This book is part of a series about the development of our Western culture. I've kind of read them out of order since I've yet to read How the Irish Saved Civilization (the introductory volume) yet read the book about Jesus and Christianity last year (it's third in the series and you can see my numerous posts on it by scrolling this link which is a search using the author's name). My previous post touching on The Gifts of the Jews is second in the series, and this blurb is from book four Sailing the Wine-Dark Sea: Why the Greeks Matter by Thomas Cahill.
"Many cultural commentators have theorized that oral society -- that is, society in which writing is unknown -- is far more communal and visionary than society in which human thought is objectified by writing and that written language encourages the reader in his separateness to individualism (uncommunity) and by its sequential format to sequential, rational analysis (unvision). Though there is probably much truth to such theories, it may also be true that the type of literacy a given society enshrines may work great wonders than the fact of literacy itself. A type of literacy that can be grasped easily by almost anyone will tend to spread some kind of proto-democratic consciousness far and wide, even if this is accomplished only in small steps over a very long period of time. ... A type of literacy that demystifies the act of reading, erasing for all time the aura of an unapproachable Sacred Brotherhood of scribes, wisemen, and potentates, will by its very nature tend to demystify additional realms of human experience." (pg. 60)
I guess this struck me as worth sharing because of all the talk of the old Jewish and Arabian societies being oral in nature. I remember a post I did not long ago about the Quran being repeated over and over and basically perfected by Muhammad as he taught it to his followers before it was finally written in the version we have today (thanks also to Uthman who had the first Quran burning for copies of the Quran that were not the Authorized Version. Yes, I know I'm being silly calling it the AV which is usually attributed to the King James Version of the Bible, but I'm in that kind of mood.)
So about oral societies vs. literate ones. Do you think it's true that we readers are more individualistic and rational thus not prone so much to community ties and being visionary which I suppose means - what? dreamers? Actually what do you think the author means by this vision vs. "unvision"? Is this why we don't have angels talking to us and bringing us fresh revelation from God?
I can see that when I read, I am being individualistic in that I am not interacting with anyone until I decide to do this -- share on my blog and ask you to discuss what I read! So maybe blogging is getting back to community somewhat. And for sure if you have an oral tradition of stories, it would promote interaction. It's like the entertainment of the day - hearing the stories, the family history, the battles, the struggles to survive, the victories! Nowadays we have television.
Also what do you think about reading being demystified and this leading to more democratic movements?
Any other thoughts or observations? Please share!