How much do I want to read more? 5/10
Written communication is quite recent. Oral communication has been used for much longer to pass knowledge from generation to generation.
It looks like this book's purpose is to glorify the oral communication in passing knowledge, and how we underestimate it, and how we felt superior in replacing it with modern ways (writing).
I'm not really sure where it's heading to. There are a lot of historian considerations. Maybe a long read for a few insights?
Chapter 1 : Recalling the Past
You see the fateful consequences of this mindset in many places, not just the north-west United States, of course. It occurs where new people arriving to live in a potentially hazardous area may be unaware of the danger, while longer-term residents are more wary. This contrast is amplified when the new arrivals are literate and the long-term occupants are non-literate, since literacy often confers arrogance and an uncritical faith in the superiority of the written over the spoken word.
The focus of this book is not on writing but on its predecessor – speech – and the way this was used to transmit knowledge from one generation to the next.
In today’s literate societies, speech is generally reserved for relatively simple communication, whereas writing (and its scripted visual counterparts) is the method by which our most complex thinking is commonly shared.
speech was the principal means by which non-literate societies communicated between the older and the younger generations – passing on knowledge through the ages – so it had to be optimally configured for this purpose.
In this way, language facilitated the rapid evolution of human societies that occurred in several parts of the world within the past few millennia.
Complex, comparatively densely populated societies of this kind involved organisation and required management to endure, both of which in turn necessitated language of appropriate complexity. It is no coincidence that writing evolved more rapidly in such societies than those elsewhere.
The point here is that every culture on Earth, past and present, uses imagination to supply explanation where none is readily forthcoming from trusted sources.
However, what we typically forget in all this is that most of the world of information in which we find ourselves wallowing today was, until comparatively recently in human history, known only through speech.
It could be argued that the purpose of oral communication between generations in such contexts was principally pragmatic – passing on the wisdom of the ancestors to younger people so that they might survive to one day pass on this knowledge to their children. Knowledge was key to survival; survival is the most basic of instincts for living things. With each new generation, new knowledge would be added, resulting – after a thousand years or more – in a formidable body of traditional wisdom. Research suggests that it was grandparents who became key in passing on this wisdom to their grandchildren, removing the obligation from parents who generally had other, more time-demanding roles in such groups.
Traditional storytellers rarely sit still. Often they stand, mimicking the actions of the characters whose exploits they are relating. Sometimes they dance or clown, making their audience laugh and encouraging its attention to the narrative.
The main focus of this book is a slice of the grey area within prehistory and inferred human history, a time from the coldest part of the last great ice age, about 20,000 years ago, to 1,000 years or so ago, when at least a few societies in almost every part of the world had acquired some degree of literacy.
So how accurate is oral history compared to the other types?