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America The Illiterate

I don't generally think much of Chris Hedges, and the comments are nutty, but I largely agree with this piece:

The illiterate and semi-literate, once the campaigns are over, remain powerless. They still cannot protect their children from dysfunctional public schools. They still cannot understand predatory loan deals, the intricacies of mortgage papers, credit card agreements and equity lines of credit that drive them into foreclosures and bankruptcies. They still struggle with the most basic chores of daily life from reading instructions on medicine bottles to filling out bank forms, car loan documents and unemployment benefit and insurance papers. They watch helplessly and without comprehension as hundreds of thousands of jobs are shed. They are hostages to brands. Brands come with images and slogans. Images and slogans are all they understand. Many eat at fast food restaurants not only because it is cheap but because they can order from pictures rather than menus. And those who serve them, also semi-literate or illiterate, punch in orders on cash registers whose keys are marked with symbols and pictures. This is our brave new world.

Can democracy survive for long, with such an electorate? Of course, he doesn't finger the primary culprit--our fascist public school system which manufactures exactly the sort of people who will keep it in power.

[Late afternoon update]

Are individualists losing the IQ war with the left?


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ken anthony wrote:

Literacy is important but thinking ability doesn't actually require it. Our biggest missing ingredient is leadership.

I hesitate to say it out loud because the loons would make too much of it, but Sarah strikes me as an executive but not a leader.

She has a Canadian accent, that doesn't mean she isn't a leader but could confuse some and does detract from her need to clearly communicate.

She has insight that people ignore, part of being a leader is expressing such insight in a way the people (literate or not) do get it.

She made some statements that are troubling, but not the ones everybody seems to be latching on. She was irritated by Couric, which allowed Katie to edit her to look like a fool. Gibson was just wrong, while Sarah was right, but it's still represented as an example that she's stupid, when in fact her comments were edited heinously.

You can see Russia from Alaska, but she probably shouldn't have mentioned that because it was a throw away line that could easily be twisted. It probably would have been better for her to mention that we've had to intercept Russian Nuclear bombers several times along the coast of Alaska. It would be harder to twist that into something else.

Reagan was a leader because of two things. He had the right values (our founders) and he could communicate them. While not perfect, he was a giant among midgets.

Sarah is far from a lost cause, but she will have to learn to be a bit more pithy and get far away from McCain's populism such as global warming and evil businessman.

Fred might lead the RNC which would be a very good thing IMHO.

Nothing herein should suggest that literacy isn't important.

ken anthony wrote:

Fox just reported that never before released material from the Reagan library has just been released. Now if only the public could actually read it. ;-)

Sigivald wrote:

Calling them "hostages to brands" has the false implication that the brands are somehow causing the problem or harming them.

(After all, if the illiterate didn't have brands as even a most primitive guide to what to purchase to satisfy their needs, wouldn't they be even worse off?)

Brands benefit everyone by giving the brand-holder an added reputation to protect; brand-holders put a lot of effort into getting people to prefer and trust their brand, and don't want to throw that away.

Carl Pham wrote:

I'm going to agree with ken and Siggy, here, Rand, and advise you to go get another cup of coffee, 'cause you're sounding like a Democrat this morning, muttering about the importance of brains and education. Those people are just delighted we've got a pure ideas man, a lawyer and professor, taking over the helm of the Republic. Oh, the places we'll go, now that we've coupled power to imagination and brilliance, and unlinked it from the sad downer weight of caution and the skepticism of practical experience. Brr.

The United States did just fine for much of its history with a population that was mostly illiterate. And I don't think that's because things were less complex back then. Although modern technology is complex, that matters pretty much only for the people who design it. A car is far more complex to design and build than a horse and carriage, but it probably takes about the same amount of understanding and good sense to operate. Manufacturing semiconductors is way more complex than manufacturing muskets, but knowing how to manage a company doing either, how to get the best out of your employees, sell your products, and navigate the business cycle successfully, takes pretty much the same level of insight into people and history.

So, really, except for the small segments of our society that are concerned with purely technical issues, I think brilliance and education are overrated. I invite you, instead, to come over to the Dark Side (conservatism) and entertain the possibility, raised by ken, that what matters are such things as character, leadership, and good sense.

Don't expect to profit indefinitely from lying and bullshit. Borrow less than in your optimism you think you can pay back. Expect and allow people to act mostly in their self-interest, and practise compromising with them so you can act in yours, too. Eschew Caesars and con-men who offer you something for what looks like nothing, and solve your own problems if at all possible. Do not take what is not yours, even if it's legal, and even if you can bullshit yourself into thinking it serves some noble higher purpose. TANSTAAFL. And so on.

We could nearly all be as unschooled as Kansas frontiersman in 1824 and do just fine, if we adhered to good sense and better principles.

Jay Manifold wrote:

Not a lot of Kansas frontiersmen in 1824. ;^)

There are a few silly code phrases in the Chris Hedges column that I think he threw in to establish his bona fides with his usual audience, but the overall thrust could be constructive if it gets a few of the literate in the mood for pressuring the illiterate to get off their asses and, eg, not harrass fellow African-American students for "acting white" should they happen to crack open a book.

Carl Pham wrote:

I meant they were in Kansas, Jay, not that the state (or even the territory) existed yet, which of course it did not. I should just have said "Western," I guess, except that I meant to not imply New Mexico and Montana, which is what people tend to think when they hear "Western."

I don't necessarily severely condemn the black community for going negative on its members who "act white." It's regrettable, but somewhat understandable. I condemn much more the majority white community for enabling the lack of responsibility and achievement, for the purpose of enslaving their votes, if not their bodies. It's among the most shameful of the achievements of the Democratic Party since they actually were the party of slaveowners.

Bryan Lovely wrote:

Ken, Palin doesn't have a Canadian accent. She has a Montana-Idaho accent. Growing up in Anchorage, my best friend's mom was from Coeur d'Alene and had the identical accent.

By the way, the "Africa is a country" smear turns out to be a hoax.

sherlock wrote:

The bottom line is that I cannot trust the media to fulfill their core responsibility of presenting me with the facts about candidates to allow me to make an informed choice.

I can only conclude that they have done so because they do not feel that their favorites can succeed on a level playing field.

That's another way of saying that anyone the media is savaging is probably a candidate that I can support, and anyone they are treating with deference is probably not worthy of my support.

The fact is that if Obama had received the scrutiny, even if it had been fairer scrutiny, that Palin got, we woudl be speaking of President-elect McCain today.

Carl Pham wrote:

we woudl be speaking of President-elect McCain today.

Hardly. I'm thinking President-elect Thompson or maybe Romney.

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This page contains a single entry by Rand Simberg published on November 13, 2008 7:04 AM.

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