Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Inspiration comes in the strangest places

For a couple of years in the early 2000's I lived in an ultraconservative, very Christian, community in Central Florida. After going through the regular library I started hitting up their community college's library and was surprised at the amount of kick ass radical literature that they had, including some really rare stuff. Since there never was a liberal or radical moment in this town's history, it was noted for refusing to implement desegregation in the schools and only gradually let it fade out of official existence, the presence of these books surprised me. I figured out after a while that these were the things that folks down there thought liberals were secretly reading and that they had bought this stuff for opposition research as it were.

Bad for their understanding of liberals, who aren't secretly reading Charles Fourier and plotting to indoctrinate children into socialism with progressive education, good for me. I had no objections to it. If they're this stupid, might as well make the most of it.

Found lots of stuff including a rare first edition of Noam Chomsky's book "Problems of Knowledge and Freedom", which at that point hadn't been reprinted. In fact, it was so obscure that there weren't even references to it, much less extracts, at the archives of Chomsky's writing. I found it pretty much by accident, but found later that they also had several other of his books.

Ironically, one of the other treasure troves of radical knowledge in a public library in Florida also existed at a Community College library, namely that of FKCC, Florida Keys Community College, on Stock Island just north of Key West. Because so many lefty artists and writers had spent time in the Keys there was a burgeoning, high quality, selection of radical books there, with examples ranging from the original compilation of Weather Underground statements issued by Ramparts press to a socialist rebuttal to Friedrich Hayek's book "The Road to Serfdom" entitled "Alternatives to Serfdom".

Then of course there's the CMC, the Civic Media Center, in Gainesville Florida, quite possibly the largest purely radical library in the country, with great selections that span all ideological spectrums. I volunteered there for about a year, and ravenously ate up everything I saw their like a feral dog.

Just some of the "Lost Highways" I've been down....

*on edit: yeah, when I started going to the Florida Keys Community College library I was a grubby kid with faded black shorts who had dropped out of college a few months before. I just went there wanting to read radical lit and find out about stuff, like history, philosophy. Didn't have any sort of plan attached to it.

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