These poems depict a journey through a dark landscape, where the political and personal are fused into a geography of disinformation, sex, betrayal and deadly technology. Phelan has produced verbal "snapshots" of a subterranean war-- with fronts in Los Angeles as well as Fallujah-- where the only defense is one's integrity and the stakes may be life itself.
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A Culture in Chaos: What our Language Reveals About our Lives
The study of language is a study of life, as much so as biology or anthropology. Language is a living and mutating entity, which reflects change in a society and its world view. As a person grows from infancy to adulthood and then declines in old age, so language reflects the vitality and nature of a culture. For us humans, language is as natural as the bark is to the dog or the song to a canary. And as a natural consequence of our humanity, language will provide clues to the deepest levels of our existence.
As the United States of America enters a period of tumult and change, the English language reflects this, particularly in transformations of meaning attached to words with political and spiritual resonance.
The basic and historical division between the two parties, Republican and Democrat, has been cast into question, as we see the two parties emerge as two faces of the same entity. Twenty five or thirty years back, the terms “liberal” and “conservative” were used to express two supposedly disparate and even polarized approaches to political life.
It is becoming clear that the apparent distinction is blurring. When Nancy Pelosi, as one of her first decisions as the new Speaker of the House, stated that “impeachment is off the table,” we saw evidence of cooperation between two supposedly opposing parties to a hitherto unheard of degree. The very terms “Blue Dog Democrat” or “Republocrat” were simply non-existent a couple of decades ago.
A “liberal” was a “big spender” or a “Democrat” or even a “Socialist,” and a proponent of big government. A “conservative” was an advocate of small government and less restrictions on business. These words delineated a clear division of interests, which was largely understood by all on the playing field.
In our post 911 world, we have seen a sea change in the use of these terms. Many liberals have been horrified at the centralization of power under the Bush Administration, while the term “conservative” is now used by many in the patriot movement who see the “conservative” Bush as a threat to constitutional government.
In this sense, the traditional distinction between liberal and conservative has muddied, as both “lefties” and “right-wingers” watch in dismay as our liberties and rights are being dismantled before our very eyes. Some have gone so far as to posit a conspiracy between the two parties. In this assessment, the Republicans cemented the power of big business, while the Democrats rendered the citizenry dependent on the business-driven state.
Religious appellations are also undergoing change. The United States of America was founded on principles of religious freedom; however, these days, the U.S. is regularly referred to as a Christian nation. And the very term “Christian” is undergoing a transmogrification, as well. Once reflective of an attitude of generosity and charity, Christianity achieved a stridency and judgment laden visage as moral issues, such as abortion and the death penalty, became politicized. The appellation “Christian” now stands in staunch opposition to “Muslim” or “Jew,” rather than, as one Quaker recently expressed, a movement of inclusivity and compassion.
And finally, let’s look at that word “paranoia.” This word is being flung around like over-cooked hash and applied to anyone who may question the intentions of those in power. While this word ostensibly refers to a psychiatric diagnosis, it does, in fact, have a deeper root meaning: “para”—above; and “noia”---knowing. So the word “paranoid” actually denotes someone who has superior knowledge. In contradistinction is “illuminati,” referring to one with illuminated or light-born knowledge. In the present tense, this word designates evil incarnate.
911 has been referred to as an event that turned our country upside-down. Our language is increasingly reflective of this, and the linguistic reversals reveal a level of disorder and upheaval in the collective unconscious which can only be considered seismic in nature.
And seismic---well, I’m pretty sure that still means earth shattering.
Last Updated (Monday, 20 September 2010 22:02)