We Are What We Read

The brand of literacy we sponsor in this culture has everything to do with pre-packaged ideas about freedom, about democracy, nothing in the way of thinking when we mean something that takes place in language and not randomly passing images in the mind. The only understanding that happens with the kind of literacy that gets sponsored by our pedagogy is found in merely recognizing, or simply being able to repeat, slogans, even allowing one’s self to be moved by them. Politics is all about slogans, as it has been for how many countless centuries–no? Political campaigns are all about the trite, the cliché, the insipid, the surface of text, nothing but what can be reduced to one or another soundbites: slogans, slogans, slogans. Our acumen in literacy, with literacy, for literacy, is the same as the kind we use to discern advertisements. We are often in line with how they are expected to be understood. All of us can read ads, can’t we? We can even copy them as if in dictation, but can we write when writing means to engage in a more highly elective literary exchange? negotiation? Can we defend an argument in the simplest of ways, with reason and not demagoguery, as we see one President of the United States after another do, that is, use demagoguery to persuade the masses or give them what they want to hear? Can we defend literacy and thus democracy with our words, with how we read, how we write, one or the other never better than either? If we cannot, how can we hope to defend freedom? We will not with how we read and write and we have come to a point where we are at risk of not being able to see that, and not so much being unable to see it, but only able to respond with vehemence and violence against those who do see it, who do remind us, who might write about it, who may be passionate about the need to regain what is fast becoming a lost ability to read at a level that humane civilization demands.

We understand the slogans we hear everywhere all around us, slogans for political campaigns, slogans for products sold through TV advertising, slogans from our teachers, our bosses, the bureaucrats from the city, state or federal administrations. Slogans are all around us, surrounding us, deafening us, really. We are deaf to the Truth. We are at last like that man who escapes Plato’s cave–no? At least we know the words in the slogans; we can spell them because it helps to perpetuate them to write them. We recognize them one after another; we repeat them, these slogans that tell us what to say because they are presumably pithier or wittier than anything we could say. Our intelligence is socially judged by how we use them, repeat them, carry them with us into nearly every pseudo intellectual forum we find ourselves in, by accident, most often, because we would never seek anything presumably intelligent, requiring a verbal skill we will always lack if we continue to educate as we do across America.

Yes, the most we get from our literacy is the literacy of advertising; the best is what is sometimes found in Hollywood script writing, itself a step up from advertising, but a fall from what I would call the literary–and herein lies an elitist prejudice of mine; although, I do not assent to the idea that this is a prejudice: to say that the literary is elite and that higher and higher elections in the literary are elitist, unavoidably so. The government pushes for this kind of literacy, embedded in a pedagogy of failure, of systematic under-education because it is always in favor of indoctrination rather than education.

All informing by government sponsored education will carry with it the indelible stamp of in/formation; to inform is to put or place in/form. This is what information really is: in/formation. To receive information is to receive one kind of stamp of being put in form, formation. Freedom drowns and dies in the pool of functional literacy. Everyone who helps this is also helping to kill democracy, to forestall her in her helping to make all of us free. Bureaucrats would prefer if elites controlled, which is why they have no problem adjusting to one or another totalitarian regime. Totalitarian slaughter in the form of death camps is right out of the bureaucratic imagination. State sponsored education is always aligned with one or another forms of indoctrination


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