It has been a while since I've updated my list of books I've been reading, but as I trod through the snow this evening back to my hotel room, Banks' Transition was on my mind. I could only see through my glasses in the thin strip of light between the scarf pulled high over my mouth and nose and the brim of the hat pulled low over my forehead. I followed some anonymous persons footsteps on the snowy sidewalk in the dimming light and it seemed to me to be a completely alien experience.
In Transition, certain persons are transported into the bodies and minds of others. Having done so they go through a mental checklist of their mental abilities. Languages come first. Most of the target humans have four or more languages, but nobody gets transmuted into a single languaged black American like myself. I have enough French to get on a bus, and enough Spanish to order a taco, but who doesn't? What I do have is just about every American English dialect, from Georgia Drawl to Texas Twang to East LA Spanglish to Brooklyn Eytalian-English, to suburban Upspeak. And though I don't have it as much as I used to, I surely have that which would make me absolutely indistinguishable from Ice Cube if you were to hear me on the phone. With all of these, including a light Scandihoovian, all it takes is two weeks dipped into the element, and I'm in full brogue. And so it occurred to me what a conceit it is that Europeans think themselves so damnably sophisticated in their polyglottish when there's less distance between London and Venice than there is between Phoenix and Seattle.
I don't mean to be dismissive of European history or culture. Well, actually I do for the same reasons the Euro Zone was created. Italy ain't got much on Texas and 58 million Italians know it. Especially in the wake of this global recession, the PIGS aren't faring very well. (Portugal, Italy, Greece & Spain), whereas plenty of hope and vitality lies with the BRICs or so it's said. Tangentially, as I'm on a rip with my atheist pals, I wonder how readily they would dismiss San Marco Square given all of its religious totemry. Why not defend an atheist suicide bomber in Il Duomo? Obviously Mr. Kurt Westergaard doesn't seem to be worth anybody's time of day, neh? The Continentals are committing cultural suicide in some crazy perversion of Descartes, they think, therefore they shouldn't impose their being. Well, to a certain extent, especially that which gives rise and courage to the likes of our Social Democrats, good riddance to the knot of you.
There is nothing special about any dialect or language. Sapir-Whorf has been disproven and Turing was he who did it. And if you don't believe me, you should recall that you are reading from a digital device. There are simply better and worser communicators, and so when I think about it I wonder how long it will remain that we are transfixed by the skill of language translation. Surely you realize that thing which is Google is making all of this a job for dumb computers. Like chess. I give Kurzweill full marks on that score; how long do you think it's going to be before your iPhone will translate your voice into any language - sounding like you? Not long.
This brings us around to the ignorant mutterings of the day and the hearts bleeding over Harry Reid's obiter dicta. Harry Reid, fer chrissake! Him say Obama no have Negro Dialect. Him speak-um with forked tongue. White Eyes big-um race hater. Me take-um political scalp.
Deus ex machina will not solve petty human freakouts, insecurities, neuroses and emotionalisms. But it sure is fun to mock them from this corner of.. where am I again? Oh yeah. Cleveland.