April 02, 2003

Can You Hear Me Now?

Can You Hear Me Now? You Can? Oh, Nuts.

So I've been thinking--a dangerous pastime, I know--about love and war and death and taxes and education and health insurance and politics and what I'm going to eat for lunch today because I've only got $2 in my pocket and I'm really tired of soup, and I have realized a few important things. The main thing is that all this thinking makes my head kind of hurt, but that should be obvious and in any case, isn't really my point.

I'm a ranter by nature. Little things build up, I vent, fume and spew, then I'm fine. My blood pressure routinely stays around 80/60, so either I HAD a heart attack years ago and died and my body hasn't figured it out yet, or the volcano approach to self-expression seems to work for me. And I really only get worked up about little non-personal things; I tend to be able to deal rationally with stuff like car accidents and medical emergencies while losing it completely over ill-worded signage at the local Wal-Mart.

I think it's a control issue. Car accidents and medical emergencies are out of my control, for the most part. They're things that just happen sometimes, regardless of how careful and prepared I am, and I'd better accept that reality and move the hell on. But the little things, like that sign--well, they piss me off because they ARE controllable, and folks should know better. Someone was sloppy and muddied communication was the result.

Words are controllable and controlling--this has been done to death, so just think "Orwell" here, and move on. There is no excuse for sloppy language, particularly when the sloppiness is intentional. I started this blog because I found humor in the ways professors routinely use 43 words where two will do, usually in the interest of making their ideas appear weightier. But now it's starting to lose some of its humor, mainly because in posting their words I've done what I never did in college--started paying attention to them. And a lot of times, the thinking behind these writings isn't merely wrongheaded, dated, obscure and muddled, it's dangerous and damaging.

The funny part is, these profs are so accustomed to either having their colleagues skim their work because everyone is so inundated with poor language that it's no longer worth the effort to fight through the copious prose in search of meaning, or being rubber stamped as "right-thinking" and reflexively praised, that when they are finally called on their opinions they freak out. Case in point: DeGenova, whose idiot blather and subsequent spin and disappearing act point to the fact that true academic inquiry and debate must be dead. If DeGenova honestly had a clue about the reception of his speech, I doubt he would have made it. At the very least (one would hope), he would have tempered or controlled his language. He is a pure product of the insulated, self-congratulatory professoriate, so involved in ginning up masses of words and catchphrases for the approbation of his peers that he no longer understands what those words mean to the unindoctrinated.

Further proof: the organizer's attempt to spin the whole thing as a wacko conspiracy. Well sure, if by conspiracy you mean a whole bunch of people who you regularly hang out with, talk to, and whose papers you read and sometimes edit for publication. The reality is everyone else up there was expressing similar ideas; DeGenova's problem was that for once in his life, his language was straightforward and his meaning was crystal clear.

Sloppy communication is annoying and sometimes amusing, sure, but it's also a tool whereby unacceptable opinions can fly below the radar of the public. Is it a conspiracy? No, it's just an academic culture thing. Me, I'm all for more teach-ins whereby this crap can come to light. Well, that and Wal-Mart employees who can spell. But that's a rant for another day.

Posted by Big Arm Woman at April 2, 2003 11:58 AM