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Thursday, February 08, 2007

Word Play : Bantustising Reality

What are words? In a sense, they are mere shortcuts to express elaborate feelings, phenomenon, concepts etc. Instead of saying "linguistic units with phonetic content and used in speech to convey certain meaning" we simply say "word"

Etymology and philology are not only veritable a journey into the human past but are also indicators of the present psyche.

Words depict evolution - from gestures and grunts to paens of praise to Emersonian eloquence to incantations to go forth and produce - with another being's help or at worst - unilaterally: as if that were possible.

While words, my young son used to parrot back to me, are used to communicate effectively. It need not always be so. There are occasions, where words should not be uttered, nor written. There is also the magic of silence: words un-uttered. Silence is worth Kodak moments when:

- lovers lock eyes
- hold each other and look
- mothers hug babies
- long lost friends meet
- the sun/moon rises/sets over the ocean/desert/horizon
- flock of birds heads home over the inland waterways
- a chick breaks open the shell and breathes

To the list above I will add one more: when one reads a passage that transports the reader to another world.

Marketers and Advertisers are also obsessed with words. What took Coke decades to establish world wide was achieved in a span of less than a year following the WTC. Al Quaida - a word unfamiliar even to most scholars of international affairs became an ugly household world known all over the world in less than a year.

Words also imprison and restrain us. Take two words - Nazi and Semite.

While Nazizeit (1933-1945) is over, the clones of Nazism are alive and well in Israel. But the moment one points out tunnel-visioned Israeli Zionists and their coterie of supporter jump up to accuse one of being anti-Semite. While those who use the terms Femi-Nazis and Islamo-Nazis are spared this branding.

Israel's official policy of Bantustising the occupied territories and segregating and ghettoizing the Palestinian Arabs is what else but the acts of a one time persecuted turning into persecutors.

The underlined are interesting words too. The readers must be familiar with the flak Jimmy Carter is receiving over his Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid by the 'friends' of Israel.

My friend Ruvy (in Jerusalem) would rather call himself a settler while in the eyes of the world he is just an usurper and an occupier. Even settler is not entirely free of colonialist hang-overs.

Alan Dershowitz and company label any body critical of Israeli occupation with the label anti-Semite without abandon.

Most of the time their tactics work in the same way as when a person is publicly asked 'Did you abuse your wife yesterday?' The risk of responding to such queries is obvious.

Sometimes they go overboard and even hurl this 'anti-Semite' grenade at the Arabs!

Today there is a near monopolisation of the Nazi Holocaust. This is not underplaying the sufferings of Jews under Hitler. But that is not the only holocaust witnessed in the last two centuries.

Go ask the Iraqi families and they may claim to be victims of genocide, and question the attempts to copyright holocaust for the Jews only.

Words and their legacy: we can use them to express our views, conceal our thoughts, deflect criticism, direct praise, envy or anguish.

Remember pigs and cows that set off the war of Independence?


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