Like most preteens in the 90s, I read and was entranced by Dr. Ben Carson’s books in primary school. And like clockwork, I remember for a fleeting moment after reading Think Big and Gifted Hands thinking to myself…well,well, I think I would make a damn decent neurosurgeon.
I suppose the book accomplished its intended purpose, which I presume was to inspire generations towards excellence; For a while we could all agree that Ben Carson and/or neuroscience was the hero the world needed. And a black hero? ah, awe-gasms!
Perhaps with a tinge of unwelcome nostalgia, I have recently found myself thinking that had I known what I now know about Dr. Ben Carson’s personal ideals
and stupidity, I would probably not have read any of his books. A lot of people feel the same way, while some feel that he was writing merely as a medical practitioner, and since there’s no reason to believe that he misrepresented the facts in that regard, the books are just as read-worthy as they were those many years back. I, too, was one of those objective people a couple of months ago, but I have since discovered a delicious pettiness.
A few months back, a beloved Kenyan writer without a modicum of evidence publicly claimed that a woman who alleged sexual harassment had been lying about the incident. The outlines of the facts were that the perpetrator of the sexual harassment was a semi-famous individual and writer, and homeboy came to his defence based on the typical “that guy would never do that”. His books had been sitting on my TBR for a while, and after the tweetstorm I promptly wrote him off.
Recently, I accidentally came upon the information that Peter Thiel, Paypal’s co-founder was one of the most vocal supporters and campaigners of Trump. Peter is the author of Zero to One, a book I have not read but have purchased [for a lot of money] and been meaning to read. It is a book about success in Start Up businesses, and I would therefore imagine it has few to no political views, much less on the Trump administration and Peter’s involvement thereof. Be as it may, however, I now find it very difficult to read the book and I’m looking to purge it as soon as possible.
Look, nearly everything under the sun is subjective, and authors even those writing about highly objective topics [science for instance], have been shown to derive a lot of influence from their personal worldviews. (Consider a field like Eugenics, whose history predates modern Genetics, the science the field claimed to defend). That worldview then at some point interacts with the readers. It may or may not influence them, but the intended effect is that it’ll create a ripple, that will create another ripple that may create some change [of whichever kind] down the road. If that worldview is marred with bigotry, however implicit or undetectable, I am unable to get behind it. I will happily read a book written by/about a christian astrologist who doesn’t believe in the solar system but believes in aliens, but I will not read a book by a self-identified bigot, even when said bigot is the founder of some of the most successful businesses in the world.
That is not to say I only want to read books by shiny moral absolutists. I want to read books by people who have effed up, (I mean, Biographies of Silicon Valley CEOs who are intrinsic arseholes and can’t help but fuck up is one of my favorite genres). On my TBR is a book about Hitler, but I can’t bring myself to read a book *by an active living hate lord.
So maybe the bigger issue is this; books cost me. They cost me money and time [both acquisition time and time to read and interact with the writer]. These are resources I highly value, resources I would be transferring to a guy who continuously seek to diminish the spaces I and others inhabit. I’m not okay with that.