I hesitate in writing this. Pretention can easily be assumed when discussing certain things. I have a couple of degrees to back most of my assertions . . . which can also sound pretentious. Ugh. I do not know how start this. I will just say it and let the proverbial chips fall where they may. Our society is becoming less and less literate or even cerebral as a whole. We depend on machines to think for us: GPS to get us to a store that is four miles from our residence, phones to remind us to tell our significant others happy birthday, pings and dings on our watches to inform us of meetings and missed calls.
I often think about the past and the genius that lay only a few decades behind us, like the 1920’s. Centuries and millennia hold the same kinds of incredibly gifted people. Yes, I know we have brilliance in tiny pools around us now, but I am referring to our society as a whole and what I see as a pride of ignorance or fallacy of thinking that something like technological advancement reflects intellect as a whole. As a whole, a society will fall into the trap of believing they are much more advanced than even one generation before, based on what the society produces in material and/or wealth.
In his article, “Smart Society, Stupid People,” Jeffery Tucker cites F.A. Hayek, Austrian-British economist and philosopher, in relation to why we think ourselves much more intellectual than our predecessors. “To understand our civilization,” Hayek writes, “one must appreciate that the extended order resulted not from human design or intention but spontaneously: it arose from unintentionally conforming to certain traditional and largely moral practices, many of which men tend to dislike, whose significance they usually fail to understand, whose validity they cannot prove, and which have nonetheless fairly rapidly spread by means of an evolutionary selection — the comparative increase of population and wealth — of those groups that happened to follow them.”
So what brought me to the point of having to write this? Goodreads and book reviewers in general. Of course I know that book reviews do not encompass or reflect the nucleus of what is determined as cerebral, but it could be a tiny clue. How and what we read and digest is crucial to a constantly “evolving” society. Reading? Yes, reading. How is it possible to read and review an adverbially written book with poor flow and symmetry and give it a rave review accompanied by five stars? Compared to what? Five star writers are rare as a single term congressman. Up there in the thin air of five stars are names like Steinbeck, Vonnegut, O’Farrell, Hemmingway, Irving, Vanauken, Shakespeare, Fitzgerald, Lewis, Owens, Rowling, Tolkien . . . well, you get the idea.
This shaky idea of what is deemed a well-written book is not limited to Goodreads contributors. Many modern books line the shelves of brick and mortar stores wrapped in incredible, wordy praise. True? Unfortunately, many times it is not. Sure, most of excessive grandeur is to sell books, and of course a bad review will not be placed on a book cover, but why are certain words or lines used over and over when writing reviews, the kind of lines that immediately give me pause?
- a literary giant . . . similar to Faulkner?
- greatest horror writer to date . . . uh besides Poe?
- a master of language . . . like Shakespeare?
- brilliant story teller . . . on par with Steinbeck?
- one to be remembered for the ages . . . parallel with Austin?
- best book I’ve ever read . . . how many is that?
I am truly not trying to be smug or ostentatious. I am frustrated. Google a letter written by a twenty-something year old in the 1800’s compared to an email from the same age person today. Yes, I am a teacher and feel that I am running back and forth in front of the dam, sticking my fingers in the holes. The spoken and written language is on life support. Children roll by me in a store, stuffed in shopping carts, minds shut down, staring at cell phones, instead of engaged in conversation and taught how to express themselves. The window is small in language development. According to Elaine Shiver in her article, “Brain Development and Mastery of Language in the Early Childhood Years,” the opportunities during the course of the day to engage in face-to-face interaction, hear language being spoken, listen to the written word read aloud, and practice associating objects with words provide language experiences without undue stress or overstimulation . . . The window for syntax or grammar is open during the preschool years and may close as early as five or six years of age, while the window for adding new words never closes completely.
The devolvement of language has remained a constant; so if that is true, where is the stopping point? I guess we could end up grunting and pointing . . . or just texting someone who is standing in the same room with us . . . Oh, BTW, we already do that. OMG! NVM, it might be too late.