Monday, September 14, 2009

Does our Language Form Us?

Claudio Casula of Spirit of Entebbe has a magnificent post here. Unfortunately you need to read German to understand it - but since some readers of Ruminations have that handicap, I'm warmly recommending.

What Claudio has done is to take all the vacuous, mindless clischees in which contemporary German political discourse takes place, and pasted them next to pictures of Palestinians from earlier this decade. Each picture has a statement next to it; each statement comes from a universe no Palestinian would recognize, or vice versa. Thus, for example, under the second picture, which shows six Palestinian KKK types with suicide vests, his caption is
"Ashraf (31, middle of photo): Environmental and integration policies interest me the most. I'm delighted to take in new ideas".

Near the bottom he has a photo of rifle-brandishing demonstrators, with the caption
"Jihad (34): I'm always for constructive talks, in the internal Palestinian realm and with the Zionists. As long as you talk no-one shoots. It's that simple".

Besides being very funny, there's also a serious subtext. We think in the vocabulary we use. When our vocabulary has been sanitized so as not to contain negative thoughts, we'll see the world without its negative aspects. Actually, we won't see the world at all, merely a phantasy we've constructed for ourselves, but if everyone around us does the same, then the outsiders who insist on seeing things differently will eventually begin to seem sinister in their insistence on having bad thoughts.

1 comment:

David Boxenhorn said...

Those of us not handicapped by a knowledge of German can try this.