Thursday, May 13, 2010

On Reading and Writing

Is anybody out there?

I know there are some people who read these posts, but right now I don't know how many. I just trust that they are there, and will be there. But today I am thinking of the larger picture.

When I was a kid one of my favorite movies (and later, books) was The Time Machine. When "Million Dollar Movie" aired the adaptation of the book on Channel Nine you could watch it every night for a week and twice on Saturday. And at least at one point I nearly did that. There was a scene far in the future where Rod Taylor asked the refined-to-degeneracy flower children living on the earth's surface whether they had any books. They did. One of them took him to a building filled with them. Rod went to pick one up and it disintegrated into dust. People had forgotten how to read.

That scene seemed unbelievable to me. "That will never happen," I thought to myself. Now I am not sure. Then, my parents read books regularly, though neither went to college. They encouraged us to read. We went to school. We read the books. And we read books for fun too.

I look around the world I am in today and wonder. Many of my friends seem to have stopped reading, books anyway. Sometimes you visit people and see books lined up on a shelf, perhaps unread, and it brings to mind that scene from the movie. If I pick one up will it turn to dust?

The concept of the public library lives on. Imagine, a government pays for a building, a bunch of books, and they allow anyone to read them, for free. Shouldn't that be illegal? Isn't that somehow communist? You perhaps laugh (or not), but the idea that somebody might argue that some day in the near future doesn't seem as impossible as it might have seemed when I was five years old. Benjamin Franklin and his ilk had the right idea. Reading is good. It is a cornerstone of civilization and needs to be encouraged. Yes, and the government at whatever level needs to subsidize it.

That's not in line with the ULTRA-CAPITALIZATION-OF-EVERYTHING the Far Right has been pushing for, the deregulate-and-destroy policy. The lean, mean, and socially suicidal policy. So guess what? We now see where it leads. Ultimately untrammeled Capital, in the escalating extremism of profit at all costs, destroys itself and everything around it, destroys its own ability to exist and do whatever with those profits. So, in the very least, some group of people have to be literate enough to communicate with one another with more than GET BANANA AND EAT icons for the whole game to continue. I do believe, as is obvious, that greed must be regulated and channeled to the public good, though that might mean that profits in the short term are lesser.

So what to do? It seems that people think that the new generation must be "computer literate" if we are to survive. We need to develop more scientists and technological workers so we can innovate, solve the energy crises, revive the economy and all of that. Fine. But reading and writing, literacy, is the basis for it all. And not texting. Not cell phones with lots of "apps" that take the place of literacy. See picture of dog. Click on it. Click on the send arrow. Friend gets picture of dog. Anybody can do it. (And actually, I believe apes probably already know how and are out there sending each other pictures of dogs even as I write this.)

Our survival depends upon our literacy. Sounds simple and obvious, but are we forgetting it anyway, little by little? We cannot afford that.

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