THE LESSENING OF DEMOCRACY
To read or not to read is a question I might ask, yet do not; but to write or not to write is the question, something without question what I need to do, must do in order to be, to live. My to be or not is combined with this to write or not, something not so readily easily explained as when to write becomes my obligation as a citizen in a democracy. I question just about everything at one time or another, never questioning everything every time. I have done so as of late with respect for reading, writing and its relationship to democracy and our freedom. Once more, to write or not to write is my to be or not to be–the words of a lunatic off his lips naked under the light of the full moon on the sands on the beach in Montauk one month now more than two decades ago . . . reciprocation and other well formed contingencies–what then are the opinions of this Adjunct Lecturer of English to his Freshman Composition Class sometime in the early nineties . . . I vaguely recall my calls to attention concerning our state of the union, the nature of the state, just what the meaning of Jefferson’s We the People could sign or signal. His opinions, mine, about reading and writing were universally held at a time he thinks he can recollect clearly. It might have then been closer to being unilaterally held among his colleagues than they would be today in our contemporaneity–he/I like(s) the word ‘contemporaneity,’ like/likes the sound of the word as he says I say it; he likes to hear it, as I like to hear it, in re-reading what he has written what I write, and once more, I write every day, I write all the time, I carry with me pen and paper everywhere I go anytime I go . . . the only discipline a writer needs, Professor Ginsburg had said to me in his office at Brooklyn College is to carry pen and paper with him wherever he goes. I did; I do; I have done so now for how many years I will not count.
Yes, reading and writing are a linked pair, each contingent, mutual and reciprocal with the other. One does not become a writer without mutually becoming an equal reader; no reader ever succeeds at reading above the level at which he can successfully write, which is not to say one must have the talent of the writers one reads, or their creative power if you will, for want of a better term at present. But reading and writing are contingent and reciprocal in that they feed one another cognitively. This is not something that is adequately managed by most attempts to enhance literacy in programs that defer to the government and its bureaucrats in matters of literacy attainment. I question this, have questioned it for how long I can no longer count; the needs of the State and the needs of the People are not the same and are often exclusive, mutually. I do not question this. I take it to be Self-evident that all government bureaucracies serve the State, pay primary attention to the needs of the State, and they are reflexive this way exclusive of genuinely serving the People. Without the weight of the People to counterbalance that of the State, the needs of the People will be served less and less until they disappear from any notion of service entirely. “Ask not what your country can do for you . . .” was exactly the death knell of State serving the People; John Kennedy being the first of the best and the brightest who imagined a high-wire world without a safety net. Bobby reimagined the need to distance government from New Deal commitment. Johnson being an old New Dealer actually helped construct Great Society advances on the New Deal.
This is not a call to return to anything or any place. I do not want to go back to the 60s or the 70s or the 30s. That would be foolish or short-sighted or simply insane because it is impossible; but even in the ways it could be possible to “go back” to something that imitated our political past–no. I want to go ahead; I just to do not want to dismantle the advances and gains simple separate working people and working poor and yes, immigrant poor and of course the poor-poor, if you want. And dismantle government has tried–first with Regan, and then more severely and successfully with Bill Clinton.
What the government calls literate enough barely enables anyone to support and protect his freedom, disallowing him to defend democracy, making him a perfunctory voter responding to the stimuli of ad campaign politics and the dissemination of propaganda rather than a defender of liberty and democracy. One would be hard pressed to negotiate the Constitution or even the Declaration of Independence with what we transmit as literacy in our public schools. Systematic under-education is where we are headed–where we have arrived–and the results will be frightening when we see what we become in a future not that far off. Most of those who are a part of the current critique in pedagogy and in literacy attainment as well as Canonical evaluation will not see themselves as having been part of the problem when they see where we get, once more, in a future not that far from now.
A quarter of a century from now, most high school students will have already become fully entrenched members of a State-serving Public, not even aware that they will have abandoned their responsibility to themselves as the People. There will no longer be a We the People to protect. Canonical revaluation should be about inclusion, not an iconoclastic response that seeks to shatter Canonicity as well as undermining literacy or the literate necessities that were mutual with traditional Canonicity.
I am not here to present evidence as many writers do; I am not in a court of law, no matter how many trials we undergo in our lives; no matter how much any essaying of anything, especially anybody, an essay might be become turn out in the end only to be a masquerade of a trial . . . I am still wondering how either Defoe, who I love, or Richardson, who I detest having had to read for a Seminar in the Novel as form, imitate reality in their writing, unless what we call realism is, as others before me have said many, many times, just a convention for understanding what we call reality, which is as much a fiction as the fiction itself.
Realism is a negotiated way of saying, this writing meets what we think reality is, or could be, or should be, or, as a combination of all three, might be would be if and if and if again and again, and so on until the last syllable of the last sentence is written, or spoken, or one and the other combined; again, everything is hybrid, everything is grotesque? I sometimes agree fervently, as I know I am an amalgamation of selves I complete, articulate, announce, enact, act out, act on, act with, for, by, to . . . there are too many ways I can and should and would engage reading, my writing along with the former developing what I think, how I think. To think or not to think on, about, for, with . . . there are a slew of prepositional phrasings I could string along here, extending just what I should do when I do get pensive about things about happenings, about events, social, political, personal, inter-personal. I do not imagine we have been successful at guarding literacy, at protecting liberty through the advances of literacy, at maintaining a folk tradition of wisdom which would include Canonical texts which do not always or sometimes ever help maintain the rules of order that have been set against people and their groups, their identities that I do not see the current intellectual, academic, governmental, financial hegemonies or Hegemony managing better or at all.
Again, so long as we live in a Totalitarian Bourgeois Capitalist America, we will persist in losing our freedom, lessening democracy until it becomes a government of the people, by the people and for the people in exactly the way every Totalitarian Communist society mockingly called itself The People’s Republic.