Is brevity indeed the soul of wit?

Traditions and values are going down the drain. It is not just the same old anymore. This generation has become more brazen and has slipped further from when I saw it last. It is a ticking time bomb waiting to go off anytime. The situations and conditions are ripe for God's second coming... It wasn't the current state of national or regional politics that set me on the collision course with Generation Y (or Z, or whatever they call the next generation; which makes me wonder, what after it?) Politics has always been the rotten apple from eons before. With only the players and the kind of plays that keep changing on the center stage, it has been a foregone conclusion that not much is going to change in the theme of politics (power struggles), and thereby not much is expected of it either. It isn't the movies too, the other touchstone/yardstick/litmus paper that measures the performance of a generation on the culture counter. Unlike politics, measuring the impact of movies on the current generation calls for Mr. Heisenberg and his uncertainty principle (which was about how it is impossible to determine the position and the speed of any particle in the universe with pinpoint accuracy). Some philosopher once said "it is impossible to take a dip in the same river twice", because a flowing river is going to be different at each instant of time. I feel movies fall under the same category. There are too many moving parts there - what is played on the screen and who is watching it - to objectively gauge the voice of the generation.

My main quibble started when, the other day, I received an instant message from an acquaintance, about 15 years younger to me, that said "hi dude, ? r u, long [the icon of a watch] no c". That was when it struck me. It is not the movies that aptly describe the prevailing conditions of the culture. It certainly isn't politics or the policies at that period of time that can measure the means and ways of the generation. It is the language. Language is the hallmark of human innovation. Language, more than the fire and the wheel, bears torch to the ingenuity of the human mind. Where once were shouts, calls, grunts and other guttural sounds to get the point across, during the ages of cave-dwelling and non-seasoned food eating, great oratory and excellent penmanship stood now, to do more than getting the point across. They are chief reasons why human progress made rapid strides in the last 10,000 years.

All that it took was a greatly painstaking process of devising a system, that would cover most of the sounds that are heard and could be generated, phonetically, and making sure that the majority would accept, adhere to and embrace the system. And once the language fundamentals had been laid down, next came the arduous process of coining words, phrases, setting grammar rules and other structural aspects. Why should a predicate be always about the subject and not the other way around, how an adverb is some special circumstances can double as an adjective too and many such. It is mind-boggling when we sit down now, at this point of time, and try to reverse engineer and language completely - not just coming up with alphabets or words, but completely devising a language. With the language born and the key items in place, it was time to wait for the word wizard, who can fully exploit the various features and functionality aspects of it, and deliver masterpieces that could remain as the cornerstones of what human mind is capable of, given the right tools and ripe moments. "Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind", "Cowards die many times before death".... prose, poetry, sonnets, soliloquys, orations, comprehensions, precis - human mind conjured up phrases, twisting and turning words, toying and playing with them, to celebrate its existence, to loudly pronounce to the world that "I think, therefore I am"...from there to "long time no C"??? Shakespeare should surely be turning in his grave.

Language is just a medium of communication - I have heard people of the neo-culture often hide behind the statement, whenever structure is stressed in matters of sentence construction. As long as the intention is conveyed, what use there is of the "doth" and the "hath"s. "A rose would just smell as sweet as with any other name", should in their words be technically equivalent to "fuggedaboutit, who the shit cares?". I guess that's where technicality takes a backseat when one tries to quantify the effect that words have on our everyday life. Getting across an intention though is technically equivalent to conveying an emotion, greatly differs in the way, the reaction that is generated from across the aisles. And to spur a reaction, language becomes the chief weapon. If you take the great speeches that have been recorded in the human history, it would be amply clear that the orator or the writer's intention wasn't simply to report on what he/she thinks about the issue. The "I have a dream" speech of Martin Luther King Jr, the famed Gettysburg address of Abraham Lincoln on the even of civil year, or our very own "Freedom and midnight" speech on the eve of Independence by Pandit Nehru, all but point to the same fact, that great ideas come wrapped around in language flourishes. The point simply isn't to put forward an idea, but rather put it forth in such a manner as to evoke a reaction - a sense of grandeur, where castles are built on words, a sense of urgency, where words spurn the spine into action, a sense of great emotion, where images that words paint cause a consternation from deep within.

Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high;
Where knowledge is free;
Where the world has not been broken up into fragments
by narrow domestic walls;
Where the words come out from the depth of truth;
Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection;
Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way
into the dreary desert sand of dead habit;
Where the mind is led forward by Thee into ever-widening
thought and action--
Into that heaven of freedom, my Father,
let my country awake.

The above words of Rabindranath Tagore weren't just about "rise and shine" to an average freedom fighter, it conveys a much deeper thought than that. That the freedom that is gained such have all the above, and not just its own master. Try replacing that with a much simpler "Queen Victoria murdabad", "phirangiyOn, bhaarat chODO"...

As an afterthought, vox populi (voice of the people) has always been the bane for the language. Where majority has a say, where too many cooks start churning the same broth, language has never flourished. In the olden days of monarchy and other single point control government, arts, in particular language, garnered great patronage and seemed to have gained a few more paces in the right direction, than when everybody had a say. The single minded devotion of the one person, who has taken upon himself to champion the cause or advance the case of language, particularly if the person if bestowed with authority, certainly beats out the haphazardness of the majority, in which language is pulled in different directions by different peoples, hands down. The accessibility of the language, and the accessibility of the tools to spread (more like, disseminate) the thoughts around at lightning speeds stood, quite paradoxically, as an impediment for the spread of good language. "Get me some bling bling, and I'll shizzle your jizzle" also counts for language nowadays. It is not just a matter of taste, appreciating or deprecating a usage, exalting or excoriating an expression. What is appalling is, what passes off as language in the first place.

Technology is also to blame for the current scenario. In its exuberance to connect people, it had the right idea, but it certainly didn't go about implementing it right. Instant messaging, text messaging which often encourage butchering of the language for the want of time and convenience, do as much damage to the structure of the language and the beauty of it, as much as book-burning or abolishing of certain works (selective censoring) do. Short forms, abbreviated forms, concocted forms of expression that have slowly seeped into our ethos as slow poison, are gaining immense popularity in technological circles, that strongly encourage, and sometimes, even rewards, linguistic mediocrity. Type "chat word dictionary" in your google search and you would find an entire dictionary of maimed words and mauled expressions. The malignancy does not end there. Take any official email that circulates in an office environment. Even bigwigs, who are supposed to be equipped with better linguistic skills than a typical teenager, find themselves fumbling when it comes to simple words, like yours (and yes, there is no apostrophe after r).

May be this is the natural progression of any language. May be this deterioration is a natural phenomenon (just as with anything that has seen its heyday) that would welcome the next stage in human communication - mnemonics. May be binary is the final language that the human kind settles in. Isn't it ironic that we want our machines to be more human-like (understanding oral commands and giving out verbal messages) as we, the humans, become more and more machinelike? May be, I am unnecessarily lamenting about something as natural as sunset. If that is the case, let me herald the new age - I'll c u & TTYL.

1 comment:

tez said...

dude...u sound bull shit...
y do u care much...even nw ppl r riteing buks..poems and all...
let the common man convey his ideas in his own way..y ask him to be formal/grammatical?
U seem to b worried...take a chill pill