silencePlease read the following disquieting passage, see if you can guess its source, and then go to languagehat‘s perpetually enlightening site, where he’ll tell you more about it:

“An extraordinary contempt for the word, or what might even be called a loathing for the word has seized humanity. Confidence in the notion that human beings are capable of persuading one another with words and language has vanished in the most radical sense. Everything associated with parlare has taken on negative connotations. Parliaments are corrupted by their own disgust with parliamentary activities in general, and when conferences are convened somewhere the participants gather in an atmosphere of scorn and skepticism. Knowledge of the impossibility of communication has become too pronounced. Everyone knows that everyone else speaks a different language and lives in entirely different value systems, and that every people is trapped in its own system of values.

Indeed, this is true not just for every person, but for every profession as well. The businessman can’t persuade the military man, nor the military man the businessman. The engineer doesn’t understand the worker; or rather, they understand each other only in so far as each of them concedes to the other the right to bring all means within their power to bear, to ruthlessly use their system of values to their own advantage, to break any contract necessary in order to crush and overrun their opponent. Never before…has the world admitted with such honesty and openness… that the word is of absolutely no use, and further, that it is no longer even worth the effort to pursue understanding…. Silence weighs heavily on the world…. A mute silence reigns between people and between groups of people, and it is the silence of murder.

But in spite of this muteness the world is full of voices. They aren’t the voices of assertion and rejoinder, however. Rather, they are simply voices, screaming chaotically… over each other, drowning each other out, a simultaneous cacophony of language and opinions being spoken past each other, interrupted only by the rather mechanical and unceremonious sounds of dull church services, rendered banal and destroyed by the earthly noise. It is the terrifying noise of a silence that accompanies murder… a muteness that is audible, but is no longer language. Rather, these disjointed cries make up components of language…. And in this silence they are merely eruptionsóeruptions of anxiety, eruptions of desperation, eruptions of courage.”

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  1. Jon Husband says:

    I found this brief piece beautiful.It also underscored, for me, why I believe that blogging (for example) is not a fad, but rather increasingly one of the reamining places (besides walking in nature, eating and drinking with beloved and trusted friends, and while sleeping) that one can be and feel truly human still.

  2. Dave Pollard says:

    Nicely put, Jon. You and I should get together when you’re next in this part of the country.

  3. Jon Husband says:

    I’d love to. I’ll be in Toronto on November 3 and 4 as a panellist at the CIO Summit (Don Tapscott is the keynote, having written the book “The Naked Corporation”. Maybe we can meet the day before, during or the day after ? Is your office downtown (I suspect so). Can you email me with particulars (unless you want to keep yiour eMail private) -mine is jon(at)wirearchy.comDamn, Don stole my thunder ;-). I don’t have the discipline to write a book on “wirearchy” – yet.

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