As people learned to wield fire, deploy an array of tools, and coordinate actions through increasingly descriptive language, they became more capable of concentrating power.
The language allows no form of respect for the more-than-human beings with whom we share the Earth. In English, a being is either a human or an “it.”
Despite the fact that the world of the unnamed vastly exceeds the extent of the named world, most people choose to inhabit a consciousness bounded by the naming of things.
The awareness of life is based on language, a huge puzzle of meanings that are entangled, and that form a lens through which we perceive the past, the present, the future and the invisible. Here, at the heart of the Amazon Rainforest, along the Xingu River and its main tributary, the Iriri, traces of a missing population are found.
When patterns are expressed in a succinct form — as in “Ritualize Togetherness” and “Practice Gentle Reciprocity” — the phrase sounds like a principle. But patterns and principles are not the same. Each points to a different way of understanding the world and bringing about social change.
The minute there’s an orthodoxy of language and an orthodoxy of thought, which we all feel we have to stay within otherwise we’re going to get punished, or cancelled, then that’s the end of expression, that’s the end of any attempt to explore outside the boundaries. It’s what every orthodoxy from fascism to communism to theocracy tries to impose on the people to purify the culture, by forcing out anyone who thinks or speaks incorrectly.
So get outside every day. Somewhere. Walk barefoot through a park, collect some wild edibles, do some yoga in your yard, some breathing exercises in the forest, or simply sit under a tree somewhere, whatever you can. This will help heal you, and keep you happy in the unplugged world and tethered to the real world.
f you’ve heard of Frank Luntz, you may know him as the evil-genius messaging expert who advised Republicans how to twist words to support their policy priorities. But Luntz seems to have gotten religion on climate. He has stopped minimizing the problem of global heating and has instead decided to do the opposite — to try to help activists raise the alarm.
As a society, we have not made the status quo strange and the negative aspects of fossil fuel dominance visible in our language and labels: dirty, gas-powered cars; polluting, coal-fired electricity; unsustainable, oil-dependent agriculture. And we need to.
So try something new and get uncivilized. Banish plastic words from your vocabulary, just as you might eliminate plastic from your household.
Perhaps instead of hurling insults at President Trump’s incompetence and the seeming disarray of his presidency, it might be worth taking a step back and asking ourselves whether there is indeed a larger goal in mind: namely, a slow, patient, incremental dismantling of democracy, beginning with its most precious words.
This is not a fable from a galaxy far, far away. It’s from a study by researchers at Lund University in Sweden. Jedek is spoken by a small community of people in the Malaysian highlands, and the language features described above are not uncommon among cultures not yet swept aside in the civilizational deluge. They are part of our human heritage.