You Own A Book: I Hate You

By David

Swimwatch is a blog about swimming. Only occasionally have we strayed onto other subjects. For example, rugby, hunting and track and field athletics have had a turn. Not once has there been a blog about a non-sporting event. But today an incident occurred that I find inexcusably offensive. Sufficiently unpleasant that it demands the attention of Swimwatch.

Most New Zealanders will know that Kim Dotcom owns a copy of Mein Kampf. So do I actually. The difference is the Kim Dotcom copy is an original and is signed by the author, Adolf Hitler. My copy was used as a text book during my university years studying Political Science. Kim Dotcom’s copy is clearly a financial investment. Neither of us have Mein Kampf as a biblical tome of how we should lead our lives.

However far more offensive, dangerous and subversive than owning a book is the reaction of New Zealand’s Prime Minister to its ownership. Interviewed on New Zealand television news last night John Key said, “Mein Kampf was not a book I would own.” The fact Kim Dotcom did own a copy was another reason for the Prime Minister to like him even less.

My reaction to that reactionary comment was personal and extreme. Thank you John Key for disliking me as a person because I went to a New Zealand University and studied a book you don’t like. Thank you for looking down on my efforts to understand the men and women who have changed our world. It is sad that New Zealand has a Prime Minister who would restrict my access to only those thoughts and ideas that meet his approval.

How is that different from the Nazi book burning campaign conducted by Adolf Hitler to burn books whose contents Hitler said undermined his political philosophy? After all, how far is the New Zealand Prime Minister’s reaction away from the reaction of the Nazi, Joseph Goebbels? On May 10 1933 Germany’s Minister of Propaganda told German students about to burn anti-Nazi books, “The future German man will not just be a man of books. It is to this end that we want to educate you.” Well, Goebbels and Key, we can do without an education that denies or condemns access to information. Because I own a book is no reason for the Prime Minister to personally dislike me or burn my book.

It is interesting that one of the authors condemned to burn in Nazi Germany was Karl Marx. I also have a copy of his most celebrated book, “The Communist Manifesto”. I’m pleased the Nazi’s would hate me for that. I am wondering whether that too puts me further off side with the Prime Minister of my country.

John Key needs to understand that men like my father went to Europe to fight the Nazis for many reasons. One of them though was to defend the freedom of ideas; even those ideas we might not like. In the case of my Dad he lost an arm and an eye on the side of an Italian mountain called Monte Cassino, in part, so I could study “Mein Kampf” and “The Communist Manifesto”; in part so that Kim Dotcom could own a signed original. My father did not leave body parts in a foreign battlefield to have a New Zealand Prime Minister tell us both that he personally did not like us because we owned or read a book, even a book whose philosophy we absolutely reject.

The New Zealand Prime Minister, John Key, obviously has no idea that Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights says, “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.” Take note Key, one of the laws your government passed says that Kim Dotcom can “seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media” even when it does mean owning an original signed copy. And Kim Dotcom can expect to do that without suffering your petty and spiteful effort to question his freedom.

Last weekend I attended the Central Zone Swimming Championships in Hamilton. See there is a swimming side to this story. We stayed in a lovely country cottage rented to us by a warm and welcoming host. Actually the owner, we discovered, is the father-in-law of the well-known ex-conservative politician, Rodney Hide. During the weekend we were shown our host’s amazing collection of World War 2 memorabilia. We saw Nazi helmets, fragments of the Auschwitz death wall and salt from Polish labour camps. Does that mean Rodney Hide has married into a family of Nazi sympathisers? And if it does, why did John Key form a government with Rodney Hide? The whole idea is preposterous and stupid. We were guests of lovely New Zealanders who have some items of real historical interest. Rodney Hide is fortunate to have them as in-laws.

My point is that Key’s Dotcom tirade is equally preposterous and stupid. I am told that 17 Auckland libraries have copies of Mein Kampf. Is Key about to ask the Mayor, Len Brown, to have them removed and burnt and will he dislike the man if the request is declined?

But one good thing has come from the John Key revelation on New Zealand news. Any questions I might have had about who to vote for at the General Election later this year have been answered in full measure. Much as I support Kim Dotcom’s freedom to own a signed original of Mein Kampf, I will not be voting for the personable media giant. Even more certain I will never again vote for John Key or his party. In one interview he committed a deep personal obscenity. In one interview he made himself too dangerous to vote for by half. And so it is time to choose between Labour, the Greens and New Zealand First. I wonder if Winston’s ever read Mein Kampf?


  • Jane_Copland

    Oh my god, really? The irony of the PM condemning someone for owning a book when the Nazis burned books they didn’t like is stunning.

    Shame I haven’t been to NZ in over three years – I’m not eligible to vote there anymore ;)

    I studied some horribly disturbing stuff during university too. White supremacist American propaganda for one, during my senior year. I probably still have a couple of the text books, in case I forgot to sell them all back to the WSU bookstore. Clearly this means that I agreed with every word of it, huh Mr. Key? :|