Monday, October 3

Appropriation

In the great wave of political correctness that, coming from the United States and based on its puritanism, is overwhelming our thinking, causing us to dare less and less to express certain opinions in public or make certain jokes and reaches the point where many people no longer even dare to think about certain things, they have begun to speak more and more frequently of something that receives the name of “cultural appropriation”. For Americans of intellectual or academic class, something absolutely reprehensible, according to them, and that means that First Worlders use elements from other cultures with total self-confidence without asking permission from those who invented them.

We Europeans take it with more humor and most of us find it ridiculous that it is now considered cultural appropriation and is frowned upon to wear large earrings in the ears being white, or to have dreadlocks without being Rastafarian, or at least Jamaican . The thing starts from the basis that it is only allowed to use certain hairstyles, colors, adornments or symbols if one or one belongs to the race, caste, religion, nationality or group that invented them. I suppose in that case no one who is not Scots can wear a kilt (perhaps not even wearing a plaid fabric type tartan) and no one who is not a Tyrolean can carry dirndl or a coat loden. I don’t know if berets are the exclusive heritage of the French and txapelas of the Basques, and I also wonder if it will still be possible to wear a panama in summer and a fedora in winter, not to mention hats, which may be a heritage of humanity, but They still end up being claimed by a specific group and are prohibited for others.

I find it curious that this kind of thing is taken so seriously in certain environments and yet nobody is bothered by something that seems much more serious to me. I am referring to linguistic appropriation and the appropriation of symbols for manipulative purposes, always questionable. It is something that has existed for a lifetime but that our society has managed to take to the limit, starting with advertising and marketing, and reaching politics.

I mean things like the following: why is the anti-abortion movement not called the anti-abortion movement but Pro-Life? Its members oppose abortion, they are against the right to abort. That is what defines them. And yet they claim the right to use the word ‘life’, which belongs to everyone, and claim it only for themselves in an attempt to make us believe that they are not “against” anything, but rather “for” something, in this case the life of a mass of cells or an embryo. Where does the life of the woman in whose womb that embryo is developing come in? Why are they not in favor of that life, which is an effective, complete life of an adult human being? Is it that the life of the woman has no value, compared to that of the embryo, or is it that it has less?

If Provida referred, for example, to a war situation, we would understand that it is about defending life against death. However, in this case, they leave aside the life of the adult being in favor of the other, and they are proud to be defending LIFE in general, in its purest form. That is an obvious linguistic appropriation: you choose, manipulate, take what you want and leave the rest. Once this is done, the rest of the population feels that they can no longer use that word because it is too contaminated with a certain ideology, and they keep it, distorted to their liking, for their exclusive use.

This is what the Americans did, a long time ago, with the term “America”. You only have to look at a map to realize that America covers almost the entire globe, from north to south, from the Arctic Circle to Tierra del Fuego, in Argentina. However, an Argentine cannot say that he is “American”, neither a Chilean, nor a Bolivian, because the only “Americans” are the natives of the United States. And it’s not even about appropriating North America, because, in that case, Mexicans and Canadians could also be called “Americans” or “North Americans” with every reason in the world. But not. The United States has appropriated something that belongs to many other nationalities and now the only Americans are them, at least in their own language.

In our country a lot happens with words like “Spain” and “honor”, which refer to concepts that, obviously, belong to all of us, but with the use (and abuse) that were made of them in times of the dictator and the that is still being done by certain parties with a tendency to the stale and dandruff, have ended up being almost unpresentable to citizens who do not identify with these parties. Which comes to mean that they have made it impossible for us to use basic words, and they have appropriated them, although, obviously, no one can have a monopoly on using the name of their country, which belongs to all of us. However, the same thing happens with the national flag: everyone knows the political orientation of a person who wears the little flag on his wrist or on his watch or who places it, even if it is already faded and frayed, at the door of his chalet, so that, if one does not share that party ideology, however much a lover of Spain one may be, it is difficult for him to dare to carry the flag of his country in a visible way, for fear that whoever sees us without knowing us is confused with us.

And what about the term “freedom”, which has been debased and twisted to the taste of each consumer until it becomes something that means almost nothing, or, much worse, that means things that have nothing to do with reality? One of the examples that I always use because it marked me when I discovered it many years ago is taken from the German language dictionary that was used in the German Democratic Republic. In “free”, the definition was “devoid of” and was accompanied by an example of use with the phrase “the dog is free of fleas”. There was no other use, no other possibility. That was what being or being free boiled down to. Something that was much more tragic, but no less immoral, than the use that just a year ago a certain person in Madrid, in the midst of a pandemic, made of the term “freedom” referring to the possibility of going out for drinks and having a few straws, voluntarily forgetting to all the people who in this country and in many others gave their lives fighting for true freedom.

Language is a common good and belongs to all of us. If it helps us to communicate, it is because there is a consensus about what the words mean. It would not work for everyone to call a flower by the name that seemed best to them. If one calls the same reality a rose and another daisy, we are going to have serious problems when we order a bouquet of flowers.

Precisely in a society in which words are twisted to suit the consumer, where lies are called post-truths, hoaxes are called “fake news” and any uneducated “expert”, it is very striking that, however, what is tematice is whether a group of Scandinavian musicians wear dreadlocks or a white student wears large gold earrings in her ears.

Linguistic manipulation affects us all, harms us all. Our language is our thought, and if they twist our tongue until it loses its meaning and convince us that the words now mean something else, we will find ourselves in full newspeak and doublethink -the horror of 1984, the great novel by George Orwell-, where the ministry of war and torture is called the Ministry of Love.



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