Thursday, April 1, 2010

Linguistic Oppression

Few people realize the importance of language as an instrument of oppression. You crush natives by taking away their language and insisting that the language of the oppressor is the one “true” language.

The beauty of language as an instrument of oppression is that, over time, the oppressed come to embrace it as a status symbol. They will never embrace the dungeon or the torture chamber, but they will come to believe that to speak the oppressor’s language is to take a step up the Great Chain of Being.

To proscribe a language is to proscribe behaviors. Language reflects the rhythm of a people’s life. In its cadence is their heritage and their culture. To insist that they speak in the plodding cadence of American Technocratic English is, in the words of Paulo Freire, to promulgate a myth of oppressor ideology: the absolutizing of ignorance. Freire goes on to say:

This myth implies the existence of someone who decrees the ignorance of someone else. The one who is doing the decreeing defines himself and the class to which he belongs as those who know or were born to know; he thereby defines others as alien entities. The words of his own class come to be the “true” words, which he imposes or attempts to impose on the others; the oppressed, whose words have been stolen from them. Those who steal the words of others develop a deep doubt in the abilities of the others and consider them incompetent. Each time they say their word without hearing the word of those whom they have forbidden to speak, they grow more accustomed to power and acquire a taste for guiding, ordering and commanding. They can no longer live without having someone to give orders to.

Let a man, no matter how brilliant, speak with an accent, and he is marginalized as ignorant by those who are fluent in the homeland’s language, even though they, themselves, are drooling Neanderthals. This is why the right is so spastic about having to, ”press 1 for English. For the oppressed, their native tongue is their protection against forced assimilation into a world that is both alien and threatening.

Yet, to allow the immigrant to keep his native tongue is to court disaster, for it is a given that new immigrants are among the most oppressed in any given society. By allowing them to keep their language the state increases the probability that they will, with time, come to articulate their grievances, and it is a short step from articulated grievances to a movement that could easily rock the carefully balanced status quo that is the warp and woof of our corporatist state.

This is why I, Belacqua Jones, in all my stoned glory, demand, beg and entreat that we seal our southern border completely. Dig a moat, string barbed wire, scatter landmines like they were so much birdseed, do whatever is necessary to keep the Hispanic contagion south of the border because this Hispanic flow is carrying with it venomous seeds thrown off by Mexico’s Zapatistas Army of National Liberation (ELZN).

National liberation? The last fucking thing America needs is national liberation! Our democracy is an embalmed corpse hermetically sealed beneath a glass dome. And the last thing we need is some Zapatistian doing a Jesus/Lazarus routine and raising it from the dead.

When the real becomes real is when we will see the collapse of our oligarchy.

Or something like that…

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