Ok, so it’s a pretty bold statement. But without organised squiggles on a page, we really wouldn’t be where we are today. There’d be no Google, no Apple and no blogs starting with bold statements.
A long, long time ago, well before Google was a thing, we mainly hunted, built fires, ate, reproduced, slept and repeated. We didn’t trade overseas, we didn’t have medicines that were known to work, we didn’t have banks, lawyers or doctors. And we definitely didn’t have any tech start-ups.
Then, about 5,000 years ago, Sumerian (Iraqi) people started to doodle cuneiform symbols onto clay tablets. These squiggles were the earliest form of ‘writing’. And they were far more significant than even our clever ancestors realised (the Sumerians also came up with the wheel, so it’s fair to say they were ahead of the curve, back in the day). It’s true that previous generations could share simple messages with other people who lived down the river or in the next valley. But they couldn’t share messages across continents. So, their chances of influencing enough people to change the world were slim, to say the least.
Talk like an Egyptian
Writing changed all of that. Not that the Sumerians (or the Egyptians, who went on to make the most of the papyrus reeds that grew in the Nile) would have realised that inky symbols would eventually rule the world. They just needed a system to record which sacks of wheat went where and how many sheep each trader sold. The Sumerians probably didn’t give a second thought to inky symbols being used to record every rule, every law, every financial and trade agreement, every governmental policy and every other lexical cornerstone of the whole of civilisation.
Not convinced? Then think how tricky it is to dissuade a Christian from believing in the squiggles in a Bible. Imagine how costly it would be to argue with a high court judge that his rules are little more than well-formed inky blobs. Consider giving the multi-billionaire, Mark Zuckerberg, a poke to tell him that Facebook is just eight letters a toddler could reproduce.
Of course, the words ‘Facebook’, ‘law’ and ‘religion’ are so much more than mere letters on a page. But, could any of them even exist without words?
Sign up here
How do you get a Facebook account? You provide written details of who you are, where you live and what you ‘like’. Remove all the words from everyone’s timelines and you’re left with little more than a photo album of the world’s population. And some kittens.
Where did you find out about religion? Your parents? Their parents? Go back far enough and they all got it from the same sources: the Quran, the Vedas, the Tanach, the Bible…
Words mean business
Every country in the world, and every corporation within those countries, operates by abiding by (and sometimes not abiding by) written laws. Employees are governed by written contracts and workplace policies. And we know who’s doing what with whom because of news pages and social media sources that are wholly reliant on words.