Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Ancestral voices

And 'mid this tumult Kubla heard from far,
Ancestral voices prophesying war

Metaphor may be the thing of poets, but few of us are poets and in common speech and the level below that, called journalism, metaphors become malignant but somehow unnoticed cancers, eating away at language. I can't stop people from their fetishistic obsession with the stale and metastatic metaphor "impact" any more than I can stop malignant politicians from forcing every policy from drug use to terrorism into the procrustean bed of the war metaphor.

No one will sacrifice for a policy or an effort, nor will they look the other way as their liberty is infringed for an attempt, but war is such an ancient part of culture, shaped by countless tales of glory that it sets the young heart beating and the old heart scheming. It makes milquetoast reporters into war correspondents and failed presidents into "war-presidents" and gives second tier entertainers a big stage to perform on; it gives corporate interests what they want and gives military, security and enforcement interests the kind of power and budget they live for. War, even in itself isn't often the best way to deal with anything, but all in all, you can get people to go along with being exploited so that they can support the troops and display flags and feel part of something bigger than themselves.

Obvious? Of course it is, but then obvious things are what we're least likely to notice; the commonplace is what we're least likely to examine. I enjoy reading people who like to disassemble language and logic and what started me off on this second-hand rant this morning was a post at The Rhetoric Garage where you can see the things people say and do in various states of disassembly.


Reign of Reason said...

Great post...

The American people have been conditioned for this response over the decades tho: we worship our war-hero's like they are gods, and our popular culture -- everything from the movies to video games -- supports the imagery.

Its no wonder kids grow up thinking the most wondrous things they can do can be accomplished on a battlefield. ...and even if many don't actually "join up", they see battlefield hero's as a vicarious fulfillment of their desires -- kick ass!!

Only when, as a society, we value the act of just 'living' to enjoy the things this life has to offer over the perceived glory of accomplishment will things change.

Capt. Fogg said...

I think it's part of Western culture. Our mythology is full of conquering heroes and our newspapers are full of sports heroes and winners of contests.

How many can tell you who invented Penecillin?

d.K. said...

Was it Louis Pasteur?

d.K. said...

Oops, I just looked it up, and I was wrong -- proving your point...

The Grza said...

Hate to be late to the smug party...but...can you tell me how to spell penicillin?

Perhaps everyone can relax when casting aspersions to the "idiotic American People" and realize that they might be a part of that idiot mob.

Go idiots, 2007.

Capt. Fogg said...

I love the smugness of people who make accusations of smugness while smugly calling someone an idiot because of a typo.

If the best you can do is to make some inchoate comment with fractured English ( one casts aspersions on, not to ) about my being an idiot, it wasn't worth the effort