The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who cannot read them.
There is dumb-downing, cancel culture (I’ve been cancelled since beginning in 1972 in high school, way before the trendy terminology), forced consent, manufactured bifurcation, false balance, triangulation, perception as reality, equivocation, a host of propaganda techniques unleashed by Edward Bernays and Goebbels, and the ugly quartet of Infantilization-McDonaldization–Walmartization-Disneyfication:
George Ritzer introduced the concept of McDonaldization with his 1993 book, The McDonaldization of Society. Since that time the concept has become central within the field of sociology and especially within the sociology of globalization.
According to Ritzer, the McDonaldization of society is a phenomenon that occurs when society, its institutions, and its organizations are adapted to have the same characteristics that are found in fast-food chains. These include efficiency, calculability, predictability and standardization, and control.
Ritzer’s theory of McDonaldization is an update on classical sociologist Max Weber’s theory of how scientific rationality produced bureaucracy, which became the central organizing force of modern societies through much of the twentieth century. According to Weber, the modern bureaucracy was defined by hierarchical roles, compartmentalized knowledge and roles, a perceived merit-based system of employment and advancement, and the legal-rationality authority of the rule of law. These characteristics could be observed (and still can be) throughout many aspects of societies around the world. — Source
Now, we know infantilization was once applied just to young people, teenagers and such, giving them the one-two punch of treating them as if they have the mental capacity of a four-year or six-year old (now, the nanny-state, and the SARS-CoV2 paranoia and ignorance, making youth think a virus leaps from the ground outside while running in track by themselves will give them the DARPA virus — even DARPA isn’t that good, hail to virologist bomb makers at Fort Detrick and Plum Island). Underestimating the potential of 16-year-olds to understand “our” adult world, or the complexities of society. You know, give a 16-year-old the right to vote since it is that group most affected by the bad bad brew of politics and electioneering that will effect them the most and longest. Nope. That concept of infant-making of the American mind, of course, has been scaled up to an entire society fed on pabulum, cultivated through mass media that are geared to childish concepts of consumerism, fear, patriotism, and celebrity culture and bowing to the rich and famous.
Patronizing might be just one aspect of infantilization, but believe you me, I have been in many arenas — social work, education (higher and K12), environmentalism, union organizing, politics, journalism, the arts (literary, photography), urban planning … and then in so many workplaces as an organizer and social services specialist. I’ve seen some dumbdowning and infatalizing and agnotology from supposed brightest and best coming out of elite Ivy Leadure schools. What has happened in the USA is one broad infantilization and massive Collective Stockholm Syndrome. It took 50 years, or 60.
Walmartization is pretty simple and deadly — Large chain stores moving (bulldozing) into a region (neighborhoods) which then not only devastate local businesses driving and then displacing those workers into low paying chain store jobs, but the money made by these national and multinational chains leaves the community. It could be a bank chain, or hardware chain. That Home Depot is moving profits to shareholders, to the huge monster at the head of the huge serpent that kills local enterprise, local community support. Community of place is replaced by the transnational community of purpose — that purpose being profits anyway possible, and cutting labor costs, benefits, health and safety. Hell, get those workers on state Obama Care, food stamps, and the leftover public assistance. If you work at Amazon, what’s so wrong with three workers living in a beat up RV? That Walmartization is about economies of scale, eating the soul of small manufacturers, small retail businesses, mom and pop’s, and, alas, the money leaves the community and goes to the highly paid family owners or company roughriders — the Cabal of millionaires, multimillionaires, hedge funds, and billionaires that are to put it kindly, bloodsuckers, and viruses.
Disneyfication is a sophisticated intended and unintended set of processes that basically strips a real place (built environment, nature, etc.) or thing of its original character. That is the strip-mall which has boom and busted, and the great 200 acre malls, or the same 7-11 in a million places, as well as those Starbucks shit stores placed everywhere including the bathrooms. It is both a sanitization of real life, of real character, of real communities. Again, anything negative — like telling the real history of this Indian-killing, slave-owning/killing, union-busting/killing, global terror cop propagating country (sic) — is removed, hidden, and then, here we are, with facts that are dumbed down with the psychological and marketing intention of rendering any negative, truthful, hurtful subject more pleasant and easily grasped. Replacing the real bar, the real bookstore, the real coffee shop, the real bodega, the real restaurant, the real park, the real playground, the real forest, the real wetlands, the real swamp, the real everglades, the real farm, with something either idealized … or giving something tourist-friendly veneer. There is a fake “Main Street, U.S.A.” everywhere, and then the ugly side of what makes Milquetoast (but globally deadly) United States of Amerigo Vespucci a dying, wasteful, broken, rotting country.
Now, below will be a short Opinion piece I penned quickly to help my county to realize we have yet another deficit — lack of a literacy initiative, literacy center, literacy professionals and volunteers to help people learn how to read, learn how to decipher children’s schools’ labyrinthine rules and guidelines. To participate in this 21st century, or the Century before this one and the one before that one: learning how to read, and to critically evaluate all the snake oil labels, all the scams, all the hidden fees-tolls-poles-fines-add-ons, to call spade a spade when PayDay comes to town, or when red-lining rules the roost, or when complete and total neighborhoods are fleeced financially, culturally and environmentally.
Literacy — And I have been at that game since, well, since my first year of college, University of Arizona. I’ve taught in prisons where lack of literacy is one big reason for many being locked away. I ran a communications program at a large military base (Fort Bliss, El Paso) where privates all the way to five or six striper NCOs had reading grade levels of 4 or 5 or 6. That’s fourth, fifth and sixth grade (if they were lucky).
I’ve written about this before — cartoon instructional manuals (usually with a buxom blonde white woman as the instructor in series after series cartoon strips) bending over to show how to arm a Stinger missile or how to use a Vulcan machine missile gun.
If reading isn’t important, than, I suppose every single law drawn up by ALEC and every single omnibus bill, every war lord’s thousand-page contract for this or that bound-to-be-triple-cost overrun killing systems, whether in the air, on the water, underwater, on land, in space, over the web, inside telephones and computers, or inside a bacteria or virus just is not that important.
To the point where 9 or 11 trillion dollars is missing from DoD, and how many trillions have been shelled out to war lords, bankers, virus mercenaries, poverty profiteers?
That I have to work on getting one person into a volunteer-run literacy program as if I am writing the new laws or formulating something unique is troubling (read my Op-Ed piece below).
Functional or complete illiteracy. Remember Jonathan Kozol:
Kozol believes that liberal education in our inner-city schools has been increasingly replaced by “culturally barren and robotic methods of instruction that would be rejected out of hand by schools that serve the mainstream of society.”
Oh baby, did I have Kozol on speed dial in the college classes I taught —
- Kozol, Jonathan. Death at an Early Age: The Destruction of the Hearts and Minds of Negro Children in the Boston Public Schools. Houghton, 1967, revised edition, New American Library, 1985.
- Kozol, Jonathan. Illiterate America. Anchor/Doubleday, 1985.
- Kozol, Jonathan. On Being a Teacher. Continuum, 1981.
- Kozol, Jonathan. Ordinary Resurrections: Children in the Years of Hope. Crown, 2000.
- Kozol, Jonathan. Savage Inequalities: Children in America’s Schools. Crown, 1991.
- Kozol, Jonathan. Shame of the Nation: The restoration of apartheid schooling in America. Crown, 2005.
This is what Studs Terkel said about Kozol’s Illiterate America — “Stunning… with passion and eloquence Kozol reveals a devastating truth… and offers a challenge and remedy.” Source
If it is any comfort to this man, he should know that he is not alone. Twenty-five million American adults cannot read the poison warnings on a can of pesticide, a letter from their child’s teacher, or the front page of a daily paper. An additional 35 million read only at a level which is less than equal to the full survival needs of our society.
Together, these 60 million people represent more than one third of the entire adult population.
The largest numbers of illiterate adults are white, native-born Americans. In proportion to population, however, the figures are higher for blacks and Hispanics than for whites. Sixteen percent of white adults, 44 percent of blacks, and 56% of Hispanic citizens are functional or marginal illiterates. Figures for the younger generation of black adults are increasing. Forty-seven percent of all black seventeen-year-olds are functionally illiterate. That figure is expected to climb to 50 percent by 1990. — Kozol, Illiterate America
Now, that was from a book Kozol wrote 36 years ago. THIRTY-SIX. Those numbers above pale in comparison to this year’s averages. Since we have 335 million in this country, and alas, functional illiteracy is at an all-time high, a larger percentage of people are duped, fooled, cheated, imprisoned, bankrupted, scammed, and structurally murdered because they can’t read or can’t understand what they are reading. Make that 80 percent of people reading the car-seat instructions for their loved one’s safety, in fact, install the car seat INCORRECTLY after reading a 7th grade level set of simple instructions.
Image below: Jonathan Kozol a long time ago teaching reading
Why do I use milquetoast in the title? Here, Kozol, telling it like it is about Dumb Downed USA, with Sleepy Joe — “Joe Biden’s shameful record on school segregation”
Advocates for children and civil rights who have not yet given up entirely on the struggle to break down the walls of racial isolation in our public schools may want to take a good hard look at Joe Biden’s shameful record on school segregation. Despite his recent effort to allay concerns about that record, it cannot be expunged or easily forgiven.
In an education-policy proposal released by his campaign on May 28, Biden briefly spoke of encouraging diversity by giving grants and guidance to districts that are willing to pursue it. But he said nothing to disown his long history as a fierce opponent of school busing and a scathing critic of the Supreme Court’s decision in Brown v. Board of Education.
Milquetoast to all the idiots who fight me tooth and nail when I explicitly state I never have or never will vote for a democrat or republican for president. That a two-minute scribble exercise called voting does absolutely ZERO for me, and for the causes I fight for, including a literacy center in every rural, suburban, urban community.
Illiteracy is bad all around, but oh is it sweet to the bankers, real estate folk, the doctors, lawyers, accountants, IRS, military, marketers, flimflam folk that rule this country … as you will read in the short piece I did for the small twice a week rag, Newport News Times. But what makes this country a house of horrors and run by corporate and war lord whores, is how all of those elites and monsters conspire to make people dumb downed, and that is the McDonaldization-Walmartization-Infantalization-Disneyfication of everything.
Literacy is a matter of life and death, happiness or penury
I used to get my elbows up into many literacy projects as an English and writing faculty member at community colleges, universities, prison school programs and writing/journalism workshops for people who are exploited because of their status as low income or as former felons, and those homeless citizens as well as adults living with developmental and intellectual disabilities.
Events like “Banned Books Month” (October) or National Poetry Month (April) I worked hard to promote/support. Big journalism organizations like Project Censored and groups like Reporters without Borders are still in my blood.
I am now working again in a small rural community dotted with small towns. I am not only supporting folks with job development and on-the-job training and coaching, but I am helping two Lincoln County citizens with reading literacy.
In my situation with Shangri-La, these two are adult men in their 30s who are seeking reading literacy programs.
It may come as a surprise to citizens, lawmakers and politicians alike, but Lincoln County does not have a literacy center. There is no one-stop place for people who need literacy tutoring, whether they are functionally illiterate in their English skills as a U.S.-born citizen, or those who are English as a second/third language learners.
I’m working with a Salem group, Mid-Valley Literacy Center (founded in 2009). Vivian Ang is my contact who is helping train Newport and Toledo-based citizens to help tutor my two clients. This is not an easy task, and Vivian, with more than 20 years of tutoring including at Chemeketa Community College, says it’s hit or miss.
“I do not have any experience with assisting an adult with a learning disability (developmental disability) to learn how to read,” she has repeated to me several times.
An adult who drives a car, works at a factory, runs a large piece of construction equipment, lives on his own and presents as a “regular sort of guy” can be in one of the most dire of circumstances — functional and complete illiteracy.
Wanting to learn how to read when you are in your 30s takes guts. There are stigmas for someone who can’t read an insurance form or simple job application.
The need is high in Lincoln County for adults like this client of mine — born in Newport and educated in Newport’s K-12 system, including special education classes — to learn how to read. But we have many from Mexico, Guatemala and other countries in our communities where learning how to read and speak English is more than just a step toward better pay.
Vivian tells me a story about an Oregon woman, from Mexico, illiterate in English, who had a sick daughter who needed medication to improve. The prescription stated, “Take this medication once a day.” In Spanish, once is the word for the number 11, so, tragically, the mother followed the prescription contextualized in her Spanish reading abilities. At 11 times a day, after a few days, the medication killed her two-year-old daughter.
Navigating housing, employment, the legal system, utility companies, landlords, cultural activities, and representative politics are basically off limits to a person who can’t read or write. The amount of exploitation, fines, fees, garnishments, late payments and other penalties is a regular occurrence for people who can’t read and write.
According to the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy (founded 1991), low literacy in the USA costs us as a society $2.2 trillion a year. According to U.S. Department of Education, more than half of U.S. adults aged 16 to 74 years old (54 percent or 130 million people) lack proficiency in literacy, reading below the equivalent of a sixth-grade level.
For my many clients across the board, lack of reading, low reading levels and functional illiteracy can be linked to poorer health, low levels of civic engagement and low earnings in the labor market. On average, more than 70 percent of people following the seventh grade reading level for instructions on how to install an infant car seat fail to follow the proper steps.
I am enlisting tutors for my two clients. I have a librarian and a library technician on board. Three retired women living in Toledo and Newport, too. One of my client’s workplaces is stepping up and paying the nonprofit Vivian runs for the materials and training. That general manager is also providing a private space with internet access to his worker (I’ll call him Samuel) who is illiterate.
He tells me, “I wish I had 22 Samuel’s working for me. He’s an incredible worker, reliable, goes the extra mile.” Source