Detroit HARDBALL!! October 23, 2006
Indie Journalism, social commentary, and liberated speech
Written and edited by Michael Madias
Published by the BlueJean ThinkTank
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Literacy as a public health issue
By Michael Madias
I have not seriously considered publishing this old rag, Detroit Hardball, for a couple of years. It did not fit in my
kind of desperate life (desperate for money, fame and all that Willie Lowman American Dream kind of shit.). I dropped Indie
journalism when I made a hopeless run for public office on the Green Party ticket. I did not get elected, of course, and
yet I was a sore loser. I published soft core porn and called myself a free speech activist. What delusions!
I did not make a dime as a journalist, lost very big time as a politician, and I could not sell hard core sex disguised
as soft core porn. How bad is it when you cannot even give it away on the dirty boulevard?
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If you cannot read, how can you get help?
Time passes. Wives, family, friends, doctors, and social workers intervened. And here I am in a nice apartment, sitting
in a captains chair perched on top of a big ass Hummer of a power wheel chair. There is plenty of food, beer and wine in
the fridge, a bit of cash in the bank left over when my bills are paid. I am listening to “Lyle Lovett and his
Large Band on the big box;and life is good. Society has been very generous to me.
But the world at large is not good. And the damn thing is, that things could be better: in this city; state; country;
and world. Just because it is peachy keen here in my small kingdom, I don’t have to zippidee doo too far from the
Trolley Plaza; in my throne-like power chair to see suffering, cruelty and waste.
The first thing I notice is other people in wheel chairs. I particularly notice the amputees. Some of these men and
women have lost feet and legs due to inadequate treatment of diabetes. I am a diabetic. It does not take much to go from
being fat and sassy like I am; to being footless like others.
For me, diabetes is a major problem. And my wife and I can manage it. But for others, there are worse situations to
face that make it more difficult to manage type 2 diabetes. In Detroit, nearly half the adult population is functionally
illiterate. If someone cannot read at an adult level, they do not have access to information that they will need in order
to survive. They are isolated.
Part of the reason I have diabetes is that I ate without discrimination when I was younger. My bad. The reason I have
10 fingers and ten toes today is that I am doing a much better job of controlling my blood sugar. It is not that I am a smarter
or a better person. I can read and write and enjoy doing so. My readers can read; but those I am speaking for cannot.
There are many programs designed to promote adult literacy in Detroit and Michigan. But, if the statistics are correct,
and 47% of adults who live in Detroit are functionally illiterate, then the adult literacy programs are clearly a failure.
Education is usually considered a factor in a state economic package. Governor Granholm has a fixation on the universities,
as a place for developing a highly skilled work force. It is a gamble that the young men and women we train will stay in
Michigan until some new companies come in, establish themselves and hire people. I think it is a lousy bet. Given the opportunity
I would take my marketable degree and get the Hell out of Michigan. I would go to where the jobs are.
A better bet is to put money into remedying adult illiteracy, but not as an economic development issue. It is a public
health issue. If a person can not read well, they are far less likely to find the kind of social and medical services they
will need to prevent complications from common chronic diseases like diabetes. Teaching someone to read produces a change
So printing up more flyers; and doing new websites will not remedy the situation.
Detroit operates with a 47% adult illiteracy rate. I could not function without access to the written word, but half
of adult Detroiters can do it. So, there must be a society and culture in Detroit that does not need a functional understanding
of the written word. It must operate by sound, verbal tradition, image and limited text. I don’t see people bragging
about their inability to read. But I also do not have local people coming up to me and asking for information. They must
get it somehow, right?
Apparently, age appropriate literacy is not needed to deal with most of the common problems of every day life in Detroit.
But managing chronic disease so that it does not become a personal disaster does require reading.
Literacy is an issue affecting public health. It is an issue that should draw the attention of gerontologists. Any effort
to contain medical costs should also address adult illiteracy.
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