Thursday, January 13, 2011

May you live in interesting times

Violent language pervades our culture: "no, I'm going up, would ya hit 6 for me?" Even in elevators, I suppose people would be shocked if the friendly person actually drove his fist into the button panel but the language has become so much a convention that it requires some attention to use "press" in this context, despite it being the appropriate word.

I've just come from the opening of the new Yawkey Center at Dana Farber. My tour group was waiting for the elevator, one opened at the other end of the bank and another group scooped it. "We could fight them" a bright young man said, (yuk, yuk!) As we entered our own car I said to him "we mustn't use aggressive words in public discourse anymore," trying to be equally jocular. "What did he say?" the woman with him whispered. "I guess something about my language," he replied, perplexed.

How he could have missed my point I don't know, but he seemed to. If there is an explanation I think it is that this language, and the mindset that produces it, is so accepted that it doesn't register anymore. Watch television (if you can,) even the commercials are violent. American have constructed such an artificial society that they mostly live in isolation from consequences and thus don't have to understand the real meaning of their language, their attitudes or their politics. The ultimate example of this disconnect is in Sarah Palin's claim to be the victim, to be the subject of "blood liable."

We live in very interesting times

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