This morning’s edition of the Today programme on BBC Radio 4 included two interesting stories just before it ended.
- A report on the difficulty in finding a religiously themed Advent calendar in the UK this year.
- A report on George W. Bush’s first official visit to Canada.
Both are worth hearing, and available online for the next seven days (RealPlayer required).
The BBC has replaced Alistair Cooke’s Letter From America with a programme called A View From (see Team ‘replaces’ Cooke’s Letter), and one of the new correspondents is Therese Mills, editor of Trinidad and Tobago newspaper Newsday.
Ms Mills’ first letter was broadcast on BBC Radio 4 this morning, and literally told the story of a political storm in a Trinidad teacup. You can listen to it here for the next seven days.
Yesterday’s Thought for the Day on BBC Radio 4 struck a chord with me. Written and presented by Elaine Storkey, it was about the ambiguity of language and the arrogance of conceit. It’s well worth reading, but for anyone who can’t be bothered to click on the link above, here are two of the best parts:
There is nothing more telling than language for conveying differences of outlook and perception. That is very evident right now in Iraq. Even amongst the key players words tell their own story. One of the marine Commanders outside Falluja describes the assault about to take place on that city as an ‘epic battle’, whilst the Prime Minister of Iraq, declares a 60 day ‘state of emergency.’ The UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan refers to an attack on Falluja as ‘an escalation in violence which could disrupt Iraq’s political transition’, whilst Lt Colonel Brandl commanding one the battalions of the American marines talks about it as uncovering the hidden face of the enemy. His words are graphic. He says, ‘The enemy has a face. He is called Satan. He lives in Falluja and we’re going to destroy him.’
So why does language offer so many perceptions of reality, especially the shape and meaning of evil? One of the obvious answers is that we are all partisan. Each of us uses language to depict our own point of view. We notice most fully the evil done to us or to our group, whilst rephrasing the evil we do to others with the language of justification and exoneration. And when this becomes habitual and uncritical, partisanship can move into self-deception. We can come to believe, at both personal and national levels, that we own the language of evil, that we decide on its use, and it is one from which we are excluded.
As if in support of Storkey’s commentary, today’s Guardian carries a frightening story on its front page that includes the following quote: “They call us terrorists because we resist them. If defending the truth is terrorism, then we are terrorists.” It seems language is also a weapon in this war.
The BBC is reporting that John Lennon’s widow, Yoko Ono, has topped the US dance chart at the age of 71 with a song supporting gay marriage (see Yoko’s gay wedding song is US hit).
I can’t understand how George W. Bush can argue that he’s in favour of greater freedom for people when he “wants to change the US constitution to specify that marriage can only take place between a man and a woman”.
Thirty-seven years ago while Justice Minister, a famous Canadian communist declared “There’s no place for the state in the bedrooms of the nation“. The left-wing Liberal Pierre Trudeau was in favour of freedoms that the current “leader of the western world” is unwilling to give his own nation.
Whenever I hear the Bush Administration arguing rhetorically about freeing foreign peoples, I can’t help thinking of Cole Porter (an active homosexual, but at least he married a woman!). Porter hit the nail on the head when he wrote Anything Goes:
The world has gone mad today
And good’s bad today,
And black’s white today,
And day’s night today,
When most guys today
That women prize today
Are just silly gigolos
And though I’m not a great romancer
I know that I’m bound to answer
When you propose,
It seems to me that the people who talk most about freedom, are really opportunistic control freaks who disguise themselves as liberals (i.e. freedom fighters) whenever it helps their selfish cause. Things are not what they seem, and anything goes!
PS – Is dancing allowed in Texas?