My Online Writings - 2004 - '07
VED from VICTORIA INSTITUTIONS
It is foretold! The torrential flow of inexorable destiny!
A quote and a reply
I know what you mean by your statement that a person living in a particular society would take on the appearance of the other members of that society, but it would only be superficial - a matter of clothes and manners and language. Physical appearances could not be altered, even in that person’s children and grandchildren, unless the parents married members of that society and the physical differences were gradually bred out.
I also know what you mean by “hierarchical language”. Many European languages also differentiate between old and young, formal and informal. A French person, for instance, would address a senior, or someone they had met for the first time as “vous” (the formal version of “you”), while they would address an old friend (or a junior in age or rank) as “tu” (the informal version of “you”).
The English language (and society) used to be much more hierarchical. We had the same differences between formal and informal address as the Europeans until the middle of the 18th century or thereabouts when the Agricultural and Industrial Revolutions began and people started moving out of the countryside and into the cities in large numbers. If you read Shakespeare, or any other 17th century literature (including the Authorised Version of the Bible), you will see several examples of “you” (formal) and “thou” (informal). In the Bible, however, God is often referred to as “thou” because God said he is our friend as well as our Lord, so both terms are used there.
The 18th century saw a relaxation of language rules (if not of the strict class system), but also a standardisation of the spelling rules. There were far more people in the towns and cities than there ever had been before and when the railways arrived in the middle of the 19th century, people travelled more and further than they had ever done in all the centuries previously. The Agricultural Revolution (and the series of Enclosure Acts which declared that land which had previously been held in common must be enclosed by hedges, fences or walls) and the Industrial Revolution, which “mopped up” the agricultural workers who had been replaced by machinery assisted, more than anything else, in the breakdown of the feudal system in Britain.
I am quoting here a part of a private letter (from Sunflowers), I received from one of the members here. I am extremely grateful to this person for having pursued the theme of my ideas.
Yet, I need to clarify. Let me address the writer.
First of all:
Physical appearances could not be altered, even in that person’s children and grandchildren, unless the parents married members of that society and the physical differences were gradually bred out.
This feeling comes because you live in an English social scene and your experiences are of that society. For, ultimately my contentions are connected to what may be called the affect of mental freedom. Not one of having constitutional rights to write and express etc. But the mental feeling of not being subordinated to persons around you.
There is no comparable experience to what is being exerted by feudal languages, for example those of many Asian nations. In English, generally, other things being equal, persons do grow to their reasonable potential possibility. In many feudal languages, most people rarely get this mental experience. And when at times, some of them do get it, they do exhibit the potential of growth, both mental, as well as physical.
A French person, for instance, would address a senior, or someone they had met for the first time as “vous” (the formal version of “you”), while they would address an old friend (or a junior in age or rank) as “tu” (the informal version of “you”).
It is remarkable that what I did sort of sense has been pointed out. And it is more remarkable that the word ‘tu’ is the lower level (and also that of intimacy) the equivalent of ‘you’ in Hindi and many north Indian languages. Since Germans are connected to Aryans, and Sanskrit is connected to the Indian version of Aryans, could something similar be in German also?
The English language (and society) used to be much more hierarchical
I did sense this. But then the hierarchical levels in English at least for a long time backward, is not comparable in to the crippling hierarchical levels in many other languages. In the sense that it was not very derogatory to the common man. Also, the sound and the variety of other words, verbs, addressing etc. were not singularly insulting or irritating, nor inducing a feel for taunting.
“. Many European languages also differentiate between old and young, formal and informal
There is a mental affect, and a larger affect of languages. If Britain aims to surrender to European thraldom without understanding the wider themes in regard, then it is on a very perilous route. Democracy is a concept, which is very, very good in English; in many other languages, it really does not have any meaning.
I hope you don’t mind me sticking my oar in again, Ved.
Not at all!
Actually I feel deeply gratified by the input you have given. For, even though I cannot claim to know any European language, what is transpiring is that what have I sort of felt is there in European languages.
And again, as persons who are British, you people won’t get the real impact of these ambivalent words with ambiguous emotions. Actually, these seemingly minor words do have real impact on the social scene. For, these are the real nuts and bolts of communication alignment.
It is like when one sees South Indian films. In these films, one sees the heroes not being affected by the variety of addressing levels they endure, with a careless expression. Actually, such a scenario is not possible in real life. For, a minor, yet wrong such word (I have used the word’ indicant word’ in my book) can really rein a man in his path.
I do not know French, yet in my book I did give a slightly elaborate (yet superficial) description of French historical behaviour, contenting that there would be at least a minor amount of such feudal overtones in the past at least, in French.
This word ‘tu’ can really have a very powerful link, and string attached. For example, take a case of an Uncle of a person. This word of address is the intangible power over a nephew. And with such a powerful tool in a man’s hand, he can override the requirements of professional conduct.
For example, in English when an Uncle requests for an act of nepotism from a high placed government official, it will rank of stark impoliteness, and indiscretion. Yet, when the word of address is ‘tu’, it can have a lingering power of command attached to it. And it also would convey an emotion that the nephew would really enjoy doing a bit of unprofessional practise for his Uncle (if he accedes to this relationship). (I am writing from Indian emotional experience, can’t say for sure what happens in French).
I do not know whether you, the British can understand what I said. But, what can be evident is that once persons with such attachments come into crucial areas of professional functioning, the rules of professional conduct easily gets decayed. There is nothing racial in what I am saying. And it has no connection with one’s blood, but with the software, which comes attached with powerful motivating impulses.
What I described here briefly is just one scenario. As for how far French is susceptible to all this depends on what other package of inputs are there in it.
Also, just imagine if the English persons one day have to go one monitoring and measuring each and every person on the basis of his financial status, age, social position, professional status, and many other things and have to assign a different ‘you’, ‘he’ ‘his’ etc.
Compared to present day English systems, the scenario would be paranoiac.
I truly believe that it was this easy factor in English that built and preserved the British Empire. And the straight neck. Not any other claim to racial superiority.
And the now-unmentionable phrase ‘yellow-streak’ attributed by the English to persons having non-European strains in their blood, during the heights of the colonial times, to describe the evident comparable wavering self-confidence, can also be traced to this hazy language factor.
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