If You Can Read This You’re Ahead of 22% of Nwe Yrokr3s
Twenty two percent of New Yorkers are illiterate. Think about the profound nature of that statement in it’s given format, written words on a page. Not the paper kind of page, but in this case the digital kind, but that’s neither here nor there. The people that are directly affected by the condition have no use for it; it is nothing more than meaningless patterns of pixels on the screen. Take a look at this 1907 Article from the New York Times; guess this problem has been an issue for over a century now. Seems like the literate could have a lot of fun at the illiterate’s expense. Or, if you’re not a straightforward type of asshole, put forth campaigns designed to create awareness and support networks to help people overcome their lot in life and join civilized society. If this sounds like the plan for you, then you’re much more an oblique form of humanity’s inherent asshole tendencies, with the mindset that “you can’t help yourself, so shut up while we fix it for you.” Kind of like a walk-a-thon with the benefits going towards multiple sclerosis. Makes me wonder who thought up the ad campaign to fight illiteracy in New York.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for helping people better themselves, but something about seeing a public service announcement in print form about illiteracy strikes me as somehow wrong. Not to mention how the ad goes about it, by misspelling New York by switching letters around. Pretty sure that’s more up the alley of dyslexia rather than illiteracy. It’s not that they mess up the order, it’s that the entire set of symbols are meaningless to them. Give a two year old a pen and tell them to write something, and use that, instead of the misspelling, for Christ’s sake. I mean, after all, these people have it hard enough, not being able to read and all, and now we’re going to patronize them in some misguided effort to help them.
My answer to the conundrum of walking the thin line between being helpful and just plain mean is to be the upfront asshole. And make fun of them, but only to properly motivate them. Make them feel bad for not being able to read the billboard, because so many people spend hours just staring at it and laughing hysterically. And then when the illiterate person starts laughing to pretend they aren’t illiterate, all the people who get it immediately stop laughing and berate the person, saying, “You really need to learn to read, you dumb fuck!” And then they could give the illiterate person a ride to the Learning Center, to help them work with someone patient and caring to help them learn how to interpret those squiggles that everyone likes to put everywhere. And you know what that billboard said?
Point and laugh hysterically at this, but before you do, clap your hands three times in quick succession. If you don’t some poor bastard may never enjoy the rush of reading.
That’ll get the reform that the system so desperately needs.
Photo Courtesy Joey Z.