Sunday, January 6, 2019

To Dominate People, Kill Their Language

Richard Mellor
Afscme Local 444, retired

While language expresses ideas and communication between people has its roots in material existence, it also has a class base. The ruling class of a society not only controls the means of manufacturing society's needs but also of manufacturing ideas. The dominant ideas in a class society as Marx pointed out, are the ideas of the class that governs. The mass media in the US for example, has a completely different bent than the serious journals of capitalism whose contents are aimed at the ruling class discussing their system and the best way to govern it.

I remember when I was young there was a major movement in Wales to defend the Welsh language Welsh nationalists would blow up road signs that were only in English. The Irish language and other Gallic languages also almost disappeared whether Cornish or Scottish.

And when British capitalism ventured further out in to the world searching for markets and plunder (believe it or not they were not driven simply by a hatred of people's of different color) they took their English language with them, just like the French and Spanish, and they enforced its use.

It's not simply because they didn't like the sound of the language spoken in the land they occupied.  Part of dominating or eradicating a culture, of undermining resistance, is destroying language. When I left England, working class language or dialects were looked down upon. Even today, when a "thug" is portrayed on telly, they normally speak with a strong cockney accent in order to note their low breeding and lack of culture (there is also a middle class southern accent as well). The northern working class accent that is so popular, almost trendy now, was not helpful. I had a friend from Yorkshire who went to a private school and I asked him how come he had no accent. He told me that they discouraged it, they "bred" it out of them.  The same with Scottish and Irish English that were often ridiculed and an example of the lower level of culture and breeding that they had, the same with Africans or any of the immigrants from former colonial possessions. Their history was not important. After all, surely the victor in such struggles is the superior race otherwise they wouldn't be the victor. Every ruling class justifies its existence and has god and religion to back them up.

With the Mau Mau that drove British Colonialism from Kenya and the Irish resistance that is centuries old, the heroes, of those resistance movements when they were caught and killed, often had their burial places kept secret or simply had their remains scattered in order to prevent them from becoming places around which further resistance could be built.

I was thinking about this watching one of my favorite shows, Jeopardy. There were two questions that Alex Trebek asked and it reminded me about how the ruling class is very careful when it comes to language in their mass media.

I can't recall the subject but one answer to a question was Nagasaki. The question was about the Plutonium bomb that was larger than the the Hiroshima bomb apparently. Imagine the mentality of a people that decided on that operation.  But the wording of the question described either the one on Hiroshima or the one on Nagasaki included the description,  "the bomb that fell on" Hiroshima. This may seem a minor detail. But that makes it sound like the bomb just appeared out of nowhere, carried by the wind it just "fell on"  Hiroshima and killed hundreds of thousands of people.  Like it "fell" off a shelf somewhere.  This was well thought out by the censors and, believe me, US prime time TV is heavily censored.

Because to be more accurate, the US government "dropped" a bomb on these cities. But this doesn't sound so good, doesn't really paint the US in too favorable a light. It is also a controversial subject as the line is that western imperialism would have lost hundreds of thousands of lives invading Japan. This argument is weak, Japan was a defeated nation and could not have fielded such a powerful force of resistance. It's cities were  in shambles.

Hence the subtle language of propaganda to avoid any possibility of the accepted narrative being questioned. A different view is that the bomb was a warning to both China and Russia and even US allies (there is no such thing as true friends in the struggle for markets) that a new sheriff was in town and had a big stick.  The truth is though, that a bomb never fell on Nagasaki, it was sent there.

Another series of questions was about the worst mistakes people have made. One was about Billy Graham the religious fanatic. The answer was that his worse mistake, according to him, was that he never joined the march on Selma. But it was not a mistake, it was a conscious thought out decision; a natural by-product of his world outlook. Graham believed we were all equal before god and all that and even refused to preach to segregated audiences. But it ended there. His backward religious philosophy led him to support the racist policies of the real material world. The horror of poverty for millions of people and in particular the brutal existence that racism meant for black folks would only end by accepting Jesus and on his return from the heavens. He said: “These young people don’t put much stock in the old slogans of the New Deal, the Fair Deal, the New Frontier and the Great Society,” “They believe that utopia will arrive only when Jesus returns. Thus these young people are on sound Biblical ground.” 

"For Graham, the Bible had a clear message for Christians living in what he believed were humans’ last days on earth. Individuals alone can achieve salvation; governments cannot. Conversions change behaviors; federal policies do not."  from  Mathew Avery Sutton's article in the Guardian earlier this year.

Now there's a person who's privileged existence led him to support the wrong side. He made it clear where he stood on the struggles exploding around him---------on the sidelines.  Yet he is a respected and useful figure for the white racist capitalist class in the US. He made a simple mistake by not joining the massive Civil Rights movement but was such a good guy.

The capitalist mass media is not so friendly to Colin Kaepernick is it? There are millions that actually believe he is protesting the flag and veterans.

And Obama's worst mistake in the above series of questions was not having a good plan for Libya after they murdered Ghaddafi. Anyone can make a mistake, I was very excited originally when I learned Libyans were rising up against Ghaddafi.  While my motives were sound, my understanding of the situation was flawed and I was wrong. But Obama's response that he simply made a mistake in Libya is just more lies from the top representatives of US capitalism.

We see and hear it all the time that Veterans were fighting for our freedom. What nonsense. What freedom is that? Veterans have consistently returned from corporate wars to joblessness, mental illness, nowhere to live. Is this the "freedom" they fought for? The ruling class cares nothing about those it sends to defend its profits.

Yes, language is very important indeed. And controlling what is said and the audience it reaches is crucial to every ruling class.

There's a reason they call bribing politicians "lobbying"

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