Sunday, August 8, 2010

Dangerous illiterates

In Morocco, as in most countries with robust prison populations, there is great interest by both civil society and international organizations in monitoring and reform. Organizations like Search for Common Ground have pursued (unfortunately fruitless) projects involving prisons here. In terms of incarcerated populations, though, it is the US that boasts the largest group of imprisoned people. I have become extremely interested in the state of US prisons and am in general appalled by what I have learned. The Economist recently featured a few articles on US prisons. While trolling the internet, I came across the following quotation, which directly relates to my research on illiterates as an empowered faction, not a societal impediment. Bruce Sterling, in his article (1997) “Hardware for Hard Time” about the corporate stake in prisons wrote, “The technique [of electronic monitoring] is great for keeping well-behaved, middle-aged, highly literate, and responsible white guys out of the joint. Say, bank vice presidents who have blundered into embezzlement. But for semiliterate, sociopathic, unemployable, or strung-out former inmates, electronic gadgets lashed to their wrists or ankles aren't likely to be enough to get them to straighten up and fly right.”

Here is yet another example of the seemingly infinite examples of the vilification of illiterates. They don't just impede development, they are also dangerous criminals who must be locked up because despite their ignorance and stupidity (or perhaps because of it) they are menaces to society. Truly ridiculous. But if this trope didn't exist, I wouldn't have such rich fodder for my dissertation. Alas.