Monday, May 23, 2011

Poverty of Language / Fernando Dámaso

Poverty of Language / Fernando Dámaso
Fernando Dámaso, Translator: Unstated

From what I hear on the radio, see and hear on television and read in
the newspaper, I've come to the conclusion that Cubans, at least those
who have some role in these media or who are interviewed, have stopped
thinking and devote themselves to repeating old slogans and common
phrases, particularly those that have been said by someone important.
It's the syndrome of inability to use their own heads and, at the same
time, of self-censorship, taking care not to overstep the established

Like catch phrases, every time they say or write something, they use the
well-known "as the compañero said in his speech," and so on. It's like a
protective shield to avoid disgracing oneself, by saying or writing
something that hasn't been authorized. The original responsibility is
transferred to the compañero in the speech, and it's assumed that anyone
who speaks or writes only has to reaffirm because they are unable to
think for themselves. The slogans are incorporated here, although they
don't contribute anything important, because they sound good to
receptive ears, trained by years of media manipulation.

When someone, tired of hearing and reading nonsense, or by mistake, says
or writes something interesting that goes beyond the ordinary, it
creates a scandal and is softly whispered, "Did you see what he said!"
or "I think the same myself." There are those, more dogmatic and
fearful, who add, "They're going to make him pay for that!"
Unfortunately, these different cases are rare, and it's very difficult
to hear or read anything truly interesting, to not be demonized in the
alternative media.

For many people, especially leaders, officials and journalists, they
will find it very difficult in a democratic society to overcome years of
repetition of slogans and ideas of others without exercising their minds
and developing their own opinions. They coud even fall into a
depression, finding no words left to use, weakening their lexicon. They
might even have to wait for the list of approved words and–why not?–the
list of those forbidden. Habits, over time, become the law!

Let us hope that in new times, they will be different, and freely use
all the richness of our language, without straitjackets or guidance from
above. Receptive ears also will be different, having grown civilly, and
will not be shocked at the truth, but will demand that it be said.

May 12 2011

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