Guest post : The quest for a plain vanilla lexicon
At Econopolis, we always appreciate it when our faithful audience mingles into the debate of politics, economics, philosophy and the other small things making our lives beautiful. Today we bring you a contribution by Franck Vanhee. It might be poetic at first sight, the underlying thoughts will become crystal clear throughout the exposé.
SPEECH redux : a 7th econoshock ?
Which PIIG’S head, eventually, will be our Lord of the Flies ?
While Spain looks as if it will act like the proverbial elephant (pun not intended, Juan C.) in the china cabinet and will be just a wink ahead of the herd of other lemmings (Italy ?, France ?) when spastically worming its way out of the vendor financing EM-fish-trap and stumbling off the cliffs, lifelongly wondering whether the euro was fated to become either a hoax or a foetus interruptus, it may seem about darn time -at least, to me, that is- to pose an irrefutably relevant question, i.e. to meditate on and verify whether and how we will ever be able to put the actual cataclysm into words, the day after.
Will the ‘S’ in ‘PIIGS’ stand for ‘speech’ !?
For, once this after party has been kicked all the way down the road and has hit the wall of its dead end street, how will our words cope with the hangover ?
Will we -either adamantly or resignedly- remain speechless, amen ?
Or shall we recidive and recycle emotionally charged and burdened terms like ‘subprime’ and ‘quantitative easing’ and shall we rehab abbreviations like ‘TARP’ and ‘LTRO' as to mask our guilty conscience and our beyond shames ?
Next, shall these ‘financialiens’ be mixed with and/or multiplied by that other just as vague contemporary techno-speak, as to adequately adapt speech to the new normal ?
Will we then really be able to meltdown our wounds and to cure them by implanting small solar panels or to quantitatively ease the pain by injecting more ltro’s (long term recovery organs ?) ? Will we curse at the gods and electrocute them through cloud computing ? Shall our children dismantle their debt and austerity imposing parents and grandparents and strip them of their smart grids and blueteeth, before even having seen through the meaning of that tech- and terminology ?
Speech, words, language, and their derivatives, all are greying before our very eyes, at an accelerating pace, even catching up with ànd overtaking the ageing of our population. Day by day, less and less they seem to reflect intrinsic value or evoke a ‘reality’.
Once a civilization starts to downgrade and degenerate its language(s) by hiding intangibles or virtual thoughts after sterile words, word compounds and -even more suspicious- abbreviations -like tech-speak (on both the IT and economic/financial level) nowadays appears to be forcing, deserting ever younger people in disguising words or abbreviations they don’t understand nor can explain, let alone speak or communicate in-, one should judge speech/language as lethally passing its expiry date. Yet, simultaneously, as being upgraded to a whistle blower, to a canary in the coalmine, harbingering worse things to come : when words don’t stand for an imaginable image any more, they’re not only failing a message, but are also being abused for perverse purposes (read : probably have -partly- collaborated in instigating and worsening this crisis) and are likely to be doomed, as its civilization itself might be.
First we’re experiencing physical decoupling : when hearing the word ‘money’ I can easily visualize the image behind the word, even if it’s being more and more de-cashed and electronized today . Even an ‘iPhone 4S’ does ring a depictable bell to me (though my mother there already fails). However, when hearing the words ‘hybrid cloud engineering’, even my teenage daughter looks as deprived as the Greeks being denied their next bailout. Let alone I pronounce the words ‘naked short squeeze’ in family-circle …
Should I draw a picture ? Yes, please. One moment : how do I draw a ‘subprime’, a ‘collateralized debt obligation’, a ‘naked short squeeze’ ? By using a hologram ? ‘Holo’ pronounced as in ‘hollow’, ‘gram’ as in ‘without much weight’ ? Or by printing it in 3D, so even dummies like you and me can effectively handle and hug this ‘cloud computing’ thing, “gee, what a fog up here” ? Sorry, could you spare me a ‘second life’ to manage all that ? Oh, well, euhm, nothing more to see here, move along, please.
Second deadlock : when not grasping an English term in our native (e.g. Dutch) language any more –translated or not-, we feel ambushed, trapped without any valid reply, and communication will come to a halt. Terms like ‘cdo’ and ‘cds’, though being built on and sold in “trust” (read : fiat), had become unexplainable to most people and that’s why - in fact already from the moment they were ‘invented’- they were literally and figuratively sickening and undermining the system.
One day (most probably after “one black swan flew over the cuckoo’s nest”) our native speech is predestined to stand paralyzed (if not already) by this tech-driven virtual word decadence, unable to utter a word, let alone to translate it, neither in Dutch nor in an image or a picture. Our words will be children of boomerangst generations then, speaking dismal silence to each other, transmitting anything but.
Speech itself will encounter its Minsky moment.
And though I’m a disciple of the works of Jorge Luis Borges -in whose “The God’s Script” an imprisoned Mayan priest quests to decipher a divine magical sentence written on the skin of a tiger, but, once having managed to do so, he omits to pronounce the words that would grant him immortality, after which he dies in silence- I (we all should) refuse to remain mute.
However, debt-laden as we will be left, it perhaps implies our words must be subdued to austerity as well and will even be requiring negative or at least shrinking phrasing.
In that case speech will have to be converted to a structurally loss-making badbank (“Rumour has it 49 non-performing words had to be written off today due to a slip of the tongue; another 756 words lost their vocal cords”), drowning in debts (also called ‘underwater wording’, or, between friends, ’unwording’ : “You’ve got my word-minus-1 on it, as long as I owe the government 2 billion, for another 73 years, that is.”), needing one bailout after another (“I was a bank called VANDAL; I‘ve aborted and transferred the letters a-n-a-l into a badbank, I now demand the tax-payer to infuse me with 4 nils, so I can start all over again with my V00D00 banking.”), reluctantly accepting collateral damage control, being hedged by lifelong guardianship (“Today the word “bonus” has been put under quarantine, as it is suspected of being contaminated by the word “conscience”; “bonus” is now being held in a coma.”). After this meltdown, should the words “nuclear option” not be entombed in a concrete sarcophagus, “capital injection” not be condemned to a bad trip towards rehab, “shadow banking” not be enlightened by solar panels and “naked short” not be detained for indecent exposure ?
Would there exist apps to mother orphaned speech ?
We will have to seek and eventually find (read : invent) a newspeak, creating clear and unequivocal speech, re-enacting proper and unbiased language, bartering word for image and image for word again, yet not orwellianly discriminating on any basis, in spite of a corroding tech-speak.
The latter will corroboratively have to undergo stress tests, we’ll have to break its codes, amputating and eliminating all its toxic connotations.
Therefore, in -kind of- questioning my own (4 aka FV) posts under Christof’s http://www.econoshock.be/financial-repression-the-goose-and-the-maximin-principle/ (in fine, 4 last but one), there stigmatizing the Great RE-thing by … ooops, “REbirthing the rabbit”, I humbly propose to paraphrase the current crisis, this cancering (and soon to be imploding) supernova, as “The Great DE-ing” (in Dutch : “Het grote ONT-en”), as in de-flating/de-compressing, de-coding, de-toxing.
Not to forget designing. Speech.