17 January 2008

Power Itself

"For most of human history, most people could not read at all. Literacy was not only a demarcator between the powerful and the powerless; it was power itself. Pleasure was not an issue. The ability to maintain and understand commercial records, the ability to communicate across distance and in code, the ability to keep the word of God to yourself and transmit it only at your own will and in your own time -- these are formidable means of control over others and aggrandizement of self. Every literate society began with literacy as a constitutive prerogative of the (male) ruling class."
~ Ursula K. Le Guin, from "Staying Awake: Notes on the alleged decline of reading," Harper's Magazine (February 2008)

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