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Gutenberg in Zuckerberg Era

Gutenberg


Gutenberg revolutionized the world with the invention of the printing technology in the 15th century. The Renaissance and the Reformation as well as the humanist movements owed much to the introduction of printing. Knowledge became relatively more easily available to the public. Knowledge makes a lot of difference.

Knowledge was kept away from the ordinary people for a long time. In our own ancient Bharat [even the name ‘India’ is being made to vanish!], Sanskrit was declared as the language of the gods and hence only Brahmins were supposed to use that language. It is quite another matter, and a terribly ironical one too, that today the descendants of those ancient Brahmins are spending a gigantic sum of money on making people learn Sanskrit. What was forbidden once is an unwanted commodity now.

Brutal punishments were meted out to any low caste person who happened to hear Sanskrit shlokas recited even by chance. Knowledge was appropriated by one particular group of people who knew how to grab and use power for their own benefits. Today their successors do the same thing in a different way. History repeats itself – as comedy, tragedy or farce, depending on which side you are.

Renowned Malayalam novelist O V Vijayan wrote a novel, Thalamurakal – Generations, about a low caste person who wished to acquire Brahminhood by learning Sanskrit and the scriptures. When he finally does become a Brahmin through the yoga of knowledge [gyan yoga], the realisation about the futility of it descends on him like a fatal weapon. He relinquishes his Brahminhood with contempt.

Brahminhood is a kind of hubris, the character realises. There is little difference between his own hubris which made him seek out Brahminhood and the hubris of the ancient Brahmins and that of Hitler’s Nazis. [Vijayan’s novel was published in 1997, much before India became Bharat once again in the hands of certain fascist leaders.]

It is not only in India that knowledge was kept away from the ordinary people. Umberto Eco’s villain in The Name of the Rose is a monk in a medieval monastery who does not want anyone to read anything other than the Bible. All truth lies in the Bible. Why should anyone read anything else? He kills quite many monks for the sake of preventing knowledge from reaching others.

Gutenberg came a century after that, however. Eco’s novel is set in the year 1327.

Now, more than half a millennium later, are we moving backward – from Gutenberg to Zuckerberg, from books to social media, from enlightenment to falsehoods?

Gutenberg is a German name. ‘Guten’ means ‘good’ and ‘berg’ is ‘mountain’. Zuckerberg is a German name too and Mark’s origins lie in Germany. ‘Zucker’ shares its root with ‘sugar’ [or ‘shakar’ in Hindi/Sansksrit – after all, Sanskrit belongs to the Indo-Germanic family of languages]. Maybe, the transition from Gutenberg to Zuckerberg is one from a mountain of knowledge to the delusions of saccharine.

But we are fortunate that Gutenberg’s mountain is still accessible. Project Gutenberg makes about 70,000 free ebooks available to anyone who wishes to read good books. Gutenberg or Zuckerberg? The choice belongs to each one of us.

Zuckerberg

PS. This post is a part of Blogchatter Half Marathon

Previous Post: India, Bharat, Hindustan

 

 

Comments

  1. Indeed Social media is a double edged sword, we can seek enlightenment or post falsehoods too. I didn't know about Project Gutenberg, thanks for sharing.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That project is a tremendous service to seekers of good literature.

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  2. Hari OM
    I'm a fan of Project Gutenberg too! Enjoyed your juxtaposition of the two Bergs... YAM xx

    ReplyDelete
  3. Project Gutenberg is a true representative of the Good mountain of Knowledge. Zuckerberg's innovation too is meant to spread knowledge to the least common denominator but unfortunately being misused by miscreants like any other technology. Man has stopped thinking what's good for him. Tragic.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. True, social media can be a very powerful medium for revolutionary changes. But unfortunately it's pathetically misused.

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  4. A very beautiful enlightening post. I liked your concept of Guetenberg to Zukerberg i.e., mountain of goodness(Knowledge) to delusion of saccharide....indeed books brought us to knowledge and sweetness of social media leads us to delusional world......I liked how you began the history of printing and transformation to sweet illusion of social media. Your way of drawing our attention to this bitter-sweet truth is appreciable.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. As a teacher who is in constant touch with young people, I'm astounded by the ignorance of the present generation. That's why i write this sort of posts.

      Delete

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