Earl Gray

Earl Gray
"You can argue with me but, in the end, you'll have to face that fact that you're arguing with a squirrel." - Earl Gray

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Free Speech

     Speech is free.  Writing costs.

Earl the Squirrel's Rule #19
     In a Facebook discussion with one of our favorite editors (stemming from our previous post entitled "What poetry was, is, and will always be"), the question arose:  "will we ultimately reach a point in our evolution when written prose is more common than oral prose?"

     Will we type more than we speak?

     When people discuss "free speech" they are usually talking about its possible political rather than its actual economic price.  Other than commercials, we rarely have to pay money in order to speak;  reading is another matter.  In centuries past publication was well beyond most people's budgets.  Earlier, carving on stone tablets was, at least in terms of work hours, expensive.  (Perhaps it is no coincidence that writing has invariably developed along with a currency, giving rise to conjecture that writing methods may have begun as accounting systems.  Instead of the wisdom of the ages, could our first recorded words have been tax code?)

     Today, text is a booming industry:  Internet Service Providers, book and magazine publishers, dating websites, newpapers, advice lines for sports, investments, etc.  The telephone was one of the primary sources of conversation but is now ceding ground to text[ing].  Turn on your television and see how much information is moving across your screen. 

      For the first time in modern history reading and writing are free:  anyone with access to a public WiFi outlet and a tablet or laptop can enjoy and contribute to the world wide web's cornucopia of text, including this blog, at zero cost.

     Speech and writing are free.

Earl the Squirrel's Rule #20
     All of this is great news unless your concern is the quality rather than the quantity of discourse.  Enter poetry.  Lots of it.  Printing costs are falling and, absent funding, there is always the Internet.  From stone tablets to papyrus transcription, then from moveable type to deskstop publishing, there has been a cheapening--in both the literal and figurative senses--of writing.  Today, most of what we read is unpublished:  texting, email, social media, blogs, etc.  Most poetry is either self-published or put out by acquantainces or hobbyists.  This makes it  more difficult to weed out the posers and prosers.  The public won't bother;  one glance is enough to tell them this stuff isn't ready for prime time.  Few will invest the time to read it.

     Even free, most poetry is overpriced.

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