Statecraft and stagecraft are inextricably linked as texts; the former drawing its energy from the latter. All the State is a stage. The birth of the modern state runs collateral with the resurrection of theater in Europe. This claim of shared energies becomes more clearly drawn when you understand that the term energy comes from the Greek energeia, and that term was one from Greek rhetoric, one which was subsequently borrowed by physics. The energy of theater (the theatrical also being a branch of rhetoric) and the energies of politics could run parallel without either necessarily enduring the full presence of the other.
When we began to recoil from literacy because it was deemed an elitist endeavor, one perhaps, as we imagined, in our misconceived democratizing imaginations, to repress us, we condemned ourselves to the mind forged manacles of ignorance we should have known better to fear and foresee. It was no accident that theater in Athens and democracy had a collateral rise, both elevated by literacy, the advent of alphabetic writing–although, the mere ability to spell or read one’s name or fill most forms necessitated by our bureaucracy is not in itself what is herein referred to as literacy. In fact, the French have a separate term for this perfunctory literacy, it is l’alphabetisme, or the ability to handle the alphabet, spell one’s name correctly. The state here in America does not honor much more than this rudimentary literacy, a, b, c, d . . . this alphabetism has ruled our pedagogic constructs of literacy development.
We should nevermind about anything near good journalism, fiction, or poetry in a culture such as ours where even the protectors, the guardians of literacy have so degraded their understanding of it and their taste for it as to leave them unable to champion anything other than superficial skimming of the page as the best reading has to offer. What we have today is fast-food academia at best; instant intelligence, instant knowledge, barely of the dilettante’s order; we suffer a consumerist brand of learning where students are patrons and teachers are bureaucrats or businessmen. News is entertainment.
Pomp, yes, circumstance, of course, and a flair for melodrama, certainly, are the best any State can hope to sponsor in writing; that is, all that they will tolerate, actually. demagoguery reigns supreme in American politicking for President. Obama was the better demagogue. And we must understand that writing is the other half of literacy; those who read but do not write are only half literate. One cannot really read above the level one writes at, or vice-versa.
Reading and writing are a linked pair, each contingent, mutual, reciprocal. 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 isn’t 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.
Most of what we teach in the way of reading is no more than that superficial skimming of pages Melville had warned us that all great writing seeks to deceive. Great writers go out of their way to fool the superficial skimmer of pages . . . most bourgeois for the last five hundred years equating the literary with business, reading with a form of accounting, book reading with book-keeping. A horribly degraded class that places the highest value on utility and/or profit; art as engineering, art as another form of business, thereby prostitution.
Am I too harsh in my appraisal of bourgeois civilization? Of course, I say no; all literary pimps and whores say yes.