THIS IS TEXT is a well-know warning, flashing intermittently on the main page of this site.

It should find wider use as a warning on all books, in the vein of the "Smoking kills"-labels on cigarette packs. The next book you buy might possibly have a large label -- THIS IS TEXT -- on its front cover, perhaps diagonally tilted to better attract attention. The warning it entails would of course imply the reverse of the tobacco warnings. Because it would tell you that the book you just bought contains text and is NOT likely to kill you or cause ill health.

The nature of text is one thing that totalitarian movements are habitually unable to grasp. Afterwards -- the Nazis, the communists, and the many one-eyed religious organisations of history -- were all laughed at for their book-burning skills. But at the time when the burnings took place, then no giggles were reported. Some books were naturally not burnt, certainly not in the home quarters of their respective movements. On the contrary, such books were termed “holy”. They included Mein Kampf by A. Hitler, Das Kapital by K. Marx, The Bible by S. God, and The Quran (Koran), also by S. God.

A key characteristic of the totalitarian is his (he is always a he) superstitious idea that some texts somehow transcend their textuality and acquire supernatural and magical properties. His understanding of text has experienced a mental meltdown. His texts are metamorphosed into sacred cult objects. He is pitifully unaware of the E2 main page warning.

Soon his superstition carries over to non-holy texts as well, so that such texts come to be seen as "anti-holy" or at the very least unnecessary. They should consequently be burnt. The Moslem conqueror Omar used scrolls from the Alexandria library to fuel the bath houses of the city, because, as he put it: "Either they contain the opposite of what is in the Quran, and then we must not read them. Or they contain what is already in the Quran, and then we don’t need to read them".

In the long run, time and reason have a tendency to de-sanctify texts with known authors. So fear of Das Kapital, Mein Kampf, and Alice in Wonderland -- or of their respective "anti-texts" -- is not much aired on psychiatrist’s couches today.

There remains a problem with the literalist’s reading of so-called “divine texts”, though. This still creates a fair degree of anxiety, on top of certain mental unhealth. An even greater problem is that it tends to produce wacky, often outright unsanitary politics.

Compulsory warning labels -- THIS IS TEXT -- might persuade buyers of such works to analyse the matter a bit deeper. Is there any rational or even reasonable basis for considering these works to be literally words of supernatural powers? Or are they just like many other ancient texts with legendary or unknown authorship -- highly interesting, most inspiring, always well worth seriously contemplating? And isn’t this more than reason enough for buying and avidly reading them?

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