The Library of Alexandria is still burning

Illustration by Marcus Jefferson | The Signal

Throughout history, major political players have used fear, deceit and destruction to alter societal beliefs and steer public opinion in their favor. The knowledge of humanity lays helpless at the unforgiving hand of political moves that have erased culture, altered information and misled the masses.

We must collectively understand and beware of this dynamic or risk falling into the well laid traps of power-hungry people. Politicians are sabotaging our society for their own gain.

In 48 BCE, Julius Caesar set fire to Alexandria’s docks to sabotage Ptolemy XIV’s army. This tactical move gave Caesar the upper hand, decimating Ptolemy’s naval fleet, but unfortunately, it came at the Library of Alexandria’s destruction.

Once an epicenter of information, it was regarded as one of the most important libraries in the ancient world. 

We can only guess how much information was lost. The current estimate is that 40,000 texts of culture, science and history vanished forever in a shortsighted and irresponsible action by one of the most influential political figures of the ancient world.

Alexandria’s lesser-known sister library, the Serapeum, fared no better than her predecessor

Under a decree from Coptic Christian Pope Theophilus of Alexandria, the library was demolished in 391 CE to incite fear and obliterate his rivals’ philosophy. The library served as a gathering place for Neoplatonist philosophers, whose writings, ironically enough, significantly influenced Christian doctrine.

Another infamous example of the destruction of knowledge for political gain happened in Nazi Germany. Officials conducted ceremonial book burnings to promote the party’s ultra-nationalist and anti-Semitic ideology and suppress “subversive” ideas and incite fear among those persecuted authors and their peers. 

Books on Judaism, pacifism, sexology, feminism, social justice and many other topics that failed to conform to the totalitarian Nazi regime burned.

Coercing people to follow or abstain from certain ideologies through fear, deceit and destruction of other information is immoral and highly dangerous.

President Donald Trump downplayed the severity of our current coronavirus pandemic on record on multiple occasions.

In February, President Trump repeatedly dismissed the coronavirus as no worse than the flu.

In July, public information about COVID-19 started disappearing from the CDC’s website, which resulted from the Trump administration shifting control over that data to the Department of Health and Human Services. On Sept. 7, Trump tweeted, “High marks in our handling of the Coronavirus (China Virus)” and that “Vaccines (Plus) are coming, and fast!”

One must wonder whether the intentional downplaying of this pandemic is to gain favor among the public and to appear as though the situation is more under control than it actually is. If the most influential people in our society are slanting the truth in their favor, how are we to know what the unbiased facts are?

Our society must remain aware and vigilant of our most powerful figures’ ulterior motives or risk our collective knowledge’s defacement.

Heinrich Heine said it best in his famous play “Almansor: A Tragedy”: “Where they burn books, they will also ultimately burn people.”

We can not continue to allow our most powerful politicians to sabotage our society for their own gain. They’re burning the Library of Alexandria again, and we’re letting them get away with it.

Editors note: After the editing process, one paragraph in this article did not reflect the author’s original intent. The paragraph was reverted back to its original wording. Updated at 3:10 p.m. on 9/23/2020.