False Moustache Issue 2
Language Maketh the World
"He gave man speech, and speech created thought, Which is the measure of the universe." Prometheus Unbound, Shelley
Where most just see a load of green stuff, some see an area of variegated vegetation, of what was and what will be, of the promise of summer and beyond. Me, I’m in the green stuff camp, but I have wondered upon looking intently at the verdant shawl cloaking the local cliff top, what I would see if I knew what I were looking at. If I learned the names and could attach them to the flora in my view, would I perceive the scene differently? Would my thought - my consciousness be enhanced? I reckon itwould. Considerthe opening to Tolstoy’s masterful story'Hadji Murád': “I was returning home by the fields. It was midsummer; the hay harvest was over, and they were just beginning to reap the rye. At that season of the year there is a delightful variety of flowers – red, white and pink scented tufty clover; milk-white ox-eye daises with their bright yellow centres and pleasant spicy smell; yellow honey-scented rape blossoms; tall campanulas with white and lilac bells, tulip-shaped; creeping vetch; yellow, red and pink scabious; plantains with faintly scented, neatly arranged purple, slightly pink-tinged blossoms; cornflowers, bright blue in the sunshine and while still young, but growing paler and redder towards evening or when growing old; and delicate quickly withering almond-scented dodder flowers.” Now, I don’t know about you, but I cannot mentally picture any of those specimens, and consequently I feel impoverished of thought, as though my experience of the world were stunted. How many people would see what the narrator sees in this scene rather than a field of colourful flowers? And what of the scents? A whole new world has been opened up to us: no longer is there just a nice smell in the air, but the unseen world has been carved up, the redolent gestalt unstitched scent by glorious scent. The question of the relation between language and thought has long held fascination among philosophers, poets and scientists. The strong version of the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, for instance, goes as far as to postulate that language actually determines thought. Sapir wrote the following in 'The Status of Linguistics as a Science' in 1 929: ‘Human beings do not live in the objective world alone…the “real world” is to a large extent unconsciously built up on the language habits of the group.’ Sapir believed that the structure of a culture’s language actually determined its world view, an idea that had been proposed a century earlier by the German Romantic philosopher Wilhelm von Humboldt, with his notion of the Weltanschauung (worldview): "The diversity of languages is not a diversity of signs and sounds but a diversity of views of the world." This linguistic relativity was taken to the limit by Whorf (Sapir’s student), who became interested in the language of the Hopi Indians of Arizona, noting several linguistic peculiarities. Allegedly, their characteristic vernacular possesses just a single word 'masa'ytaka' - for everything that flies, including insects,
aeroplanes and pilots. If this is accurate, and not culturally biased, one then has to wonder how that affects their perception of the airborne world. Whorf has received much criticism, but consider what would be lost if we had a single word for coloured petalled things in fields. Perhaps Tolstoy would have written ‘yeah, there was a field of pretty flowers.’ Words seem to extend and restructure thought and to separate out the world – to break the unity into its constituent parts. This view sure runs counter to the traditional intuitive idea that language is the outer expression of thought. Yet that assumption doesn’t hold up either. Wittgenstein and Vygotsky (the great Russian developmental psychologist) separately investigated the role that language plays in consciousness, and both challenged the notion that language merely reflects thought. Instead, they said, thought is dependent on language, that "all I know is what I have words for" (Wittgenstein) and that "the child begins to perceive the world not only through its eyes but also through its speech. And later it is not just seeing but acting that becomes informed by words." (Vygotsky, 'Thought and Language', 1 934.) Ironically however, perhaps the only way to grasp the profundity of the power of language to shape consciousness is to divest the mind of words. Since antiquity the practice of silence and meditation as a technique for exploring and enhancing consciousness has been well known amongst religious and esoteric groups. Advocates of the psychedelic experience too have reported the deeply mystical and consciousness-expanding qualities of the drug trip. Both methods go beyond words to a realm that is pre-thought, almost pure thought. That is, thought unsullied by language: the ‘cleansing’ of the ‘doors of perception’. So, it’s not all about mouthing off all the time, but developing a refinement of thought. This requires the richness of language and the void of silent meditation. Language categorises and extends the world; enables us to see into it. In a sense it makes the world as we know it. Meditation on the other hand unites all objects and all thought, it rounds everything off. Language is human, our world begins and ends there: In the beginning was the word; Death is everlasting silence. Shamefully therefore, the value of exquisite language and the necessity of silent contemplation are considered largely unimportant in our modern twenty-four-seven society. Whereas - if anything I have said is true - they must be cherished and nourished as trees that may bear great fruit. The ability to think and to see depends on the interplay between them. The boring insincere rhetoric of our withered crop of politicians is testament to what happens when language and silence are devalued. It seems inconceivable that Cameron could rouse a nation to war with his bland patter. Churchill on the other hand instinctively understood the influence of language to shape thought and action. And that is why, advisable as it is to study language and contemplation to cultivate a fine mind, it is equally necessary to recognize how words are used against us.
Sound Travels GF Lawrence The lexicon of travel is of vision. Travel broadens the mind, but seems exclusively to function through the sights – our “eyes are opened”; we “see things from a different perspective”; we even “see what you mean”. There is an obsession with “what there is to see” in a country – rarely do the other four senses come into it. Vision is even linked directly to knowledge and understanding: pioneering wisdom is “visionary”, and the term enlightenment works on the metaphor of light and dark. Light enables sight, and it is sight that is linked to knowing. In the Dark Ages, we knew nothing. Yet the sound of a place is often crucial, and just as interesting. Sound is a command – a church bell ringing, the call to prayer. It is a communication – a foreign language, the warning rumble of thunder. Ultimately, we need all our senses to interact upon a foreign land, although our clichés teach us things need only be seen to be believed. Voices are vital. The way a person speaks – the hushed, respectful tones of a Buddhist monk on pilgrimage, the eager sales chatter of a Moroccan souk, the proud pant of a guide who’s led you to the top of his favourite mountain – is an inlet, the creak of a door opening onto another culture. Language itself is a portal that frames our thoughts, letters that shape the way we are. Languages that gender their nouns give us insight (vision again) into the way we think of people around us – a standard example is the French for sun (le soleil, masculine) and moon (la lune, feminine. The fiery sun ends up a symbol of strength and passion, and the moon a symbol of emotion. The moon reflects the light of the sun. And here we find the age old pattern – men are strong and active, women are passive, emotional and reactionary. English writers using French literary models have inherited this inbuilt notion of what it is to be male and female, derived in part from a seemingly innocuous (in)definite article. It is fascinating too, the way a culture ascribes a value to a swear word; it betrays an underlying concern in the country. We formulate our emotions, our drives into conscious thought using words – our sentences structure our thoughts, as well as the other way around. The codependency of word and brain is one not often acknowledged. In Finland the strongest swear word I learnt was ‘Perkele’, the name of an ancient god, who rather fell out of favour when Christianity moved in – and his name is now a curse word rather than a divinity. It’s a beautiful, evocative word which tells a short story of a country supposedly turning its back on its one-time culture, but actually clinging to it. Perkele (pronounced purr-kella) may now be a name you can’t say in front of your mum, but it’s still a word people use. In fact, the taboo gives it power – and Perkele remains in the consciousness of the people. Despite the efforts of Christian missionaries, the old gods have never been wholly relinquished to the past. In England our taboo is sexual rather than religious, and our strongest swear words – ‘cunt’ and ‘fuck’ – are firmly rooted in this. We are disgusted by the basics of human nature, rather than what is seen
as a misguided pastbeliefsystem. Another observation from that trip: Finns don’t waste their words. They know when to shut up. They don’t prattle, or natter, or clutter up their lives with meaningless and vapid small talk. It’s incredibly refreshing to remember that silence is a sound, too. Touching down in any foreign port offers new sounds to get your tongue twisted – whether it’s foreign chatter after an agonising long haul flight or the strong accents of a regional bus stop. Sounds are indelibly linked to places in our minds: Turkey, for me, is the sound of the shocking turquoise waves of the Aegean Sea splashing playfully against a wooden fishing boat. Dublin is the beer-soaked friendliness of local people enthusing about James Joyce during the Bloomsday festival. Prague is the sound of a trio of string musicians, who we stumbled across three times entirely accidentally over six days, serenading the city over the rusted, crumbling rooftops. There are still sounds I yearn to hear. The rush of air in my ears in the Nepalese Himalaya, the sunrise call to prayer across the cool morning streets of Morocco, the thunderous roar of an Icelandic waterfall. But no matter where you go, how far or wide, there is one thing that remains true about all languages: the most important word you’ll ever learn, the most important sound you’ll ever make is a sign of respect. Learning the word in another tongue is an act of integration into a new culture, an offer to listen to someone else’s story. It is an act of appreciation even in your own language, and one we all too often forget once we are overseas and focussing on my holiday, my adventure. That word is, and always will be, ‘thank you’.
Closing Robert Peel's Door Luke Blaxill
Sit down my son, and let me tell you about a time when Britain enjoyed real democracy. I mean those heady days of Empire, when one person in four could vote, and when the poor man would tip his hat as his Master's carriage thundered through. The heart of a democracy is vigorous and open debate: especially between the political class and the great unwashed they seek to represent. In the closing decades of the nineteenth century, a general election candidate held an average of 231 open public meetings in a single campaign, and spoke for an hour at each, plus fielded questions. These meetings would be packed to the rafters with everyone: men, women, rich and poor. Every word uttered was reported in the local press. Rival politicians tried to outdo each other in this whirlwind war of verbosity. At its crescendo on polling day, upwards of 90% voted. That, my son, is a proper democratic relationship between leaders and lead. What do we have now in modern ‘enlightened’ times? We have invisible, silent candidates, who a voter never sees, let alone actually hears speak. Public meetings and stump speeches are artefacts of a bygone age. Instead, we (might) get a leaflet through the door parroting the message of central party HQ and reducing the contest to a presidential duel between two celebrity leaders. At the climax of this dirge, barely half of us (often less) can be bothered to vote. We must face the reality: Victorians went out and did democracy, whereas we merely watch a cartoon version of it on TV. So if our modern democracy loses out in participation, perhaps it is instead more sophisticated and intelligent? Not a bit of it. Our democratic debate is a kiddified, abbreviated Tom and Jerryesque duel between
PR machines appealing to the lowest common denominator in that 6.7 second soundbite slot on the news. In the 1880s an average issue of The Times contained 60,000 words of speech reporting from Parl iament. Today, you'll struggle to find 6. Indeed, I can also tell you that the reading age required to understand the average Victorian speech (me asured using Flesch Kincaid Grade a statistical index based on average sentence length, word length, syllables per word etc) was between 15 and 16 years. Today, the ‘orations’ of David Cameron and Ed Milliband come out as understandable by a 5 year old. Once again, we must face the reality that modern political discourse scarcely challenges a primary school child.
and contempt for our own, who we love to put in the stockade and pelt with fruit. Ironically, we who dog matically defend modern democracy, uniformly despise the politicians that modern democracy produces. Who, my son, is at fault for this sorry situation? Why have we sullied the magnificent legacy of our forefathers? I will tell you: it is us, the people, who are at fault. The majority are too illinformed, too weak, and too stupid to be worth representing. They do not understand the psy chology of bond markets, the mechanics of Alternative Vote, the European Constitution, or the situation in Afghanistan or Syria. Politicians do not hold meetings because we would not attend them. They make idiotproof speeches because we are idiots. They are red uced to anodyne statements, photocalls, and endless apo logies because the people, who can do no wrong, think everything that goes wrong is their fault.
You might think, my son, that we make these great sac rifices to give the people what they want. But no, the people are instead given what they despise. While the Victorians loved some politicians, and at least respected those who they The bottom line, my boy, is disliked, we have only hatred that the belief in the collective
wisdom of individual igno rance is necessarily flawed. Rule of the people is a beautiful system, but only if the people are fit to rule. The Victorian electorate, filtered by intelligence, success, and property, was worthy. Our electorate, an unfiltered, ignorant mob where the intelligent minority are cru shed beneath a stampede of ignorance, is not. Upon the passage of the Great Reform Act of 1832, Robert Peel shouted at the Whig front bench “You have opened a door that can never be closed.” Find a way to close it my son, and you will be a man.
Death of a language? Of the 6,500 languages on the planet, over half are in danger of vanishing in this century. So can a dying language be saved? Language is part of our heritage, like historic buildings or works of art. A building or a painting can be preserved by careful conservation and the expenditure of cash. We want them to stay unchanged for future generations to enjoy, but the same cannot be said of language. I never say “gadzooks” in regular conversation and Shakespeare never “skyped”. Several minority languages are found in the British Isles. Welsh and Gaelic still survive the tyranny of English, Cornish and Manx had all but died out before being revived. The Norman languages of the Channel Islands are however stuttering towards extinction. The language of Alderney has been lost and only a handful of people in the tiny island of Sark now speak Serquais. In Jersey there is a rearguard action against the loss of Jerrais and in Guernsey there is a narrowing window in which to ‘save’ Guernesais. Broadly these are versions of Norman French which predate the standard French we know today. Guernesais was not a written language, so there is no formal grammar or spelling and there are even differences in pronunciation on an island just five miles by
seven. As a largely ‘country’ language, it was not permitted in schools, and as the twentieth century wore on, people became ashamed to speak it. The War was a heavy blow to the language, with half the islanders evacuated to England or joining the forces, and the rest urged to speak German by their Nazi occupiers. Perhaps 200 native speakers are still alive, most being elderly, so it is plain that Guernesais could die with their generation. The effort is on to save the language, but how? There are evening classes for English speakers like me, a few books, spots in the media and the odd cultural event. We have started putting up signs in Guernesais and tourists can buy t-shirts, mugs and so forth printed with stock phrases. It will not be enough though, because a language is learned in the kitchen and the playground. It has to be used in the shop and at work. Yes, I can learn to say “J’m’en vais au cabaret”, but when I arrive at the pub and request “énne verraïe d’rouge vin” I’m likely to just receive a worried look from the barmaid. Then we must ask what language are we learning? When the most modern Dictionnaire Anglais-Guernesais was published there was no word for computer, mobile phone and other ubiquitous features of the modern world.
Languages change with surprising velocity. They merge and diverge, borrow and invent new words, abbreviate or discard old ones. The very idea of ‘preserving’ a language becomes nonsensical because it is not like a classic car which can be repaired and polished to keep it in pristine state. It is not even like preserving a breed of animals such as the Guernsey cow, where we can control the inputs and eliminate the outputs we don’t like. It would be a straightforward academic exercise to preserve the language as it was and entomb writings and voice recordings in an archive. It would become a dead language, such as Latin, spoken by no-one. One step beyond this is that it can be perpetuated as a ‘folkloric’ language, remembered in songs and plays to be performed at cultural festivals and signs greeting tourists with “Bian v’nu”. Anything more ambitious becomes really challenging, and the challenge is called ‘revitalisation’. There are proven methods from across the world, but it is hard to bring a dying language back to the mainstream at a time when English is all around. It may be an impossible task to revitalise Guernesais, as new words need to be either invented (which causes resistance)
or borrowed (which starts the creep towards English or The Good French). With my “p’tit téléphaone” in hand I can “textotaï” - but purists would be outraged. Who cares? You might say. For a small community, language is part of its identity that sets it apart from the global monoculture. We feel the loss when a great building is demolished or an Old Master is lost in a fire. Losing a language is just as painful. À la perchoine.
Why we are not racist. Tom Wein I am a good liberal. You probably are too. Anti-racism is automatic to that, part of the territory. We are not racist, because racism is wrong. That suffices, most of the time; that weak argument is rarely challenged, because racists rarely offer cogent arguments, and because we have become good at eliding concerns on immigration. Sometimes, though, it is not enough. Arguing with an intelligent person who is racist, the liberal will often lose – because one has had to refine and consider their arguments, and the other has not. So here are two reasons why we are not racist. Anti-racism is one part of a grand liberal project, a project to defeat prejudice. We are not racist because we believe in judging people on their merits – we believe in judging people after we have met them, after we have seen them do and heard them speak. It is a social equivalent of the presumption of innocence. Yet race is only one aspect of prejudice; why is it uniquely reviled? Simply because it has proved uniquely horrific. We need not diminish the long suffering of women, or gays, or others, to say that racism has killed many, many more. Racism killed perhaps two million just in the journey from Africa to America, and destroyed the lives of millions more on both sides of the Atlantic. Racism slaughtered the Native Americans in the service of a White Manifest Destiny. Racism killed six million Jews. It is true that in each case, evil people did the killing. But they are only evil because of what they did; in other respects, most were normal. The Holocaust happened because waiters and junior accountants and postmen joined the S.S., or did not protest. We are not racist, because racism is what separates us from them – from that. The Far Right has long been politically incompetent in Britain. But it will not always be so. A Geert Wilders orMarine Le Pen will appear; a charismatic, plausible racist. We should be ready.
Sam Lea “Words that are no longer being used…I like to drag them out of the box and wave them around.” Tom Waits
The mind is reeling. Words fall to the page like autumn leaves. Jumbled thought line, illiterate scribbles and shambolic spelling. This is where the most beautiful inspiration is born. I find when things are still, the mind spurts every nugget of emotion and discovery through pen to paper, when allowed of course. Norman Mailer taught that, when “writing about great violence or soul suffering, you don’t have to do it the way Dostoyevsky did, you're better off almost if you are writing in great calm,” which is something I abide by. Travel to war zones and Argentinian football derbies when writing love songs. Straight to paper, any scrap, napkin or receipt, unfiled and stored somewhere. After the word deluge I find the topic spilt out of its bath all over its paper floor, wet with inspiration. I have volumes of pages on subjects that take my associates and me countless hours to put into context: war, spies, computer systems, smoke, rusting mechanical yards, public pornography. The lists are unfiled and endless. When writing to music, from the beginning I reference everything that goes on internally and externally. Processing the world around me, from dreams to The Routine is something I find very revealing. Finding endless messages, codes, pictures and expressions. The photos of the Circus… To then translate the mosaic of images and emotions to the lyrics is the fun part. Lately I have been admiring the lyrics of Alex Turner of ‘The Arctic Monkeys.’ The way he mixes the grimy world with The Decadence, as in the chorus of ‘Piledriver Waltz’: “You look like you’ve been for breakfast at the heartbreak hotel Inside of a back booth by the pamphlets and the literature on how to lose. Your waitress was miserable and so was your food. If you’re gonna try and walk on water make sure you wear your comfortable shoes.” He’s the man of the moment, our Alex. There is obviously a massive skill in songwriting - but if the message of the lyrics is clear enough it will blast out of any dirge. I hate to think of creativity and writing becoming mechanical in its early stages. That makes me think of the ‘Who was the better Beatle?’ argument. Paul and John. Paul’s dutiful song writing gave him some unbelievably catchy ‘sing alongs’ whereas John’s expression of understanding his inner shadows gave them far more emotion. So, who wins? (Debates still rage in New York hotspots, as both camps tear each other to shreds in a cacophonous medley of ‘Imagine’ and ‘Hey Jude.’ No one dare mention Yoko.) William S Burroughs preferred to write in a haze or a mind altered state, whether it was the post melancholy of meditation or the inner spiral of heroin. I guess the freedom and rebellion against classic form was his biggest enjoyment. Only the other day I read of Blur’s Damon Albarn using substances to further explore his creative abilities. I speak of this style as a majority of my favorite writers seem to have experienced it at some point; William Burroughs, Norman Mailer, Hunter Thompson and Bob Dylan.
But my all time favorite is Tom Waits. A poet, raconteur, preacher and an enigma. I have read so much on him, all quoting different inspirations, that I have given up. Now I just read what he says, listen to it and sing it. He once said of the great Captain Beefheart, when you “get a Beefheart line stuck in your head, it's in there for life.” And I feel the same about Mr. Waits. He taught me about humor in lyrics and its power to make a message sink in without the nerve jangling propaganda, relentlessly repeated chorus or weeping, poetic croon. Lines like “give a man gin, give a man cards, give him an inch, he takes a yard,” “come down off the cross, we can use the wood,” “I had a good home but I left right left, that big fucking bomb made me deaf.” I advise anyone to listen to ‘Black Wings’ with their eyes closed in a cool room. I recently read about Odd Future frontman Tyler the Creator and his explanation of his obscure ranting lyrics. "I don't know where that anger comes from," he reflects, "It's just this dark place that I go to when I'm alone. We all do." Negativity can have a strangely positive effect on lyrics, like that of Townes van Zandt “Dead Flowers” and Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy’s “Hard Life”. I get their drift, but lyrics aren’t all about anguish or how we react to negativity, we can do more. Anthony Kiedis is another wordsmith, like Turner, that has a wonderful palette of words he uses to convey his emotion. I have always placed the Verse above the Chorus and both Turner and Kiedis are masters of this (Record Executives mix mocking laughter with financial grumbles behind cumulus clouds of cigar smoke in giant underground Industry catacombs.) Try the definitions for ‘wolf tickets’ and ‘walking spanish.’ It always helps when the key words look good on paper. Lately I have been enjoying the words ‘burgle’ ‘Mutant Blues’ ‘Kundalini’ ‘plump’ and am working on a new definition for the word ‘ackle.’ END
Sam is the lead singer of an excellent band called Vices. Look out for them - ED.
I never understood you. How dare you, how could you Sit in sorrow enthroned As if the only one who moaned With a cause A rebel with a pause. You posed and you pouted As if the epitome of all who doubted Ever Clever I felt as I empathised With all but you, emphasised Your sickening indulgence of self Other heroes had I on my shelf As a young adventurer through fiction I counted it an honour to commend the diction Loyalty and common sense Of a second in command sans recompense. With the ardour of an awakened heart I took it upon myself to take the part Of a lady at the perverse Mercy of stars adverse. A committed cult classic aficionado I bowed to the grim bravado Of a once great general in armoured chains Leased to the tearful valley to speak of pains Wont words, words, words to write I made my own the plight Of a storyteller treading a stage upon a stage With admirable angst and righteous rage. My tears saved I for him and the others Not he who, 409 years on, still cowers Behind eloquent disquisition To mask tragic faults in disposition. Or at least, so it was until the time I plunged into another’s rhetoric and rhyme Out of my comfort zone Alone On a treacherous mission Of meaning transmission With minimum formal loss On troubled seas did I toss With drafts In lieu of rafts It was then –
Now I Understand Giulia Sandelewski
– as I stared down the gorge Between what I wanted to and could say, the forge Of my invention Cooled by attention To signifiers and shades of interpretation Hot upon my neck the damnation Of inadequacy looming Subsuming What I could, striving to impress a longGone ghostly father by matching my song To his, my siren sheet music patterned With notes no better than each other, scattered My attempts, yet single-thoughted my mind – It was then, I say, I realised I’d been unkind To the indecisive prince So it is we have since Reconciled, and shaken tentative hands Across a putative map to undiscovered lands.
It was in the summer of 2009 that I first seriously dipped my toes into literary translation, in the company of Sonnets 55, 1 07, and 1 23. Maybe not starved, but certainly peckish for relevant literature, I described the continuum of contingent choices I suddenly faced. Some choices were big and programmatical:
Poetry or prose? To pentameter, or not to pentameter? Rhyme, anyone? Form over meaning, or meaning over form? Which meaning, or whose?
To say nothing of the individual units of sense, lines, words to be deconstructed and reconstructed, crystallised, justified, determined – until the next draft, at least. So in painstaking detail, I charted my (in)decisions, revisions, stabs in the dark, changes of heart, and rare triumphs of mind over language. The result was certainly lengthy, hopefully self-aware, possibly self-indulgent. Now, who did I remind myself of? I have always thought of Hamlet as a play the Romantics understood in a way outdated by the pragmatism of our age. Yet even as I defended the story’s potential for emotional havoc – even further back, as the teenage writer of gothic elegies modelled on mysery-wallowers of the calibre of Werther and Ortis – I never got Hamlet’s deal. Quite frankly, what did he even do until Act V, except take inordinate delight in his plight? Miserable cretin. Yet looking at Hamlet with a translating eye, I saw someone else entirely. I saw a man at once egged on and paralysed by words which meant everything to him, even as he struggled to comprehend their meaning. I saw a man too old for his own skin, haunted by the inner child tethered to a ghostly father, painfully trying to negotiate the coexistence of conflicting loyalties. I saw an agent, in the same breath excited and terrified by the very idea of choice. Words, at least, I shared with him, and choices. Having seen the connection, I could not un-see it, so I did what I usually do when trying to negotiate a new idea – I wrote a poem about it. In the intentions, it should have been in Italian; I even toyed with the idea of making it bilingual. It was a poem about translational identity, after all. Yet when it came to it, the poem wrote itself in English. So much for agency.
Fragment on Poetry. Tom Wein To write a novel is a wonderful thing. To have one published is more impressive still. But in the end, it is a collection of anecdotes, a series of ‘and thens’ fattened by freedom and segregated by chapters. But to write poetry – now that is a true achievement. Great poetry is terse, and it is blunt, and it slaps you instantly into the will of the poet. There is a coercive element to all art – artists are always saying, ‘feel this now’ – but the greatest poems force you into it without you realising or objecting.
OWNING &LIVING &
Pirates! (in an adventure with politicians, musicians, computer scientists, dictators, campaigners and kids) Helen Brocklebank The Internet is a phenomenon that has changed the world beyond recognition; from the way we communicate with each other, through the way we access information, to the way we watch television. This network of networks has no centralised control point, which has made it a seemingly unstoppable entity. Its openness and accessibility have made it a thorn in the sides of major corporations, governments, and others. The rise of blogging and social networking sites such as Twitter has completely subverted governmental control of information sharing, as seen during the Arab Spring and the UK riots of 2011 , and after Napster popularised peer-to-peer file sharing in the late ‘90s, it became very difficult for music and film distributors to profit in the way they were used to. Some more authoritarian governments have famously sought to stamp out this high volume information sharing for fear of having their propaganda diluted and exposed, attempting to continue to, as Chairman Mao once said, “maintain control with the power of the pen.” China itself is famous for blocking access to social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook, and requiring search engine Google to censor its searches within the country. In March this year Iran formed the Supreme Council of Cyberspace, which will attempt to supervise all online activity within the country. During the Egyptian revolution, Mubarak enraged protesters by pulling the plug for fear of being toppled. This did not end well for him. Naturally, we would not expect this kind of censorship in a democratic society. Media distributors are equally opposed to this free sharing of information, or more specifically, files. Peer-to-peer technology makes it simple for people to share their documents, photos, music, and films, and the widespread increase in broadband access has provided with people with the connection speeds to make this fast as well. Unfortunately for the distributors, this makes it harder to persuade people to pay for their products. Why pay £1 5 for a CD (see early ‘00s prices) when you could download it for free, and not worry about lining the pockets of some record executive? Many famous bands have bemoaned the loss of their bread and butter, but it has not been all bad for musicians. The Arctic Monkeys shot to fame not through carefully coordinated record label marketing, but through word of mouth online. Radiohead and Nine Inch Nails have even gone so far as to dispense with the record company altogether, and release albums online with their own price structure. Radiohead used a pay-what-you-want model for the online release of
the album In Rainbows, and although most people downloaded the album for free, it was still more profitable than their previous album Hail To The Thief which was released with a traditional major record label. In response to these challenges the media industry has elected to fight rather than adapt. There have been examples over the last ten years of heavy-handed attempts to scare people away from online file-sharing. One such happened in 2003, when the Recording Industry Association of America sued 1 2-year-old Brianna Lahara, a high achieving student who lived with her mother in a New York City Housing Authority apartment. Then RIAA chief Mitch Bainwol said in a statement “We're trying to send a strong message that you are not anonymous when you participate in peer-to-peer file sharing.” The same organisations have been lobbying Western governments, trying to make them tighten up anti-piracy legislation. For those who disapprove of censorship, the results have been deeply worrying. The US Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect IP Act (PIPA), which would allow the US attorney general to arbitrarily create blacklists of websites to be censored, cut off from funding or removed from search engine indexes, have not been passed by Congress yet, but have only been postponed. The Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA) was passed in April, and proposes law that would allow the US government and certain technology companies to share Internet traffic information. Even more recently, a High Court ruling has stated that UK ISPs must block access to the well known file-sharing site The Pirate Bay. There has been a widespread international reaction to this lobbying, from a high profile Internet blackout in protest to these bills, to the formation of a multinational political movement called The Pirate Party. When asked about the High Court ruling, UK Pirate Party member Jack Allnutt provided the following response: “The High Court ruling to block The Pirate Bay is dangerous on many levels. The technology being used to block The Pirate Bay is some of the same technology that's being using in Iran, China and the pre-Arab Spring countries where citizens are under the rule of heavy surveillance and censorship...censorship of the Internet is no different to censorship of any other medium. Stopping the spread of ideas, culture and knowledge is devastating for any society.” What is most unfortunate about this legal involvement is how unfit for purpose it is. These bills and rulings allow for arbitrary blocking of websites deemed to be a threat by the government, but the technically able will be able to circumvent these measures using a Virtual Private Network service or going to alternative mirror sites. The Pirate Party is even hosting a reverse proxy to enable blocked users to reach The Pirate Bay. All that these laws could realistically achieve is the prevention of the dissemination of information amongst ordinary people, as has happened in China and Iran.
We the Web Kids
Editor's note: Piotr Czerski is a Polish writer and commentator. This essay, translated by Marta Szreder, was posted to Pastebin under a Creative Commons license. I republish it here, lightly edited, but otherwise as I found it at the Atlantic Magazine, who published it with the first several paragraphs excised.
1 . We grew up with the Internet and on the Internet. This is what makes us different; this is what makes the crucial, although surprising from your point of view, difference: we do not 'surf' and the Internet to us is not a 'place' or 'virtual space'. The Internet to us is not something external to reality but a part of it: an invisible yet constantly present layer intertwined with the physical environment. We do not use the Internet, we live on the Internet and along it. If we were to tell our bildungsroman to you, the analog, we could say there was a natural Internet aspect to every single experience that has shaped us. We made friends and enemies online, we prepared cribs for tests online, we planned parties and studying sessions online, we fell in love and broke up online. The Web to us is not a technology which we had to learn and which we managed to get a grip of. The Web is a process, happening continuously and continuously transforming before our eyes; with us and through us. Technologies appear and then dissolve in the peripheries, websites are built, they bloom and then pass away, but the Web continues, because we are the Web; we, communicating with one another in a way that comes naturally to us, more intense and more efficientthan everbefore in the historyofmankind. Brought up on the Web, we think differently. The ability to find information is to us something as basic as the ability to find a railway station or a post office in an unknown city is to you. When we want to know something - the first symptoms of chickenpox, the reasons behind the sinking of 'Estonia', or whether the water bill is not suspiciously high - we take measures with the certainty of a driver in a SatNav-equipped car. We know that we are going to find the information we need in a lot of places, we know how to get to those places, we know how to assess their credibility. We have learned to accept that instead of one answer we find many different ones, and out of these we can abstract the most likely version, disregarding the ones which do not seem credible. We select, we filter, we remember, and we are ready to swap the learned information for a new, better one, when it comes along. To us, the Web is a sort of shared external memory. We do not have to remember unnecessary details: dates, sums, formulas, clauses, street
names, detailed definitions. It is enough for us to have an abstract, the essence that is needed to process the information and relate it to others. Should we need the details, we can look them up within seconds. Similarly, we do not have to be experts in everything, because we know where to find people who specialise in what we ourselves do not know, and whom we can trust. People who will share their expertise with us not for profit, but because of our shared belief that information exists in motion, that it wants to be free, that we all benefit from the exchange of information. Every day: studying, working, solving everyday issues, pursuing interests. We know how to compete and we like to do it, but our competition, our desire to be different, is built on knowledge, on the ability to interpret and process information, and not on monopolising it. 2. Participating in cultural life is not something out of the ordinary to us: global culture is the fundamental building block of our identity, more important for defining ourselves than traditions, historical narratives, social status, ancestry, or even the language that we use. From the ocean of cultural events we pick the ones that suit us the most; we interact with them, we review them, we save our reviews on websites created for that purpose, which also give us suggestions of other albums, films or games that we might like. Some films, series or videos we watch together with colleagues or with friends from around the world; our appreciation of some is only shared by a small group of people that perhaps we will never meet face to face. This is why we feel that culture is becoming simultaneously global and individual. This is why we need free access to it. This does not mean that we demand that all products of culture be available to us without charge, although when we create something, we usually just give it back for circulation. We understand that, despite the increasing accessibility of technologies which make the quality of movie or sound files so far reserved for professionals available to everyone, creativity requires effort and investment. We are prepared to pay, but the giant commission that distributors ask for seems to us to be obviously overestimated. Why should we pay for the distribution of information that can be easily and perfectly copied without any loss of the original quality? If we are only getting the information alone, we want the price to be proportional to it. We are willing to pay more, but then we expect to receive some added value: an interesting packaging, a gadget, a higher quality, the option of watching here and now, without waiting for the file to download. We are capable of showing appreciation and we do want to reward the artist (since money stopped being paper notes and became a string of numbers on the screen, paying has become a somewhat symbolic act of exchange that is supposed to benefit both parties), but the sales goals of corporations are of no interest to us whatsoever. It is not our fault that their business has ceased to make sense in its traditional form, and that instead of
accepting the challenge and trying to reach us with something more than we can get for free they have decided to defend their obsolete ways. One more thing: we do not want to pay for our memories. The films that remind us of our childhood, the music that accompanied us ten years ago: in the external memory network these are simply memories. Remembering them, exchanging them, and developing them is to us something as natural as the memory of 'Casablanca' is to you. We find online the films that we watched as children and we show them to our children, just as you told us the story about the Little Red Riding Hood or Goldilocks. Can you imagine that someone could accuse you of breaking the law in this way? We cannot, either. 3. We are used to our bills being paid automatically, as long as our account balance allows for it; we know that starting a bank account or changing the mobile network is just the question of filling in a single form online and signing an agreement delivered by a courier; that even a trip to the other side of Europe with a short sightseeing of another city on the way can be organised in two hours. Consequently, being the users of the State, we are increasingly annoyed by its archaic interface. We do not understand why the tax act takes several forms to complete, the main of which has more than a hundred questions. We do not understand why we are required to formally confirm moving out of one permanent address to move in to another, as if councils could not communicate with each other without our intervention (not to mention that the necessity to have a permanent address is itself absurd enough.) There is not a trace in us of that humble acceptance displayed by our parents, who were convinced that administrative issues were of utmost importance and who considered interaction with the State as something to be celebrated. We do not feel that respect, rooted in the distance between the lonely citizen and the majestic heights where the ruling class reside, barely visible through the clouds. Our view of the social structure is different from yours: society is a network, not a hierarchy. We are used to being able to start a dialogue with anyone, be it a professor or a pop star, and we do not need any special qualifications related to social status. The success of the interaction depends solely on whether the content of our message is regarded as important and worthy of reply. And if, thanks to cooperation, continuous dispute, defending our arguments against critique, we have a feeling that our opinions on many matters are simply better, why would we not expect a serious dialogue with the government? We do not feel a religious respect for 'institutions of democracy' in their current form, we do not believe in their axiomatic role, as do those who see 'institutions of democracy' as a monument for and by themselves.
We do not need monuments. We need a system that will live up to our expectations, a system that is transparent and proficient. And we have learned that change is possible: that every uncomfortable system can be replaced and is replaced by a new one, one that is more efficient, better suited to our needs, giving more opportunities. What we value the most is freedom: freedom of speech, freedom of access to information and to culture. We feel that it is thanks to freedom that the Web is what it is, and that it is our duty to protect that freedom. We owe that to next generations, just as much as we owe to protect the environment. Perhaps we have not yet given it a name, perhaps we are not yet fully aware of it, but I guess what we want is real, genuine democracy. Democracy that, perhaps, is more than is dreamt of in your journalism.
The world is fucked. That is a lament, but it should be a rallying cry. As we look around and count the myriad injustices, we should be upon the barricades, or serving soup to the homeless, or handing out condoms, or building schools, or running for Parliament, or taking any one of the million remedies to thousands of different problems. Yet we are not. This article is written with confidence. That confidence is unwarranted. It is not just that I have not changed the world (though I am 24; perhaps I ought to have done). I am not even practicing the things I preach in this essay, so I can’t carry out the experiment to see if they work. Yet here are some things I think might help. Do Stuff:
There is no substitute to doing. I spend my days reasoning, demonstrating with elegant logical proofs what we ought to do; I write, and debate, and read, and at the end of it maybe – maybe – probably not – someone else has been persuaded by my words to do stuff. That is on my part an abdication of responsibility. Words are insufficient. Examples are more persuasive, and more than that, when an example fails to sway, it still achieves the narrow step of actually helping someone. Doing is everything, or near enough. Learn Stuff:
How to change the world: Suppositions from someone who hasn’t done it Tom Wein
Of course, it matters what you do. And if you are to choose what to do, you will need knowledge. You will need knowledge too, to perform well; how else can you learn how to do it? So read and talk and be curious. But after a certain period of study, most learning will anyway be incidental and accidental; after a certain period of study, you should start doing, and pick up the books and blogs when you get chance in between. I think we have all of us reached that point. Believe Stuff, Say Stuff, and Fake It:
Learning can be detrimental to action. It is possible to be overeducated. Partly because some of those years of education may have been selfindulgent self-cultivation in years that could have been spent doing. But also because the world is too big and too complex, and there is always another paper to read and a countercountercounterargument to rebut. At some point during learning, you will have to pin your colours to a set of beliefs, and begin to agitate for their success. You can, if you like, adopt the asterisk used by gender activists, appending * to each of your beliefs as a recognition that you admit of the complex assumptions of your statement, but that you think the statement approximates the truth.
Then, having picked some beliefs – you can always change them later – you have a duty to politely exhort and persuade your friends. If you believe them to be true – if you believe that enacting these ideas will make the world a better place – there is no other option, embarrassing though certainty may be. Even so, however passionate your beliefs, there will be days of doubt. There should be days of doubt, because they are how you better your beliefs. But do not abandon your doing while you consider; carry on doing for a while, borrowing on the assumption that your belief will return tomorrow. In short, on the bad days, Fake It until you do not need to – either because you believe again, or because your beliefs have accordingly changed. Redefine the Doing:
I have not talked much about what you should do. That’s sort of the point. We all have a list of things we think should be done. And though it matters what you do, the difference between doing something and not doing anything is far bigger than the difference between doing the best thing and doing a good thing. Do something, and while you’re doing it you can consider what else you could do instead. I have also talked about changing the world. It’s an intimidating thought. If you consider an action against the test ‘Will it change the world?’, you will never do it, because no one action does. Even the rare president or hero who can take a single wrenching decision, got there by compiling many smaller moves. So do not think ‘will it change the world?’ Think, ‘if this was repeated by millions of people across the country, would it improve things?’, and Think, ‘is this action better than no action at all?’ If you can answer yes, then that must be sufficient. Join In:
I mention repetition by millions of people. Your actions will surely be more effective if they are coordinated with others, with each person’s talents put to the wheel. In the previous issue of this magazine, I exhorted readers to join in with organizations and consent to a hierarchy in order to get stuff done. That holds true. Individuals rarely change the world, but armies almost always do, one way or another. Helping a grandmother across the street is a fine and noble thing; but working with Age Concern to secure care for the elderly will make so much more difference. Do Stuff:
I have not done these things. I am too cowardly, perhaps. Certainly I am too attached to my comfort and my peace, and timid to boot. This magazine – it does not count. It required a certain amount of work, and maybe it contains some decent wisdom. But there is no shortage of advice out there; it is the doing, not the writing or the thinking or the dreaming, that will achieve. I hope to do better. Go do stuff.
Images and rights
We have so many great images in this edition. A lot of the best ones belong to Aly Monaghan: she took the following pictures (page numbers in brackets) the path (3), the archway (6), the road (1 0), the ravaged field and British Museum (11 ), the three noirish scenes and the pyromaniac mystery man (1 6), the venerable college and silly/brilliant costume (1 7 and 1 8 respectively), and the dumpy breaktime warrior (22). That last one is perhaps my favourite, though I couldn't choose for certain. My thanks to her.
I wish to offer my sincerest thanks to all of the contributors. I adore your work, and am honoured that you wanted to share it with me, and with our readers.
GF Lawrence recorded the Chinese pavilion (4), the Czech Musicians (5), and the repeated interior of the formerly futuristic Atomium (24); my thanks to her.
If you agree with me that the work in here is of the very highest order, and if you would like to offer the authors plaudits, laurels or cash, then you can contact them via the editor. Send an email to email@example.com and I will gladly pass it on. If you would like to contribute to a future issue of False Moustache, then again, please get in touch.
Sam Lea snapped the young man in an unaffected moment (1 3), and the arrestingly trashed album cover opposite (25). My thanks to him. The images of the Sir Robert Peel pub (7) and the poster banning Chartist gatherings (8) are from Wikipedia, used under a Creative Commons license. My thanks to the internet. Emily Monaghan may take credit for the shot of Tom Wein (1 ), and for the strange paper jellyfish from the Brussels Zinneparade (2). My thanks, and a lot more, to her. The front and back cover images were taken by your intermittently humble editor. Your thanks to him. With the exception of the Wikipedia images, the copyright for each of the images belongs to the authors. You can contact them via the editor if you would like to re-use any images.
And thank you for reading, too. By the way, if you liked that final article, and you want to do something, you might want to check out ifwerantheworld.com. It's a smart new platform for organizing small, achievable actions for everyone's benefit.
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United States, Canada, Mexico, Panama, Haiti, Jamaica, Peru, Republic Dominican, Cuba, Carribean Greenland, El Salvador too. Puerto Rico, Columbia, Venezuela Honduras, Guyana, and still, Guatemala, Bolivia, then Argentina And Ecuador, Chile, Brazil. Costa Rica, Belize, Nicaragua, Bermuda Bahamas, Tobago, San Juan, Paraguay, Uruguay, Surinam And French Guiana, Barbados, and Guam. Norway, and Sweden, and Iceland, and Finland And Germany now one piece, Switzerland, Austria, Czechoslovakia Italy, Turkey, and Greece. Poland, Romania, Scotland, Albania Ireland, Russia, Oman, Bulgaria, Saudi Arabia Hungary, Cyprus, Iraq, and Iran. There's Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Jordan Both Yemens, Kuwait, and Bahrain, The Netherlands, Luxembourg, Belgium, and Portugal France, England, Denmark, and Spain. India, Pakistan, Burma, Afghanistan There's antimony, arsenic, aluminum, selenium, And hydrogen and oxygen and nitrogen and rhenium, And nickel, neodymium, neptunium, germanium, And iron, americium, ruthenium, uranium, Europium, zirconium, lutetium, vanadium, And lanthanum and osmium and astatine and radium, And gold and protactinium and indium and gallium,
Thailand, Nepal, and Bhutan, Kampuchea, Malaysia, then Bangladesh (Asia) And China, Korea, Japan. Mongolia, Laos, and Tibet, Indonesia The Philippine Islands, Taiwan, Sri Lanka, New Guinea, Sumatra, New Zealand Then Borneo, and Vietnam. Tunisia, Morocco, Uganda, Angola Zimbabwe, Djibouti, Botswana, Mozambique, Zambia, Swaziland, Gambia Guinea, Algeria, Ghana. Burundi, Lesotho, and Malawi, Togo The Spanish Sahara is gone, Niger, Nigeria, Chad, and Liberia Egypt, Benin, and Gabon. Tanzania, Somalia, Kenya, and Mali Sierra Leone, and Algiers, Dahomey, Namibia, Senegal, Libya Cameroon, Congo, Zaire. Ethiopia, Guinea-Bissau, Madagascar Rwanda, Mahore, and Cayman, Hong Kong, Abu Dhabi, Qatar, Yugoslavia... Crete, Mauritania Then Transylvania, Monaco, Liechtenstein Malta, and Palestine, Fiji, Australia, Sudan.
And strontium and silicon and silver polonium, and samarium, And tantalum, technetium, titanium, And bismuth, bromine, lithium, tellurium, beryllium, and barium. And cadmium and calcium and Isn't that interesting? chromium and curium. I knew you would. I hope you're all taking notes, There's sulfur, californium, and because there's going to be a short fermium, berkelium, quiz next period. And also mendelevium, einsteinium, nobelium, There's holmium and helium and And argon, krypton, neon, radon, hafnium and erbium, xenon, zinc, and rhodium, And phosphorus and francium and And chlorine, carbon, cobalt, fluorine and terbium, copper, tungsten, tin, and sodium. And iodine and thorium and thulium And manganese and mercury, and thallium. molybdenum, magnesium, These are the only ones of which Dysprosium and scandium and the news has come to Ha'vard, There's yttrium, ytterbium, actinium, cerium and cesium. And there may be many others, but rubidium, And lead, praseodymium, and they haven't been discavard. And boron, gadolinium, niobium, platinum, plutonium, iridium, Palladium, promethium, potassium,
The second issue of False Moustache magazine takes a look at speech, language and how to live in a tricky world.