24th November

The Illiterate Hordes of History Have Their Say

You think you saved us from savagery with your lines and circles and dots. You think you liberated us from ignorance. You did the very opposite. We were alive and you killed the spirit of life that was in us. We roamed freely and you tethered us. We knew no boundaries and you fenced us in. We had a natural philosophy and you destroyed it and put utilitarianism in its place.

You built roads through our country where before were only paths and landmarks. We had songs and stories as our guides and you covered them over with maps. You tied down the stories, choked and shackled them. Books are their prisons. You hunted the songs, caught them with nets and traps, and then complained when they were wrongly sung, but it was you who wronged them.

You promised that the world of writing and reading would have no limits. You lied. You narrowed our vision, you clogged our minds with information we did not need and you destroyed our ability to remember the things we cherished most. Once, we knew our ancestors even to the twentieth generation, and they were with us always, through our days and through our nights. Once, our history was in our blood. Now it is dead, and our people squabble over the scraps and bones which are all that survive.

Once, we read the weather, the seasons, the prints of animals, the healing powers of plants, the mysteries and dangers of the forest. Once, the world was our library and we wrote messages among its stacks. The rain came, or the sun – storm or fire – and in the aftermath our library still stood and our marks could be written again.

Now everything is stored, yet nothing is secure. Time eats into us as worms devour books, and we fall apart. You have felled the forests of the world to flatter the vanity of knowledge, yet you know nothing of value that we did not know, and much more that is valueless.

We had wisdom: you gave us stupidity. We had faith: you gave us doubt. We had strength: you gave us fragility. We had life: you gave us books.

Reader: Gerda Stevenson
Fiddle: Aidan O'Rourke
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