bobby1933 (bobby1933) wrote,

Literacy And Violence In Ancient Times?

"The primary function of writing, as a means of communication, is to facilitate the enslavement of human beings.
The use of writing for disinterested purposes, and as a source of intellectual and aesthetic pleasure is a secondary result; and more often than not, it may even be turned into a means of strengthening and concealing the other. -- Claude Levi-Strauss, Tristes Tropiques (cited in Rosalind Thomas, Literature and Orality in Ancient Greece.

This is a very provocative statement.  But the argument that i wish to research goes deeper than that.  Levi-Strauss said that writing is mainly used for enslavement (violence) which may or may not be so; but it has been argued somewhere by somebody that there was an inherent cause effect relation between literacy in previously oral societies and increased levels of violence in those societies.  I think the assumption is made here that literacy is an indigenous development rather than being imposed from outside the society.   The argument seems to go something like this:  Writing distances the writer from his experience and from the reader in a way that verbal communication does not.  Distance, physical, emotional, social, etc., is a factor involved in violence among human beings.

If any one has heard this argument and remembers a source or sources, i would be grateful for that information.
Tags: gnosis and agnosis, perspective on "history", violence, words
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