The words - les mots - 言葉

Thursday, August 29 2013 @ 03:33 AM JST

Contributed by: Y.Yamamoto


"Don't ask me where we are headed?"
"The Japanese response to Western ideas was similar [to their response to Chinese ideas] but less traumatic, or at least it was traumatic in a different way. Japanese intellectuals, too, used the face saving formula 'Western science, Japanese essence.' ---- They also knew that their political system, and the principles upon which it was based, had been imported from China, and there was nothing to stop them from borrowing from somewhere else when the old order was no longer working."

- from Inventing Japan - 1853-1964 by Ian Buruma
I got a hunch, with some good reasons, that not a few Americans went past my previous post, thinking: "It must be a total waste of time to listen to the same old lecture on conformism the old nutter has been repeating in the last nine years." But hold on. Do these salauds américains really understand what the word "conformism" means? It's permissible these uneducated guys do not understand the ontological connotation of the French words. But it's a laugh to know that those whose mother tongue is English don't know how to define the English word.

With that post I never intended to tell you such a stupid thing as "conformism is bad, nonconformism is good." I just wanted to remind my audience that no human baby is born a conformist. Conformism is a disease, not an ism. Sometimes you might be able to remedy it but you can never correct it.

Let me elaborate some more on the description of the illness. It is an extremely intractable disease because it's caused by developmental failure. But as is true with most other clinical cases, there is only a fine line between conformism and nonconformism, and there can't be one without the other. You can't be 100% conformist, and at the same time, you can't be 100% free of it.

When you start to learn a language, the first things you have to familiarize yourself with are the generally accepted definitions of basic words and the grammatical rules. At this stage, you need to conform. Many people say one's learning ability hinges on his adaptability and faculty to memorize. But I think they are wrong. What really counts is self-discipline and the sense of commitment. At the advanced stage, on the other hand, you have to redefine every word in your vocabulary so it fits into your own context, not someone else's. That's where anyone with developmental defect fails.

Honestly I didn't feel resentful at all at the poor response from those who can't do anything more than defining the word "conformism" in a conformist way. My goal as a blogger has always been to make people stop to think rather than stop thinking. There's no wonder it's extremely unpopular among those salauds américains.

When French philosopher Sartre published his autobiography in 1964, he titled it Les mots (The Words.) He thought words were what his life was all about and they were the only thing that allowed him to talk about it. Although you may not admit, this holds true with most of us who are not factory workers or farmers. Throughout his life, Sartre paid due respect for words. He thought that a word should be redefined in his own way every time he used it. No other writer or speaker, that I know of, has ever taken the two-sidedness of the words more seriously.

It's only the wrong people that thought Les mots would deserve a Nobel Prize in literature. Obviously these gentlemen suffering serious developmental defect mistook the reason behind this title as if it meant the author had come back to the tradition of "literature for literature." That's why the French philosopher flatly rejected the offer from the Swedish Academy.

This once again brings me back to the ordeal I went through in 2008. I was working alternately with two Americans living in Yokohama who claimed to be experienced in copy-editing. At one time when I didn't like the way one of the idiots corrected my choice of words, I sent a mail to Gordon G. Chang to ask if he would agree to my statement that words and ideas are inseparable twins. I thought there can't be a genuinely new idea expressed by worn-out words. Likewise there can't be brilliant words to express a mediocre idea. This had long been my conviction since 2004 when I launched this website. At that time I was wavering over what language to use. I finally concluded the use of my mother tongue was out of the question because as long as I stayed with the Japanese language I would never emancipate myself from the Japanese way of thinking. I just settled for English simply because I wasn't good at any other foreign language such as Swahili.

Chang got back to me saying: "You are wrong. Writing and thinking are two different talents, and few people possess both. Just think of the reverse of you: the world is full of ill-conceived ideas that are communicated flawlessly. If I had to choose between the two, I would prefer to have great thoughts than great writing skills. Language can always be tuned easily. Bad ideas, on the other hand, are not so easily remedied." This simply indicated the prominent pundit was a scum.

After Chang separated the inseparable, his literary agent named Rosalie Siegel took over. When I sent her an outline, the bitch started to nitpick over my English writing skills. She said: "The long sentences are indeed part of the problem with your English. The very first sentence raises red flags to an English language reader. This is what we call a 'run on sentence'." The Siegel broad added that I should hire a native speaker as my editor as if I hadn't told her previously that's what I'd already done at a barely affordable cost of 80-100K yen.

That's how the scum and the hag succeeded in keeping at bay the harmful idea from their Far Eastern fiefdom.

Originally I thought someday I would return to Japanese. But now it seems too late for me to relearn it because there isn't the slightest trace of the language I used to use anymore.

These days, I see long queues of Japanese people in Yokohama Chinatown or everywhere else. Most of the time I can't tell what the line is formed for. Sometimes I ask one of these penguins, "What's going on over here?" More often than not the flightless bird grins embarrassedly and says in an apologetic tone: "I'm sorry. I don't know exactly, either."

The other day I overheard one of them talking to his friend in the same line. He was saying something like this:

"Oretachi ga korabo (collaborate) shiteru tokoro wo sumaho (smartphone) no apuri (application) de puromo (promotional video) ni shite netto (Internet) ni appu (upload) suru nante ii ai-dea (idea) kamone." (It must be a good idea to use the application on the smartphone to make a promotional video showing how we are collaborating with each other, and upload it on the Internet.)

This is no longer Japanese, English or any other human language. It's amazing that even the mainstream media use the same "language."

As Ian Buruma observed, this is not the first time the Japanese have flooded themselves with a foreign language only to destroy it over time. In the meantime, the genuinely Japanese language from the prehistoric Man'yo era has also been gone.

The lack of self-esteem inevitably leads to the lack of respect for words, and vice versa. Now I'm totally at a loss over what language to use until I croak.

Maybe the only option left for me is to communicate with the Japanese and the Americans using the apes' super high-context screech as if I were suffering a serious aphasia.

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