Monday, July 03, 2006
Tyranny of literacy
In 1997 I wrote this poem:
Tyranny and Liberation
The tyranny of literacy is most acutely felt
When one just can't help but read signs
That for one unread are just so many arbitrarily scattered etchings
Silent, unobtrusive, not screaming words and sentences
And thus activating mind waves and God knows what else --
All from mere circumstance.
For one deprived of the precious endowment of illiteracy
Learning not to read
And to let signs remain silent
Is a first step then on the long journey to finding oneself
And remaining buoyant and tranquil
In the quietude of the eternal void.
So I was glad to discover an article on the net, "The alphabet: A tyrant?” by William Bright.
One must also of course refer here to Walter J. Ong's seminal Orality and Literacy, first published in 1982.
I have been working for literacy of slumdwellers for a long time. But in my poem I was trying to provoke thinking about something else: just because one can read, does one have to read everything one is involuntarily surrounded by?