Can you read?

Reading involves parsing meaning from symbols [e.g. on paper or a screen]. If you are writing down speech you are drawing sounds.

If someone asked you if you could read you might well reply; "Damn your eyes you impudent scoundrel. Of course I can."

I would have replied thus. Then I read Alberto Mangual's A History of Reading [1997].  He advances a rather wider definition of reading. One that made me consider just how well I can read.

I can read a sentence written in English using the English alphabet but I cannot
read a sentence written in another language. Cuneiform or Cyrillic make my head ache.

That does not worry me. My ancestors put a great deal of effort teaching Johnny Foreigner to speak English and I have exploited that by not wasting my time learning a foreign language [they understand English if you shout at them loud enough, don't you know].

Mangual asks about other symbols. Can I read music or mathematical symbols?

Can I read a map or a painting?

Could I read winds and currents to navigate between remote Pacific islands? The Polynesian and Micronesian navigators of the past had to be able to parse these subtle symbols if they didn't want their their boats to be lost in the great expanse of the Pacific.

Can I read the mood of a friend or the tells of gamblers?

The dangers of reading

In 'Concerning the Horrible Danger of Reading' Voltaire identified the political dangers of literacy.

"Books dissipate ignorance, the custodian and safeguard of well policed states."

He was right. Look at the case of the printing press, Luther and the reformation.

Change books to information and its still true. That is why states try to censor the internet.

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