WORDS MATTER, AS ONE WHO HAS PAID THE PRICE CAN TELL YOU … IT’S NOT ‘TORTURE,’ IT’s THE USE OF ‘ENHANCED INTERROGATION TECHNIQIUES … TRASH-O-RAMA TO HIT NORTH STREET TOMORROW, BUT PLANET’s ‘RICK’ HAS A BETTER IDEA … plus … SUNS SPLIT
By DAN VALENTI
PLANET VALENTI News and Commentary
(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, TUESDAY, JULY 3, 2012) — Words matter.
Last night at the college, my ENG 102 advanced composition class spent time on this theme, which we call “The Politics of Language, after our textbook chapter and echoing George Orwell famous essay, “Politics and the English Language,” which the class read. “Politics” used in this sense applies to any use of language that’s meant to hide the truth, a euphemism, for example. Orwell has a great line in the closing of his essay, saying “political language” is designed to make lies seem true, to make murder respectable, and to give the appearance of solidity to pure wind.
Language not only shapes how we experience the world, it determines why we do in the manner that we do. Take this simple example. The English language has different words for “green” and “blue.” The majority of the world’s language, however, do not. The Korean word “pureuda,” for instance, covers both colors. The Vietnamese language has only one word to describe the color of grass and the sky on a sunny day (for a fascinating discussion of the linguistics of color, where we got this information, visit the website maccman, 6/16/12 posting). The fact that we have two different words has an interesting effect on the reality of our experience of those two colors. Speakers of English have much more of a perceived difference between green and blue than those who use the same word.
The words you use to frame an issue, to argue a point, or to comment on just about anything, you change the “reality” of the situation. That’s why when a strongman of the ruling junta, a dictator, or some other Schicklegruber-type ascends to power, the first thing they do is clamp down on press freedom and freedom of speech.
It’s also why the erosion of freedom, whenever and wherever it occurs, is such a serious matter.
‘Light’ is Not ‘Lite,’ and Vice Versa
Words themselves tell stories. Therapist Tom Moore makes the point with the word “light.” Noting how the word has been smoothed out into its dumbed-down phonetic version of “lite” robs the word of its story. The English pronunciation doesn’t pronounce the “gh” and lengthens the vowel sound (which must drive those who are trying to learn English as a second language batty), but retaining the “gh” goes back to the Greek word “leukos,” related to the Greek word “leukaemia,” which refers to the light color of white blood cells. Taking out the “gh” strips the word of its history.
A man who know the power of words better than most is Jang Jin-sung. Here’s his story, from the AP’s Sylvia Hui. We first heard of Jang a couple years ago, as part of our extensive readings about the politics and economics (and the military situation) on the divided peninsula. Here’s Hui’s story:
DEAR LEADER: YOU WEREN’T SO GREAT AFTER ALL, ONLY NOW I CAN SAY IT
By SYLVIA HUI
LONDON – He says he was one of late North Korean leader Kim Jong Il’s favourite propaganda artists, singing the praises of the Dear Leader in dozens of poems. But these days Jang Jin-sung says he prefers to tell the truth about North Korea.
The former state poet, who defected to South Korea in 2004, now writes to tell the world about what he calls the brutality of everyday life in the North.
“North Korea has nuclear programs, but South Korea has the media,” said Jang, who is in London for a global poetry festival involving poets from countries competing in the July 27 to Aug. 12 London Olympics. “Truth is the strongest weapon.”
Jang’s poems now tell of public executions, hunger and desperate lives. He said that the piece he chose to submit to London’s Poetry Parnassus festival, “I Sell My Daughter for 100 Won,” is based on one of his worst memories in North Korea – recollections of a mother trying to sell her daughter in the market place.
“The life of a North Korean is not about living, but about how to sustain life,” he said through an interpreter. Jang, dressed in a loose white shirt and cream trousers, spoke quietly but accompanied most sentences with emphatic hand gestures.
Jang Jin-sung is not his real name, according to South Korean news reports.
The U.S. State Department says that North Korea “maintains a record of consistent, severe human rights violations,” and the United Nations said in a recent update on the North’s humanitarian situation that the food supply remains tenuous for two-thirds of the population.
Pyongyang denies abusing its citizens.
As one of Kim’s top state poets, Jang, 40, said he was responsible for glorifying the leader in the poetry he published in the official Workers’ Party newspaper. Poets had a special role among Kim’s many propaganda artists, Jang said.
“Because of the paper shortage in North Korea, poems were the most efficient, economical way to spread propaganda,” he said.
Jang said he led a privileged life in Pyongyang and once dined with Kim, when he found out that the leader was much shorter than he was led to believe because Kim didn’t wear his normal high-heeled shoes indoors.
He also recalled being instructed to avoid looking into the leader’s eyes and instead to stare at his second shirt button. After more contact with Kim, Jang said he soon stopped believing that he was “this godlike leader of this wonderful country.”
Jang said his doubts solidified when, working in the propaganda ministry, he got hold of and read South Korean books. In 2004 he crossed the river to China, where he was wanted by Kim’s men, but agents from South Korea found him first. He then worked for the South’s intelligence agency for seven years before setting up his own online newspaper about North Korean issues earlier this year.
Jang said he believes the current regime in the North is bound to break down – not least because of the instability brought about by Kim’s death in December.
He said the son and young successor, Kim Jong Un, lacks the power and experience of his father and is surrounded by his father’s men. He did not elaborate on what serves as the basis for his beliefs on the current political situation in the North.
“It’s all about rivalries between the generations,” he said. “They don’t have the experience to deal with a situation like this, with so much power struggle. For Kim Jong Un to sustain himself he’s got to have a strong rule, controlling his people through fear of punishment or fear of reprisal.”
Jang is appearing at the Parnassus festival — a gathering of poets that organizers claim is the largestpoetry festival ever staged in the United Kingdom.
Other participants included Afghanistan’s Reza Mohammadi, Kay Ryan from the United States and Karlo Mila from New Zealand.
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As Language Goes, Thought Goes, and the Reverse is True
Moore tells a great story from the 9th century Persian poet, Rumi:
Rumi tells of a dervish walking past a deep well. He hears a voice:
“Help. I’m a writer and I’m stuck down here.”
The dervish says, “I’ll go find out where a ladder’s at.”
“Your grammar’s atrocious,” the writer shouts up.
“Well, then, you’ll have to wait there until my grammar improves,” the dervish says, and walks on.
I feel like the writer in the well waiting for grammar to improve. And not just grammar. I understand the Sufi complaint about being too fussy about rules of speech. I’m waiting, too, for a love of language to return, an appreciation for the words we use and for style and grace in expression. Like the writer in the well, I could be in for a long wait.
World leaders often use diplomatic language that hides the real meaning of the words, creating euphemisms that are outright dangerous. Describing slaughtered and maimed civilians as “collateral damage” is the classic example for our times, and it’s cynical in the extreme. “Enhanced interrogation techniques” for ‘torture’ seems part of the cruelty.
The bland and bloated language of politics blocks the opportunity for leaders to truly inspire and educate. Imagine hearing instead a thoughtful, measured analysis of the world situation from a leader, accompanied by intelligent, subtle solutions to problems. Instead, we get the tired and unimaginative language of war and militancy. Wars begin with words, so we should be careful how we speak, especially to nations where there is tension. Our words can heal the situation before the military takes up its weapons.
We could all have a rule that we won’t use words that come to us unconsciously and out of habit or that are in the common parlance of public discourse. Fresh words could help us arrive at fresh ideas, for there is an intimate connection between thought and word. Careful use of words requires careful thinking.
Sometimes I wonder if the language of progressive movements gets in the way of the message. I, for one, always stumble at the word ‘sustainability’. When I think about it, I know what it means, but it doesn’t feel like a friendly word. I’d rather talk about not being wasteful, or about using resources carefully and wisely. ‘Environmentalism’ isn’t such a friendly word either. Maybe we need a new, simple word or phrase – ‘care for the world’.
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PARADE, TRASH GO TOGETHER LIKE DAMES AND CASH
Tomorrow, the annual trashing of North Street, otherwise known as the Pittsfield Fourth of July Parade, occurs on schedule. Like the annual return of the swallows to Capistrano, the parade descends upon Pittsfield for a couple hours, taking flight. Like the swallows, the parade leaves plenty of waste in its wake.
The problem seems to be a combination of not enough receptacles and the increasing slovenliness of some in the general public.
If You Can’t Lift the Face, Lower the Body
Each year, the litter problem gets a little bit more of out of control, trash by a thousand candy wrappers. Since the rapid decay of people’s behavior in “polite society” shows no signs of getting better (in case you haven’t noticed, men and women don’t dress up anymore when they go “upstreet”), we would advise the parade committee to stock up on extra trash barrels. That won’t stop some litterbugs from their excretions, but it surely will help. If you can’t lower the river, you raise the bridge. Or as Phyllis Diller once said: “I’m so ugly the doctor said I didn’t qualify for a face lift, so I had him lower my body.”
How much does post-parade trash removal cost the taxpayers? How much in overtime does it cost the city to prepare, hold, take down, and clean up after this $90,000 pandemonia?
At $45,000 an Hour, It Better be Good
Parade organizers never believe it when THE PLANET tells them that we respect and honor their efforts. We do. They put in countless hours to bring the community two festivaled ones, if we may coin a word. We also extend unqualified support for our Right Honorable Good Friend, Peter Marchetti, a parade lover who puts everything he’s got into the often thankless job.
Our objection isn’t to anyone’s dedication or work ethos but to the growing gap between the intent of the $90,000 Fourth of July Parade and its execution, between the idea and the reality. That, the poet T.S. Eliot wrote, is where the shadow falls, and it has fallen on the Pittsfield parade. Pittsfield’s parade isn’t home-timey. It’s commercial and slick. There’s not enough Huck Finn and the Founding Fathers but too much Lady Gaga.
Rick, A correspondent to THE PLANET, got at this beautifully, when he wrote:
every 4th of july i think back to the 60s and early 70s parades, and the fun after with wahconah park buzzing with the fireman’s muster, and later that evening the battle of the marching bands and to top it off a fire works display that got better year after year.those days are gone i guess but maybe if we try to bring that format back for one year it could be a hit…. it was a day of family, and friends both new and old. just the marching bands exhibition was worth waiting for, and the price of admission could help pay for the bands… have a nice 4th everyone…
Why not? Why couldn’t this far more home-town and far less glitzy format be reintroduced. The Fourth celebration in Pittsfield would move from a two-hour “in-and-out” to an all-day community celebration.
A Long, Proud Tradition
The parade committee website notes that the Pittsfield Fourth parade “dates back to 1824, when the procession consisted of Revolutionary War veterans and politicians riding in horse-drawn carriages.”
Over the year, of course, the parade grew, and the city got it just right in post-war years from 1946 to the late 1970s, the era mentioned by Rick. Back then, Pittsfield was a growing town, pushing 60,000, with a thriving economy, and populated overwhelmingly by the solid middle class. The Fourth parade during those years was created of, by, and for Pittsfield residents, using Pittsfield talent, and drawing upon Pittsfield spirit. The floats were homemade. The talent came from the area and marched for free.
Today, the parade has become homogenized, generic, imported celebration that must bring in acts and pay costly appearance fees for bands, talent, and balloons. These are the sorts of gimmicks any community can have, but does a Rent-All approach convey to proper spirit of the Fourth?
THE PLANET doesn’t think so. Neither does the parade committee, if it wishes to be honest. On it’s website, it says, “Today’s modern parade has floats, balloons, and marching bands but still retains the small-town, patriotic flavor of its roots.” That’s just the point. It doesn’t retain the “small-town flavor.” Having to tell us it does reminds us of when a politician says in response to a question we ask: “I’m glad you asked that question.” No. When they say that, they don’t like that you asked that question. Again, we acknowledge the fine job of community service done by hard workers, but their efforts are largely misplaced.
THE PLANET would submit that for 1/10th the budget, Pittsfield could have a fantastic, appropriately sized parade, call it a “Rick Parade” in honor of our commentator. It would rely entirely upon local talent, all of it volunteered. It would be better policed, created one-tenth the trash, provide one-tenth the headaches, and deliver 10 times the fun.
For those keeping score at home, the parade begins at 10 a.m., rain or shine. It begins at South and West Housatonic streets (where you’ll remember that the Marchetti for Mayor people got so upset with Dan Bianchi‘s campaign for putting up a big sign) and ends at Beloved Wahconah Park.
After the parade, the best part comes. Hats off the the Pittsfield Suns for opening up BWP and putting on a free afternoon of fun. There will be face painting, a play land with bouncy houses and spin art, live music, and a baseball clinic. At 7 p.m., the Suns play ball. After the game, there will be fireworks. Baseball and the Fourth — now you’re talking.
SUNS SPILT AT BWP
By GREG GILMORE, Pittsfield Suns Communications
Special to PLANET VALENTI Sports
Pittsfield, MA – The Pittsfield Suns were able to split a double header on Monday afternoon with the leaders of the Futures Collegiate Baseball League in the North Shore Navigators. The Navigators took game one by a score of 6-4 and the Suns took game two by a score of 5-1
In game one, the Navigators were able to jump out to an early lead when they took advantage of a few Pittsfield errors in the bottom half of the third inning. The Navigators scored five runs in the inning, all of which were unearned. After Sun’s Starter Tom Darby (Eastern Connecticut) retired the first two batters of the inning, Tim Hendricks (Benedictine) and Ryan Muno (San Diego St.) singled. After a walk to Jake Mcquiggan (Harvard) the Navigators got the first run across of the inning when Jake Serino (UMass) reached on an error. Aaron Silbar (Columbia) and Rob Krentzman (Bucknell) then broke the game open as they followed with back-to-back singles.
The Suns attempted to chip away as they scored one in the fourth off a Travis Smith (Assumption) double and two more in the sixth. In the sixth the Suns were looking to tie or take the lead, but the Navigators’ Ryan Grant (Wheaton) was able to escape a bases-loaded jam thanks to a double play to end the inning.
Tom Darby got the loss for the Suns as he allowed one earned run over four innings of work while striking out two. Matt Coleman (St. Rose) had a strong first outing for the Suns as he recorded two shutout innings in relief. Corey Stump (Florida) earned the win for the Navigators as he allowed only one earned run over five innings of work while striking out two. Grant got the save for the Navigators as he pitched the final two innings.
The Suns took control of game two from the start behind a strong pitching performance from Dan Bradley (Assumption). Bradley went the distance for the Suns while allowing only one run on two hits while striking out three.
The Suns got on the board in the first inning when Anthony Carona (CW Post), Ryan Dietrich (UPenn), and Brendon Slattery (Manhattan) hit back to back singles. After Slattery drove in Carona for the game’s first run, Jimmy Ricoy (UMass-Lowell) scored Slattery with a ground out to short.
The Suns tacked on two more in the third inning thanks to timely hitting by Ricoy and Zach Theulen (Bridgeport). With two outs Slattery earned a walk and Ricoy and Theulen followed up with singles. After Slattery scored on Theulen’s single Ricoy was able to advance all the way home on two fielding errors by the Navigators.
Keenan Kish (Florida) got the loss for the Navigators as he allowed four earned runs over three and one third of an inning.
The Navigators are still on the top of the FCBL as they now have a 14-5 record. The Suns are currently in fifth place and have a 10-12 record. The Suns play next on July 4th when they host the Seacoast Mavericks. First pitch is scheduled for 7:00.
THE PLANET HAS A BELOVED FRIEND, A YOUNG OLD MAN, WITH HAIR OF SILVER WHITE, AND LIPS WHERE HEAVENLY SMILES DO HANG AND BLEND: HAPPY BIRTHDAY!
“OPEN THE WINDOW, AUNT MILLIE.”
LOVE T O ALL.