Thursday, October 14, 2010

Us AND Them

I'm still reading on idolatry, so won't get back to it for a while yet.
I've been padding through the economic blogs, and thinking about language.
Thinking TOO MUCH about language can send you to the place where Rabbi Akiba ended up (a mental black hole). (Thinking too much about quantum physics could probably send you there too, from the looks of a recent book review/interview I read.) Maybe, just maybe... TOO MUCH THINKING about anything can send you into a mental black hole.
The major inconveniences of consciousness.
On Naked Capitalism I told somebody that I think that, regardless of our extremely naive and destructively idealistic attitudes, the poor will always be with us. And because the poor will always be with us, the rich will always be with us too.
Because... in order for the poor to disappear from our society (careful, I mean BENEVOLENTLY and not through FORCED DISAPPEARANCE), I think that... the word "poor" would have to disappear from our language.
I see no immediately perceptible indication that the word "poor" is getting ready to disappear from our language(s). Do you ??
So, since the poor, and "poor" are not going to disappear from our society any time soon, what about the rich ?
Cut to some casuistics (not theological nitpicking, but case study, like starting from a practical example).
Two days ago my husband handed me the mini Big Ben alarm clock (shoddily made...) we bought in the U.S. on our last trip, and showed me a little thingamagig on the back with a graded scale in dots between two letters, F and S. He wanted to know what "F" meant and what "S" meant.
And I was stumped. I had to think for at least five minutes before FINALLY finding that "F" had to stand for "fast" and "S" was "slow". The alarm clock is organized in such a way that we immediately look for OPPOSITES. (Think distinctive opposition.)
Now we go back to "poor" and "rich". And you see why the words bounce off each other, and how they mutually define each other. They are in intricate relation.
You also should see from the above example WHY we polarize, and WHY and HOW MEANING emerges FROM polarization, in our language.
Think about that MECHANICAL little alarm clock. IF we make linguistic meaning emerge EXCLUSIVELY from polarization, then we will live in a.. black and white world, right ??
Let me see.. how many OTHER examples of polarization come to mind right now ?
Like.. + and - (I'm thinking of accountant sheets..)
And cops and robbers ?
How about... US (we are POOR, or getting there in our own eyes) and THEM (they are rich, rich, rich elites) ? That's pretty polarized too, isn't it ? ANTAGONISTIC, even, right now ?
Going back to the words "poor" and "rich", I feel like asking what does "THEY" mean ?
If you think about it, one of the MAJOR FUNCTIONS of the word "they" is to EXCLUDE people, to locate them outside. Outside of what ? Outside of.. "we", at the very least...
And so I'm saying that the word "they" exists... to stick people OUTSIDE. To exclude them (obviously, when it refers to people, and it doesn't JUST refer to people, it can refer to OTHER).
Behind this entire logical edifice of opposition there is... ONE "joining" word.
One..COORDINATING conjunction that RELATES the distinctive elements, but remains in the background.
It is the word... "or".
A little, little, word, right ??
But with BIG BIG implications.
One OR the other.
And the word "or"... it opposes... "and".
You AND me. The rich AND the poor.
I believe in AND.
AND builds a world where we can be together.
OR builds a world where.. we are at each other's throats.
I'm not saying that "or" doesn't have value. But.. it has value WITH "and".
And.. "and" is having a pretty hard time of it these days, I fear.

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