Tuesday, January 20, 2009
It sickens me that "slonganeering" is a word, but I'm pretty ill to begin with, so it can hardly be the only pathogen.
This morning, the BBC said something quite innocent, and I have no fault with it, but it set me to thinking. They were speaking of My President Obama, and they said that "he has a way with words" and therefore expected a grand inauguration speech from him.
That's the thing, folks. Words don't mean anything, and yet American business and Americans themselves have concentrated on words as if they are the primitive, runic spells that we find on lintels saying, "This house will stand." Magical words and words as magic... this stuff is old, and we're somewhat past it in general. I think there are "magical" words, in that if you call my name, I will answer or look, and so the word by itself has done something. In such a way, the divine invests some words the way that I invest my name. However, it is not the word that did that, but the divinity.
Anyway, there are all sorts of people who look at Barrack Obama's speeches and decide that what they need is "rebranding" and that he is a "brand." It doesn't help that Obama's people allowed all those "Hope" posters up. I'd like to think, though, that the one word posters were the magician's moving hand -- distractions for the audience -- because I know that they didn't sway any voters, and they were nothing to My President Obama's speeches.
If you don't believe I. A. Richards, who said that a word carries no meaning, that a word's "meaning" is only a listing of its potential syntactic positions, then perhaps you'll believe St. Paul, who said, "Who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life" (2 Cor. 3:6). Richards, by the way, was saying that "meaning" in a dictionary is simply a list of positions, for a word has no meaning outside of a sentence or an utterance.
Imagine some poor fellow with a brain injury who shouts out, "Martians!" every few minutes. Is there a meaning to that word? Will he increase awareness of life on Mars? During the Democratic primaries, and then during the General Election, all anyone could say was "Change." Every comedian had a joke about that, and I had my own memory that made me wince every time I heard them get a verbal spasm.
You see, I used to live in da Branx, in New York. (More about that when I get a chance.) Lotto playing was a plague there. I used to go to a tiny bodega for...magazines. The thing was one body width wide and four steps deep. The magazines I wanted were at the very end of the shotgun shack. Anyway, panhandlers were common there, in Tremont Square, and I was used to them. Next door to the bodega was a "doughnut shop" that I went to every day. (In NYC, donut shops are usually diners, and diners are restaurants, and restaurants are bars.)
Anyhow, one day, there was a haggard and repulsive woman in her fifties outside the bodega. She shouted, in the most nasal tones, "Change?! Change?!" People would give her a dollar every so often. She would then take one step, inside the bodega, get another scratch off Lotto card, rub off squares, lose, throw the card on the ground, and shout out, again, "Change?! Change?!" That's all she did. She was begging to play Lotto. She had a home. She had a family. She had some kind of major neurological disability.
Anyway, I kept hearing her when the candidates put up their "Change" banners.
Barrack Obama's magic is not words. Let Republicans and lesser Democrats imitate his words, if they want. In Baltimore, they went nuts for a "Believe" bumper sticker. It didn't do anything. Let corporate weasels concentrate on "brand images." It won't help their products. They will simply grab another Lotto card, have no luck, and go back to more "change" in their "brand."
My President Barrack Obama is amazing because of his sentiments, thoughts, expressions, speeches, utterances, and feelings and that is not a matter of a word.