Since Rebecca’s lecture Monday on oral versus literate societies, I’ve thought a lot on that, and on the oral tradition, as well as on how we interact with each other today. From the outset, I was thinking about the differences in those I know who socialize more, or who elevate books and things like that, or whose relationships with both have an equal status and why. I began questioning whether we choose to interact better with other people, or other things. Is our society geared in such a way that people often choose one particular interaction over another (books versus people)?
Within my social group, a sizable percentage exhibits Aspergers Syndrome traits, some are fully diagnosed. Due to the nature of this, social interaction can be difficult, particularly when conflict, real or perceived, comes up.
Rebecca spoke of cultures several millennia ago where you could mark the change in the culture pre- or post-literacy, telling us there was no difference if only a few were literate, that the entire culture changed. These societies were originally very people-focused, and very interested in the health and well-being your relationships with others. In addition, if not matriarchal, they were certainly egalitarian, where women held equal importance with men.
After the onset of literacy, these cultures became hierarchical, and patriarchal. Relationships with everyone mattered far less than you being and remaining in your place. After the workshop on Wednesday where we discussed various articles, including Evergreen’s education, I believe even more so now due to the interdisciplinary nature of our curriculum, those of us who are here are able to make these connections the pre-literate people had with each other. This is due to our brain being interconnected in holistic ways that many others of our time simply aren’t exposed to.
The connection of various subjects, even as a post-literate society, in our minds is helping some of us to forge connections both academically, as well as relationally to the rest of humanity. I believe this is also visible in those exhibiting Aspergers traits who get frustrated by their social difficulties, but who are amazingly book-smart. Many have flocked to Evergreen for the mode of education, for it helps not only in academics, but in connecting with other people who you can touch, or have conversations with, in ways that you don’t find at a university. This setting, and mode of learning, helps to drop the barrier between the hierarchy of the mind that we’ve built up culturally, as well as to integrate and make safe the learning of alternative modes of communication.
All that said, I have some other questions. What are the differences between literate and illiterate peoples (of any age)? What do we think of them? What are our own biases? What if they are considered literate in their own culture, but are trying to learn ours or someone else’s language?