The condition that was once an inability to read/write has (almost) been wiped out. Two hundred years ago, the literacy rate was 15%. Now, the illiteracy rate is 15%. With that about-face, the definition of what it means to be illiterate has changed.
Illiteracy (n)(21st century): illness caused by too much literacy.
The new illiteracy is the ability to consume so much information, it makes you forget who you are. The new illiteracy is an inability to know yourself.
Ideologies and actions that have negatively affected us over the last century have not been because the bozo(s) that couldn’t read or write. They have been a consequence of the towering literate – the intelligentsia – and their inability to reflect on their own shitty selves.
And this is beginning to affect us. You know a generation has a problem when one of their greatest fears is missing out on information and one of their greatest achievements, paradoxically, is unplugging from the internet an hour before bed.
This is only reinforcing the new definition of what it means to be illiterate. It is knowledge at the cost of self-awareness.
The traditionally illiterate made mistakes because he didn’t know better. The neo illiterate makes mistakes because he knows so much he has stopped thinking about what’s most obvious.
Better education, information, and technology make us literate — intelligent, but not necessarily better. The information helps crystallize your knowledge which in turn edifies individual beliefs. Better has happened when we have had the courage to admit these beliefs, and therefore everything we know could be wrong. That, in a bizarre way, you have been illiterate all along.
Information isn’t bad. Information as the only solution is. It makes thinking and being thoughtful redundant.
My travels gave me easy perspective on this. I found myself in lands where my internet didn’t work, where I couldn’t speak the language, couldn’t gesture people into making food that didn’t have something dead in it, and wasn’t quite sure where I was going next. My brain felt numb in the absence of information.
And for the first time, it gave me space to think outside the information bubble.
This new literacy guided me to a storage space in my brain I had never discovered. And I discovered it was empty. Self-awareness is that emptiness.
Your self can’t be dicking around in dark parts of your head looking for more and more weird information to grab onto and expect to be transformed. Your self is a crazy drunk, to begin with. And information isn’t the sobriety you are looking for.
With the glut of information, it’s hard to remain illiterate anymore. But it’s harder to remain literate.
Being literate is the ability to say no to more information. Being literate is a comfort with ignorance. Being literate is that: being.