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illiteracy

May 29, 2009

Recently I overheard a conversation between two friends that astounded me.  Friend One seemed to be of the opinion that C defined a scale, and didn’t understand what Friend Two meant by saying that you have to specify C what.  I sat there amazed.  How could anyone not understand that the tonic wasn’t enough – you have to name the mode also or you haven’t defined anything useful.
Then again, I’m an ass.
I’ve often sat in embarrassed silence as people make jokes about drugs, pop culture, or news stories that I have never heard of, and prayed to not be discovered as my own type of illiterate (a word which I find I’m incapable of spelling on the first try…).  I’ve watched friends sit awkwardly when their own topics come up, and done my best to deflect conversation if I think they’re at risk of being ridiculed.
It’ll never cease to amaze me how good we all are at assuming everyone is like is, and our fantastic ability to laugh at "those others" before we check to make sure none of them are sitting at the table.  We tend to assume people have had as much sex as we have, read the books we have, listen to the music we like, and agree with our politics.  Yeah, we’re willing to differ about our interpretation of Lord of the Flies, but we assume everyone’s read it.
Even more, we assume these gaps are signs of a lack of intellect, rather than a lack of knowledge.  I had to stop myself from thinking my friend a music idiot, in the above example.  I know I’m seen as something of a failure at history when I mix up which decade Vietnam was in, or fail to know why the latest tax proposal or budget cut is controversial.  We collectively laugh at the inability of the average person to understand parts of science, and yet here we are a world of our making safe from the collective laughing everyone else at our inability to handle social norms.  We think they’re stupid because they don’t understand what the word ‘theory’ means.  They think we’re stupid because we can’t carrying on a conversation without either science talk or awkward pauses.

I hope I get better at this.  I hope I get better at admitting my own gaps in knowledge, in hopes of learning.  I hope I get better at remembering that not everyone is like me.  And I really hope that I get braver about standing up for people when someone is trying their damndest to be invisible lest they be discovered as illiterate on the topic at hand.

Also, I can’t spell damndest.  Or damnit.  They don’t make sense.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. Anonymous permalink
    May 30, 2009 8:08 am

    Haha, are you talking about that conversation between nick and me in the back of Erik’s car?
    I AM a music idiot, no qualms there. I don’t know the basic vocabulary, nerver learned it unfortunately.

  2. May 30, 2009 11:10 pm

    *laughs* I was doing my best not to be a pompous ass and interrupt with more facts. He was explaining it well enough, but boy did I want to go into a music theory lecture. Figured I couldn’t manage it without sounding like an ass though, so I held my tongue and let him do it. If you would ever want to know more, I’d love to tell you, but I promise not to force it down your throat.

  3. Anonymous permalink
    May 31, 2009 5:33 pm

    Oh, you wouldn’t have sounded like an ass! And I’m always happy to learn more things in life.

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