Category Archives: Culture

Quote of the day – A possible link between Romania’s COVID disaster and its communist past?

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“Totalitarian propaganda perfects the techniques of mass propaganda, but it neither invents them nor originates their themes. (…) Everything hidden, everything passed over in silence, became of major significance, regardless of its own intrinsic importance. (…) Mysteriousness as such became the first criterion for the choice of topics. (…)

They (the masses) do not believe in anything visible, in the reality of their own experience; they do not trust their eyes and ears but only their imaginations, which may be caught by anything that is at once universal and consistent in itself. (…)

What the masses refuse to recognize is the fortuitousness that pervades reality. They are predisposed to ideologies because they explain facts as mere examples of laws and eliminate coincidences by inventing an all-embracing omnipotence which is supposed to be at the root of everything visible. Totalitarian propaganda thrives on this escape from reality into fiction, from coincidence into consistency. (…)

The masses’ escape from reality is a verdict against the world in which they are forced to live and in which they cannot exist (…)

Before the alternative of facing the anarchic growth and total arbitrariness of decay, or bowing down before the most rigid, fantastically fictitious consistency of an ideology, the masses will always choose the latter and be ready to pay for it with individual sacrifices (…)”

Hannah Arendt – The Origins of Totalitarianism (1951), Penguin Classics pp. 459-461

A possible explanation why Eastern Europe is rife with conspiracy theories and a distrust of the state and its official communications, especially during this pandemic. Communist regimes have always played the game of blaming their failings on some Western or world conspiracy against them, “fitting reality to their lies”. In some parts of the world, this has become a reflex.

I feed on the unspoken

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You call it this, I call it that,

the thingness of a thing is beyond

our babbles

labels come and go

what is truly real is quiet and dark

its depths crushing and warm and full of moisture

like the savage mouth

of an intractable lover.

Like love, the world

may be screamed, sighed,

sucked, suckled, and moaned,

but never

told.

#poetry #creativewriting

What language do you dream in?

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The brain is a funny thing. And funny things happen when your brain goes on vacation. I consider myself bilingual (Romanian and English) and I’ve been living in Germany for more than 15 years now, but never would I have thought that the German language would end up infiltrating… my dreams!

My dreams, yes. For the first time ever, I had a dream in German while I was at home in Romania, which makes it even stranger. And that’s not all. Not only did I dream in German, but I dreamt a whole poem in Goethe’s language! It ruined my sleep, of course, because I was so in awe, I had to make sure I could remember it well enough to jot it down in the morning. I managed to, but – alas! – only the second stanza. The first stanza (up to “Die Schienen…”) is a later addition (which, needless to say, has cost me a lot more effort and a couple of visits to the online dictionary), but the rest is entirely the creation of my subconscious.

So, here it is, I hope you like it:

Auf den Schmalspurzug wartend

Es wird Nacht in den Tälern

und ich muss wieder los.

Ein letzter Blick zum Himmel:

rosarot, erstarrt –

dann der Abstieg,

eine Haltestelle

und ich, alleine in der Unermesslichkeit,

auf den Schmalspurzug wartend.

Die Schienen sind alt, alt und holprig

wie die alten Steinwege der Bauern.

Hinter dem Abendnebel, der Berg,

schneebedeckt,

rutscht in Abwesenheit.

Es ist spät.

Gott lässt sich nieder

auf der bettelnde Handfläche der Pinien.

Stille.

#poetry

Quote of the day

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“Surely, inspirational language to create a secure consensus is still used, in our time, to cover up serious conflicts of interest in that consensus, and to cover up, also, the omission of large parts of the human race.”

Howard Zinn – A People’s History of the United States (Harper Perennial, Reissue Edition 2015)

#language #languageandpolitics #languageandthemedia #discourse

Quote of the day

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“Every man who believes in something in an absolute fashion is the mortal enemy of “truth“ and “reality”.

Fanaticism – vibrant stupidity bewitched by a ludicrous Unconditional. Transforming one facet of Becoming into the sole reality; converting one aspect of the spirit into a fixed point of reference; elevating an “event“ to the rank of unappealable symbol – that is the mechanism of violating diversity which defines the intolerance of any faith. (…)

The partisan of a political sect experiences the obsession of things spelled in uppercase just like any believer. All the evil and the little good that we know in time derive from the truncated vision of fanaticism. The transformations of society – on the pretext of unqualifiable “progress” – are possible through resistance to clear sight, to contradictory existence, through suppression of the descriptive spirit. Prolific ages are fatal to the spirit. Because every creation is obtained at the expense of understanding and impartiality. Taking part in something means reducing yourself to a system of acts that exclude all others; suppressing the divergent neighbor; resorting to the state or the police, in any case to a uniform, to decide on controversies that have made philosophers fail; and, ultimately, channeling breath in a single direction.

Therefore, one can only breathe in sterile ages – those ages in which each individual takes part – at the very most – in themselves.”

Emil Cioran – Razne (Digressions), Paris, 1945-46 (translated from Romanian by the owner of this blog).

Quote of the day

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“Education, in the sense in which I mean it, may be defined as the formation, by means of instruction, of certain mental habits and a certain outlook on life and the world. (…)

The search for an outside meaning that can compel an inner response must always be disappointed: all “meaning” must be at bottom related to our primary desires, and when they are extinct no miracle can restore to the world the value which they reflected upon it.

The purpose of education, therefore, cannot be to create any primary impulse which is lacking in the uneducated; the purpose can be only to enlarge the scope of those that human nature provides, by increasing the number and variety of attendant thoughts and showing where the most permanent satisfaction is to be found.”

Bertrand Russel – Mysticism and Logic and Other Essays (1910)

Epidemiology

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One epidemic calls forth another
and one infectious protein spawns
infectious thoughts.
Mental representations spreading like viruses.
Unchecked.


Alert! Long lines before inoculation centers.
Demand for fiction is high.
Trust has been thrown off-kilter.
Too little truth produced
to fight this lethal disease.


No medicine as yet against the fever of
conviction.


Maintain a safe distance
and epistemological hygiene.
Refrain from visiting the specters of panic.
To stop the proliferation,
avoid contact.


Stay home, in your consciousness,
and disinfect it.
Regularly.


Specious is bad
for the species.

Linguistic Research Project – Humble Request

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To my dear readers:

Hi guys, I hope everyone is doing well! I was wondering if any of you might like to help me with my new linguistic pet project. I was wondering how far the equality of the sexes has come and what it feels like to be a woman in our day-to-day interactions in the 21st century. What are women allowed to do? What are they supposed to want? What is still perceived as taboo? How do people speak about women where you live?

I am therefore collecting instances of oppressive language directed at women and used to keep them “in their place”. For now I am only interested in SPOKEN language, so expressions YOU YOURSELVES HAVE HEARD OR OVERHEARD DURING YOUR LIFETIME. Things like (but not limited to): “What kind of profession is that for a woman?”, “That’s not a girl colour/activity”, “The wife shouldn’t be smarter than her husband”, “All women want children”, “You women are so… emotional/hormonal/impossible”, “Women can’t be top managers because they lack…”, “Women can’t join the clergy because their looks will distract the congregation from God” (as if there are no distractingly handsome clergymen 🙂) or even disturbing stuff such as “She deserved what happened to her because she was too…. opinionated/provocative etc.”

If you have been confronted with this kind of prejudice or you’ve heard it in the workplace, on the street, at a friend’s house, from relatives, on TV/radio or whatever, and you’d like to contribute (anonymously), please submit your examples via the Google Form that can be found at the following link:

https://forms.gle/s51dQeqeMyBSeAk97

Multiple submissions possible.

The data I need is: the expression used; when it was said (what year, approximately); the country in which it was said; whether it was said by a man or a woman and what role/job/relationship that person was to you (boss, friend, colleague, family member, teacher, stranger in the street etc.), and the kind of tone that was used. If you also want to include how that particular utterance made you feel, please do. But please only contribute stuff that you have heard yourselves (i.e. stuff said in your presence). 🙂

I am also interested in sexist jokes that are still current and popular in your region. Things like: “If your wife can come out of the kitchen to nag you, you’ve made her leash too long.”

Eventually, if this actually turns into something interesting, I might add a section on supportive language (instances where women were encouraged to pursue their goals/ambitions/ideals and reach for the stars). It would be interesting to see how these differ in paraverbal terms (intonation, pitch etc.) and in non-verbal behavior (body language, eye contact etc.) from the dismissive comments above.

Many thanks for participating, I really appreciate it!

Quote of the day

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“In itself, every idea is neutral, or should be; but man animates ideas, projects his flames and flaws into them; impure, transformed into beliefs, ideas take their place in time, take shape as events: the trajectory is complete, from logic to epilepsy . . . whence the birth of ideologies, doctrines, deadly games.

Idolaters by instinct, we convert the objects of our dreams and our interests into the Unconditional. History is nothing but a procession of false Absolutes, a series of temples raised to pretexts, a degradation of the mind before the Improbable.”

E.M. Cioran – “Genealogy of fanaticism” in A Short History of Decay (Paris, 1949).

Inarticulate

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So little left to express.

Spleen? Acedia?

The signifiers have lost their signifieds and are straying.

Ideas, heavy as rock, sink to the bottom of rivers

waiting to be swept away by a sudden flood of effervescence

or settle, with the mud, along the banks of dam lakes

and rot.

Occasionally, some debris resurfaces – a severed head still smiling,

an arm, the fuselage of last year’s vacation… (or was it the year before last?!)

only to be whirled away with the rest of the waste.

March. Sleet.

Pout. Plans.

Hope.

Nothing.

Emptied of meaning, the words denote nothing.

Imponderable, impalpable, floating.

The slightest gale will whisk them up to the barren sky

like balloons (escaped? released?) out of the hands of children.

Never to return.

I don’t really miss them.

There is so little left to express.

Torpor.