are wrong. It is progress that we have the internet, which is a free digital public library. People have tried to have their books removed from public library bookstores since time immemorial, but those people are idiots. They exist, but they are irrelevant. Do you really think the ideas of someone who wants their books removed from public libraries is worth reading? They are not. People who create real culture don't do so out of hope that it makes them wealthy. People who create real culture do so because they grew up immersed in real culture. It is self-perpetuating, and exists outside the realm of copyrightists and publishers/labels. To value cultural content like character and thought by the list price of the creation is as silly as judging people by genetics. It's irrelevant to the larger question that is humanity and brotherhood and what we want as a civilization.

My point is that you don't need to enroll in classes to get a good education. In fact, you'll probably get a bad one, one influenced by the hipsters who went to college in the eighties and think French theorists are worth dedicating a life to. Personally, I think masonry is worth dedicating a life to instead. You are more likely to find masonry in the college curriculum from the fifties rather than today's curriculum. The benefit is that those books from the fifties curriculum are out of copyright and free. The hipsters try to convince you that those authors are "racists" and "misogynists," when in fact anti-racism and feminism came out of their thoughts. That's why they tell you not to read those books, because anyone who reads those books realizing the claims of the postmodernists are wrong. Reading books older than 40 years is a thoughtcrime at universities these days. They accuse many people of destroying society or being opresssors, because they have to protect their academic fiefdom in a academic system that is falling apart at the seams due to their poor management as self-appointed totalitarian leaders. If you don't realize that postmodernists destroyed higher education in the seventies when they coup'd all the university positions and brigaded future hirings, you haven't ever read the books on the syllabi from the sixties versus the ones on today's syllabi.

The good news is, you don't need a university. You need a list of good books. Those good books are free on the internet, and will always be because that is the purpose of the internet: free books. You can fuel an entire lifetime of investigation and free thought with just a few years of studying the books that are in the public domain on the internet. The idea that you need to pay money to access knowledge should come off as extremely silly to anyone in the know about democracy. Knowledge will always be free, it is the crap knowledge that's not worth your time that costs money. Because democracy is good engineering, and good engineering is open source, knowledge will always be open source. The people who are convincing you that you need to buy the latest and greatest critical theorists books and curricula for a lot of money have built up a corrupt system that relies on this shilling for their own livelihoods at the exclusion of your own, because bad engineering is never self-perpetuating nor democratic. For some reason, bad engineers are running the academic machinery at the moment. I hope it will end. Every sword has two sides: the internet facilitates the reading of wonderful historical books for free, as well as enabling the postmodern circlejerk that is social media as designed to target college students as their primary demographic. Unfortunately humanism has sort of been left in the wake of people accruing as many e-friends as they can online and then circlejerking ultraleftist talking points, preferring collecting facebook posts on their 'wall' instead of a library. If you are treating the internet as anything other than a library, you are probably being exploited. The internet is not a place to make friends or socialize. The internet is a place to acquire books and that's it. The people who treat the internet as as important as real life ('hyperreality!') are the sort of unsightly nerds that rule the universities at the moment. Instead of assigning books written 400 years ago, they're assigning Lady Gaga. Why people would pay money for this I'm not sure, but business is booming for these anti-humanist 'academics.'

It doesn't cost money to read classic books. They are $0.25 at the booktique. My guess is you're not going to find a way to listen to Lady Gaga's latest album without paying. That's the difference between the competing ideologies in academia, humanists and anti-humanists. One will be public domain and open source and free, the other will be behind an expensive University paywall. Is it a coincidence the free and democratic one is a great learning experience and the expensive "killer leftist critique of democracy" one is crap? If reading a "killer leftist critique of liberal democracy" is a crime because I used LibGen or Sci-Hub, then personally I don't give a damn about your "killer leftist critique of liberal democracy." I don't want to commit a crime just to read your word salad postmodern gibberish. If public domain books are "racist" and "patriarchal", and so I need to buy this sleek glossy expensive textbook in order to avoid being an 'implicit' racist, then I think I will choose to skip your sleek expensive textbook. Anything worth learning will be open source or public domain. To think you need to submit to the mafia that is modern copyright law as enacted by the Disney-paid politicians is hegemonic bullshit. Pomo academics will critique Disney through Baudrillard etc. but not ever release their own work as open source because they directly financially benefit from Disney-enacted copyright laws. This is academic laundering, when pomo professors make their students buy expensive pomo books in hopes that one day other pomo professors will assign their expensive pomo books to their students. Of course, this expense is necessary in order to avoid the racism and patriarchalness of the university before postmodernism became popular.

I dare you to read the books on Lloyd Reynolds's bibliography. See if any of it is racist or patriarchal. See if it isn't better than the education you received at university, with all those screwball academic journal articles. And that bibliography is completely free through archive.org. That is the world that is possible when the quarter-per-book Library Booktique is digitized. A completely free university education. Because it's always been near-free. It was a quarter 15 years ago. Archive books probably cost 25 cents each after amortizing computer and internet costs. Believe that that world of free education is possible, and declare yourself independent from the university system. It doesn't matter where you study, as long as you are studying good books. Anyone can contribute to society through what they self-teach through non-copyrighted books. To think you have to fork over money to educate yourself has always been something that reveals a lack of critical thinking, rather than a hallmark of it as defined by a prestigious university degree.

I like the idea that Perlego has curated book recommendations. I think this is sometimes all that is needed to self educate as long as you have unrestricted access to the books on that list. You don't need to get a certificate or degree, you don't need to pay thousands of dollars to be taught in a lecture the content of books, you need to sit your butt down and read those curated books, sometimes multiple times. Find a person you sincerely trust (nearly with your life) and use their recommendations to fuel your education no matter how long it takes you to read all their recommendations. You'll find that that person can create a curated bibliography which costs nothing in expense to them, but that can be distributed to thousands of people as a means of a free education. There are no time limits, you are not forced to read it in four years, you can spend two decades reading from their bibliography if needed. Seek knowledge and truth and you'll find there are no tuition fees or loans required. Share that knowledge that you are privileged to have from a trustworthy source and share it around whatever means you have. People will find a way, like you, to access that knowledge if they also sincerely want it. You cannot paywall knowledge. Knowledge cannot be contained through restrictions or technology or law. Truth is the truth and will always be the first priority in human interaction. To paywall knowledge is to destroy what it means to be a sentient animal on Earth. No DMCA will help you there, no matter how many times you threaten to sue MP3 downloaders. It's just impossible in the world dominated by homo sapiens' science. Truth will conquer anti-humanism.


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