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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.


( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
Aug. 13th, 2013 02:38 pm (UTC)
Not helpful to you

(But when am I? As usual, I'm just conversing.)

Plato and/or Plato's Socrates notoriously disapproved of writing in comparison with conversation, since every hobbledyhoy could -- brace yourself, as you might fall down laughing -- would read the same thing from the text whether it was appropriate to him or not.
Aug. 13th, 2013 04:47 pm (UTC)
St. Francis did not think much of reading and did not advise it for the Friars. I'm not sure why? There is no evidence that Jesus either read (except that one passage from Isaiah at his first public appearance) or wrote (except those few words in the sand at the intended stoning of the adulterous woman.)
Aug. 14th, 2013 02:45 am (UTC)
As for St. Francis's position-- my guess is that he didn't want an hierarchical division between the literate and the illiterate, as friars were low-profile, humble blokes.

The writing-in-the-sand thing was of course a late addition. I've wondered for quite a while whether the Jesus-reading episode was intended to established parity of sorts between Jesus and the Pharisees....
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )



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