The other day, one of my online colleagues wrote a post with some tips about “How To Refocus When You Can’t Achieve Your Dreams” [ https://new-lune.com/2022/07/21/how-to-refocus-when-you-cant-achieve-your-dreams ]. Even though I quickly replied with a comment, mine was not the first — she seems to have struck a nerve.
I quite often refer to literacy — and many believe this, being simply a statistic, is a simple matter. I believe it is “in fact” anything but a simple matter.
Let’s begin with that simple statistic. Let’s imagine it were 90%. What would that tell us? 90% of some population are able to do something — but what? Sign their name? Read a sentence in English? Read a sentence in Chinese? Answer a question? Cross the street? Understand the Constitution of the United States of America?
Let me now focus a little more on just one of these examples. In most countries — at least most “developed” countries — on Earth, there is some concept of what many English speakers would refer to as a “crosswalk”. There may be rules and regulations which govern the use of these little tidbits of infrastructure. Both the laws written on paper and the symbols used in the crosswalks themselves are quite obviously written language. Yet I think very few people would consider the ability to cross the street a sign of literacy.
Above and beyond that complication, there are other complications. In Germany, a very highly developed and very well regulated economy, there is a well-known quip about gravestones with an epitaph reading “I had the right of way”. In other words: being able to cross the street is not only a matter of being literate concerning the laws governing crosswalks, but also a matter of the way other people behave. And not only that: whereas in Germany a pedestrian might be scolded for standing at a crosswalk without crossing the street, in some other countries simply walking across the crosswalk might be interpreted as naive and foolish.
Whenever there is any kind of social order, this also involves the boundaries  inherent in that order. What is beyond that line? We need  to consider not only what is directly in front of our noses, but also what is the background, the context, the situation, the “other” stuff.