Allegorical Nonsense

An allegory. Nonsense. Put them together. Okay, not really.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

For the fourth and last time ...

Dear reader,

Sometimes it can be easier to write as if you're writing a letter. This is because the writer and his or her audience have a somewhat tenuous though desparate relationship. On the one hand, the writer desperately wants to communicate with someone, and the more people the better. After all, she is choosing a written medium which is released to the masses, rather than just calling someone who cares (or doesn't). On the other hand, the reader is ambivalent. There is a great deal to be read, and it really is a buyer's market. So the reader can pick and choose as he sees fit. The author, on the other hand (that makes three hands) sometimes says things that she or he would in fact prefer that the random reader (read: potential serial killer) not read. These things include personal details of age and geographical location, as well as more sensitive details, such as the person's opinion on others and her own childhood. So we have an overall ambivalent relationship - the one desperate yet ambivalent, the other ambivalent and bored. As such, writing a letter reduces the potential risks. It fools both author and reader into the impression that there is a one-to-one conversation going on, without the downside of verbal communication that it leaves no trace for posterity (except of course with the secret government recording studios which record every telephone conversation which takes place across the world, especially those including the words "bomb" or "terrorism"). One day perhaps the CIA will release telephone conversations of the world under Freedom of Information, and Google will create a search engine which will sort results by profundity. Then all the conversations which we had and thought afterwards - bugger, I wish that one had been written down - will be restored, and those masters and mistresses of verbal unrecorded communication will truly receive the prestige they deserve - as artists, in the lasting sense.

Of course, we can break the letter format by signing off.

With love,


Right. Down to business. Note: this is not a post-script, and despite its proximity to a piece of writing in seemingly letter format, it bears no relation to it. Except that I just created a relation by referring to it. It is impossible to escape.

I can't believe the number of things that I can't write right now. I even wondered last time I wrote in this blog whether there were things which were censored by the friendly people of the blog administration in the interests of family-friendly viewing. Though to be honest, I find censorship to be rather liberating rather than confining. I found this because, due to my fear of censorship, I self-censored. And in the end, it is incredibly easy to write the kind of words which would, in any other medium, would involve overuse of the number keys with Shift held down. And it adds rather little to the meaning of what you are writing. That is, I find that if I am able to use words such as these explicitly, it turns into the word that I use when I can't think of another word to use, which has two effects. (1) It strips the word of any impact it may have had in the first place, in a similar way to Eddie Murphy stand-up - it's funny, but the swearing doesn't add anything. (2) It provides a convenient excuse, which is really a non-excuse, because the only person you are cheating is yourself, from thinking up a word that can go in its place. And I'm not thinking here about a substitute swear-word, like "sausage" - yeah, did you see how that sausage sausage mother-sausage sausaged the sausage sausage? - I'm thinking about genuine text that has genuine sub-text (but very rarely super-text). Hey, there's an idea. The world (at least, the comic-book world) is full of super-heroes. But there is a serious paucity of sub-heroes. I'm not talking here about people who are "super" by being "sub", like a guy who has this great power to freeze people and is therefore called something trite like "SubZero". I'm talking about creating a comic book about people who notoriously underperform, who have diminished powers, who are able to fall under a building with quite a lot of steps, really, and accidentally set fires which trap people in them, and fall off things that are quite high up and hit the ground at a rate of acceleration of 9.8 m/s/s (possibly the laws of gravity could be altered in the case of the sub-hero - but in that case, would they be accelerated or decelerated?). I'm not talking about people who merely underperform in a dysfunctional and rather human-like manner, like the Simpsons - I'm talking about people who are genuinely "super" in their "sub"ness. I think it could happen.

I read a book a while ago about grammar. It was called "Eats Shoots and Leaves". So in this book, the author is saying that the grammar of the world (okay, she was just talking about English grammar, but she was talking about it with such respect that it could have been the language of the world for all she cared) was degenerating just at the same time as the internet had allowed everyone to become their own publisher (without editorial control). And she cited blogs, and email, and all kinds of other things that the modern age has permitted, as evidence. And what I think is - I'm here, writing a so-called "blog" which I genuinely do not expect ever to be read by anyone (other than a small child in a major city of China, who will accidentally stumble across the site whilst looking for porn - as 80% of the world's internet surfers do - and will close the window almost as soon as he opened it, especially when he doesn't see sufficient sexually-related swear-words appearing on the page) and the fact that it is theoretically published for the viewing of the world does not, in fact, mean that it will actually ever be a subject of reading or discussion. And let's say that not only one person (not including the small Chinese child who really doesn't like my writing style anyway) but two people were to read this blog. What would they discuss? Would the debate that arises between the two of those people actually have any influence on the future of the world? Or would it be like I find on many websites, that people have very long and in-depth discussions which are dominated (I am convinced) by 12 year olds, university professors and computer science students, and then in the end, the information is just lost into the ether? Is it even valid to call this stuff "information"? I mean, if we think about it, data without direction is not really "information". It's just data. We could bring examples of thousands of orang-utans with thousands of typewriters, but I don't think that it's even necessary. Everything around us, every drop of water and follicle of hair contains an infinity of data. Its length, its breadth, its density, its specifications, where it has been, where it is going, what its dreams are, etc etc etc. But the data, because it is not directed (maybe?) is sheer raw data which never really goes anywhere. It cannot be "information" because: (a) there is too much of it; (b) it goes unanalysed; and (c) there is really no (c).

Is it clear to everybody that, at least in English-speaking Western culture, "3" means "many"? I remember being in a linguistics class (I think) and learning about a language which didn't have numbers after 5 - 5 (or possibly 6) was considered "many". And people laughed the kind of laugh you laugh at cultures which don't make sense and are silly - hehe, silly culture. And that's okay. Because these people didn't realise that in our culutre, if you can think of three examples of something working, you can pretty much fudge you way into getting people to think that you've got way way more examples up your sleeve, you're just busting with examples, but you're only giving three just now because that's enough to prove to people that your axiom is true. While we're talking about laughing at other cultures, a scene from my life. I'm sitting in a class at university on like International (legal) Advocacy or something. Relatively bullshit course, but whatever, that's another story. So the teacher asks, "what is an example of cultural relativism". And smarty-pants don't really know what her name is sitting on the other side of the class puts up her hand and says, in a snooty voice, "female circumcision". And the whole class cheers and says hooray! Female circumcision is a terrible thing that other cultures do and it is wrong! But it's kind of not wrong because it's cultural! And I'm sitting there thinking - yeah, whatever, female circumcision is really not the point. Being snooty is the point. Because it's very easy to be torn apart by the decision of whether to condone or condemn another culture. But it's far less comfortable to genuinely consider the failings of your own culture. And I got really angry. And I wanted to say: "There's this really craaazy culture of these wacky people who, when you take a lolly from the store without the permission of the guy who's always at the store, take you to this place where you get beaten up until you say things and write your name down, and then you go to this place where a guy with a deep voice and funny hair talks to you but doesn't really talk to you, and they say that you're allowed to speak, but when you try to speak it turns out you're not allowed to speak, and then, craziest of crazies, instead of a sensible punishment like spearing or exile, they send you to this place away from your country, and put you in this room where you can't go outside, and especially they keep you away from your people and your elders who normally tell you what you should be doing, and they give you funny clothes, and they expect that they're doing you a favour. Oh, and lots of people kill themselves there. It's weird how they kill themselves when they're meant to be getting "rehabilitated" or even "punished"." It really peeved me that these things exist, and that there has never been debate in the United Nations on whether cultural relativism should permit imprisonment to be used as a form of tribal punishment or whether it should be considered cruel and unusual, or on the other hand whether cultural universalism should say no, that's wrong, even if people do it and it's part of the culture, it's wrong, it breaches human rights. But I really shouldn't be pissed off, because it's part of life that the dominant culture will enforce dominant norms and the minorities will be annoyed that they aren't the dominant culture.

White supremacists are strange. On the one hand, the idea of recognising white people as a "race" has positive aspects. It can be used to stop you from "other"ing the "other". On the other hand, the only people who are going to stop "other"ing are the academics, and it ends up being a scenario of preaching to the converted. In reality, when we start talking in terms of "race", it all just turns to shit. People seem to like killing people, and generally they will find any kind of reason to justify it (or at least, if not justify it, make it possible to do it more).

Man, how did this all turn so heavy? I guess I get tired late at night and start wanting to talk about death. Is there a connection between death and the night? I mean, yeah, they're both represented by the colour black and traditionally, death stuff happens at night, but is there a real rationale behind this? I am all for formally and democratically overturning this notion, and establishing a link instead between death and shiny hub-caps. I think the whole world would be a happier (though less shiny) place.

Right, that about does it. I'm outa here.

All the best,


PS: Fooled you! It was a letter all along! Ah, the power of the author. Bye now.


At 6:13 PM, Blogger Simon Holloway said...

I cast my vote in favour of English adopting a neutral pronoun (hey, if your blogs can be random then so can the comments!) Your first post referred to the farmer responsible for mending the fence or hiring the farm-hand to mend it for *her*. Very nice: I often find myself these days choosing the feminine over the masculine pronoun, just to make a point.

This post, however, seems to reveal the fact that you feel equally uncomfortable about utilising solely the feminine. In the first paragraph of this post (the ur-letter, if you will), you refer to the 'author' as "she"; you then refer to the reader as "he"; and you THEN refer back to the author, initially, as "she or he", and later "her". I notice these things Daniel(/la) - don't think I don't!

So, my suggestion: let's scrap the gendered pronouns in favour of something truly neutral (but not the ugly "it"). In lieu of the nominative he or she, let us embrace the ch'i. And in place of the ubiquitious accusative ("his"/"her"), I vote for himmer.

This will make life so much easier for the author when ch'i writes himmer prose.


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