Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Forever Oblivious Youth

Watch what you say...I guess this is something we've heard from our parents, our teachers and even once or twice from that little voice inside our head that mediates between what goes on in our minds and what comes out of our mouths. Our conscience, our gut-feeling, our instincts all play simple roles: stop adults from acting like children, allow children to process information like adults should, making humans out of the animals we are, and at times turning animals into humans. It is a strange and mysterious phenomenon...thinking before we talk, before we act, sometimes thinking before we think...is it over rated? I ask because I feel like language we use, our choice of verbs and adjectives is marked by the jargon of the forever oblivious youth unaware and uninterested in the means they hold not only to the ears receiving it, but those in the past who have felt the lash of the tongue burn upon the skin.

Our words have the ability to hug, hit, bend, break, smile, love, twist, empower, betray (etc) people. They're just as alive as humans think are, and more importantly they have more power that any human can have on his/her own. Language, the ability to communicate, to transfer information between each other has been a central feature to the survival of our species. Stringing sounds together to make words, words into a sentences, sentences into coherent conversations...it's what supposedly sets us apart from 'animals'. Yet ironically we are the very things we have evolved from, thanks to none other that the very characteristic that gave us that push into humanity: those little words we think we're so clever for inventing. 

Recently I've heard a lot of words that I feel have come to characterize the First World example-setters and as expected (by extension), Caribbean society. I'm not sure how we all came to use these words but I feel it is a strange phenomenon, these words end up in everyday conversations. 'Nigger' and 'rape' are just some of these terms, the latter being the one that has irked me the most recently. So lets talk about these words a bit, as I'm curious to research their real vs their intended meanings in the average conversation.

  • A noun in the English language...originating as a neutral term referring to black people...by the mid 20th century, particularly in the United States, it's usage became pejorative (abusive or degrading), a common ethnic slur directed at people of Sub Saharan African Descent. Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nigger

Interesting...starts as a 'neutral term' then becomes an ethnic slur (a derogatory way of referring to a particular ethnicity) by --and this is just to note-- the United States, a nation of immigrants..

  • The term 'nigger' is now probably the most offensive word in English...despite this, referring to a 'black person' is sometimes used in a neutral or familiar way among African Americans...can be used to refer to other victims of prejudice eg. 'The Irish are the niggers of Europe' from Roddy Doyle's: The Commitments but other uses are considered hostile and contemptuous. (Dictionary.com: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/nigger)

So the term has shifted back to being neutral...except in this case the neutrality lies in use between the descendants of those once persecuted by this same word?? 

What I find baffling is that the term still is not completely neutral as it is used as an adjective to describe people who face same/similar circumstances and discrimination (real or perceived) as Africans did during colonization and slavery. How can the same word be neutral and have meaning at the same time?

  • I'm not even sure what context 'nigger' is being used in on these Twitter posts...can someone explain what #nigger stand for? In this case the term 'nigger' seems to be used in a fashionable, urban, or new-age sense. Sorry if I can't analyze this..my mind is blown right now...(Twitter Search: https://twitter.com/search?q=%23nigger&src=hash)

  • A word that everyone else is afraid to define except in utter seriousness, for fear of being branded a racist, in total ignorance of the colloquial usage of the word, its characterization in popular culture and the populations of people it is used most by.
  • A term that is racist, as long as the speaker is not black. Forbidden on most all of television and other forms of public entertainment, at times referenced as the "n-word".
  • described an ignorant, uneducated, foolish individual regardless of race, color, religion, sexual orientation etc. (Urban Dictionary http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=nigger)

I absolutely LOVE this first definition...'total ignorance of the colloquial usage of the word'...total ignorance or reassigned definition of the word? 

Secondly, 'a term that is not racist as long as the speaker is not black'..what is this strange concept? You're allowed to call yourself a "formerly" discriminatory word but I'm not? If the word no longer means what it used to then there should be no problem using it in all its neutrality...am I right, my nigger? --I mean my "n-word" (because the censoring makes the use of this term so elusive to the average person)

Lastly, 'an ignorant uneducated, foolish individual regardless...' Interesting take on that new-age (re)definition/use I mentioned earlier...what a cool word to use to describe yourselves my fellow hipsters! 

Lets move on then...

The tern 'rape' has been used a lot by those 'forever oblivious youth' I mentioned before at the University of the West Indies, St. Augustine which I attend. From my experience it is used to describe an exam or assessment which was particularly challenging for the student, eg. "That exam today was rape...". Recently I've heard it used to describe success. As you can see by this cleverly worded caption the word 'rape' is used to describe how badly Dortmund beat Madrid: 4-1...very cheeky indeed! Unfortunately you clearly don't understand the term rape, probably because you've never experienced it...

  • Rape is a type of sexual assault involving sexual intercourse which is initiated by one or more persons against another person without that person's consent. (Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rape)
  • Rape is seen here to express stress or shortcomings brought on by a certain experience...well I should rephrase--certain trivial experiences considering what the experience of rape really is                                                        (Twitter Search https://twitter.com/search?q=%23rape)
  • I googled 'rape victim in India'. Note the time stamp on the articles: 45 mins ago, 6 hours ago, 16 hours ago...these abominations are happening at this very moment..while I waste time writing this blog entry hoping to change at least one person's  misuse of the word RAPE.

This is the before and after photography of the highly publicized rape victim in Dehli, India. She was gang-raped in a bus and her soon-to-be husband was beaten badly in the process. I cannot find the exact description of what happened to her but I have a quote from the BBC: According to the reports, the couple were attached after the man objected to another group of men taunting her. Police said the woman was raped for nearly an hour by at least four men. Both she and her companion were beaten with iron bars then thrown out of the moving bus into the street                                                                                     (BBC report: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-india-20869185

She has died as a result of her wounds. 

Just to be absolutely clear: Is this what your exam is doing to you? Is losing a football match equated to this idea of rape? Just to be sure...what definition of 'rape' do you use?

"Great and unfortunate things..."

Quoted from Spartacus, War of the Damned series finale...he was referring to his destiny if he went to war (as predicted by his wife). I feel like this quote represents to me what words are. We think little of our everyday speech...thank the universe we do, as I'm sorry to think what would be our state if we really dissected each word we use and who it was directed to...

Your in Writing, 


  1. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, this caused me to do some introspection.

  2. It is unfortunate that the use of words by human beings usually is done without clearly defining these words. This is a natural function of the growth of language. Just as 'bad' can mean 'good' and what exactly does 'I get my kicks from watching people grooving all the time' mean. It is from a song, 'I'm simply grooving'.Well you would have to be from the 60s-70s, to understand. Don't think it aou too deeply from our leaders to our plebs, or peebs or people or the common man, we are all guilty of not giving words the respect they deserve. But IT suppose we are only human.

  3. Well written...very well thought out...very thought provoking...