Words are clever little things. They clothe themselves in layers of meaning and wield a power far greater than an atom bomb. Wars are rarely started by weaponry, far more often the spark that sets off the blaze is as simple or as complex as a word. It is words that brainwash young men and women into taping explosives to their chests and blowing themselves apart. We need not fear the terrorist, we need fear the orator.
Just yesterday I was laughing about it. I was pointing out how language allows us to be excruciatingly polite and yet brutally rude at the same time. It is why I can learn to speak another language, but never truly understand it.
This morning I was given a copy of Dancing Jax by Robin Jarvis. It is a book written for young adults, but exploring post modernist literary theory and the breakdown of modern society. At the core of its horror are words. Perhaps that is why I find it so terribly frightening. I can handle a saw wielding maniac or a hockey mask wearing fiend, but a book? For some reason it kindles a fear inside of me that usually only listening to a speech of Hitler’s or Julius Malema’s can bring.
It is far removed from Fat, Forty and Fired by Nigel Marsh, the book I finished yesterday. This current reading spree has its roots in the lack of Internet access at work and with time on my hands I find myself dipping into the other worlds words have given me keys to. Nigel Marsh is an ad exec, a man after my own heart. He takes a year off to find himself and ends up being CEO of Leo Burnett Down Under.
It is hysterical, but in the subversive manner of the Court Jester of old. He holds up a mirror to the fallacy of work/home balance and the tenuous links that bind families together. It poses the difficult question of how do you judge yourself? By your job, your family, your press clippings, your awards? Once you have that answer you have to ask yourself, is it worth it? Is it real? His blatant honesty at his own learnings, failures and accomplishments is cloaked in self deprecating humour and slightly uncomfortable (like a crumb in the bed sheets) truths. It’s a definite must-read for any wife, husband, parent and advertising drone.
My lack of access to the virtual world or more precisely, my virtual safety net, has raised uncomfortable questions for me. Could I handle being on desert island for 2 weeks with no cellphone or Internet access? I don’t know.
The virtual and the actual have become to intertwined that I doubt students ever have to enter a library. Hell, I could live alone in a cave, never leave my home and never speak face to face with another human being again. You could actually live a fantasy life on one of the many role playing games, earn real money from virtual realities and die believing you are Slowpoke the Elf.
People have been murdered for fantasy samurai swords. Is this crazy or does it just bring to light how bizarre our sense of value is. Does it spell the end of hard currency as value is determined by how many friends you have on Facebook or followers on Twitter? It makes me want to join a hippie commune and grow vegetables. Sadly, my deep revulsion to the campfire kumbaya would mean I’d get evicted within the first day.