“Nothing appeared to make my poor mistress more angry than seeing me, seated in some nook or corner quietly reading a book or a newspaper. I have had her rush at me, with the utmost fury, and snatch from my hand a newspaper or a book, with something of the wrath and consternation which a traitor might supposed to feel on being discovered in a plot by some dangerous spy.” My Bondage and My Freedom, Frederick Douglass
If you can for a second, think that the world is much like that mistress. The more you learn and the more initiative you show, the less power it holds over you. That is a very scary thought. A threat. Subversive. Not ‘totally subversive, man‘ but real, undermining, ‘tell me what you know about [name]’ kind of shit.
My relationship with a major Hollywood player – a guy whose clients and companies you know – was irrevocably shattered by the books I read. The ones that piled up on my desk. The new one I carried when I went to eat. The research papers I print on the copy machine. An Amazon package, twice a week.
I was not supposed to know that stuff. What was I doing? What was I planning? Who the fuck did I think I was?
If you can understand that every bit you steal, every word you sneak, is part of a larger struggle. Each one makes you just a little more free. It’s light penetrating the dungeon, Douglass said. They show you the whip and the chain. And then eventually, the revelations weigh you down so heavily that you have to make a choice. Are you a Slave For Life or are you a Free Man Now?
They know that. They know whether you’ve been informed of it or not. So you might as well start to take the thing seriously. It’s the only job that matters.
And if you don’t like the story or the analogy, let’s put it another way: Douglass risked violence and death to read whenever he could, what excuse do you have?