Speaking one's mind not all that simple

19:31, Aug 19 2012

It comes down to habit, after all, the expectations of thought, as reflexive consciousness, that control lives, although we are scarcely aware of those mechanisms at work.

There is no escape from our neighbour or the activities that surround us and are directed by and at us. We are an integral part and our attempts at being heard, therefore, may result in a conflict dialogue with all its ugly manifestations.

Language as propaganda can be both passive or aggressive as mechanisms of persuasion.

Individual freedom is reduced to the individual's right to react as an interpretation of freedom as though the very biological necessity to breath were nothing more than a rearguard action, and the obvious cliches of existence had all but been forgotten or subsumed to a level of dire expediency.

The Australian accent is a parody on the English upper-middle-class accent, now a national and distinctive characteristic evolved in defiance of authority, yet authoritative in its narrow-band frequency vis a vis emotive nuance as vocal utterance.

Sensitivity belongs to the sensible concordance of rhythm and sound, while disjunctive neologisms express an "undisclosed" anger or "red necking" of the language where mere (male) cleverness serves as a poor substitute for vision and refinement.


Yet, that language (accentual) is, in addition, a pastiche of the English lower-working-class speech. The friction or tension between the two positions coats the spoken language in a braying, often glutinous brutality of expression but at a considerable remove from the benign nasal twang or simpering ocker whine associated, respectively, with both New Zealand and Australia, which first came to prominence in the mid-19th century with the emergence of the mythopoeic colonial youth and, ultimately, found its numerical concentration in the working-class suburbs and cottages of the inner-city suburbs of cities.

The bush, of course, has always maintained its bushranging ethos as self-sufficient and separate, a colloquial identity - aside from the politicians' continuing blandishments toward a uniform Australian or bogus nationalism extolling the national identity which does not exist except, perhaps, in the constrained minds of the prejudicial who interpret that phrase in the dim light of their own bigotry, fear and hatred.

A national identity is nothing, neither more nor less than an amalgam of contained cultural divergences, each sustained in its difference in so far as each cultural group is contiguous with its neighbour.

Neither better nor worse, although a given number may be economically disadvantaged by contrast, and that alone is where any future conflict will erupt, not race but privilege, and that, of course, is where the confusions have and will originate and where self-interested groups prefer to keep it.

We are already witness to minor enactments of likely future violent scenarios between certain Asian and Middle-Eastern factions in this case, in Australia.

Economic advantages blur cultural distinctions in that for any cultural group co-existing within the same socio-economic system, one group will gain mercantile precedence over another.

A few obvious and current examples from our own geographical region will adequately serve to illustrate the point: in Fiji, the Indians and the indigenous Fijians; in Malaysia and Indonesia, the indigenous peoples and the Chinese (perhaps after all, the Pacific Rim of Fire is aptly named); in Australia (a continent apart) it is a case of the white Anglo-Celtic patriarchy first; and then the rest, who must follow in a step-by-step programme as laid down by the country's legislators and white lords toward an approved Australianoidal posture as defined by that economically advantaged group.

If multi-lingualism is associated with the almost Old Testament babble of tongues, then mono-lingualism is an aka "ocker" argot that breeds conformity of accent and, by a natural process of attrition, conformity of attitude - a holding pen for prejudice - which, to give a couple of trite examples, may be seen in the so-called tele-current affairs and radio talkfest programmes, along with the usual roundup of frantically nationalistic flag waving in the hysterical promotion of seasonal and major sporting events, etc.

And there you have it, the common amnesia of the New World cultures: history is a moment ago and just as quickly consumed and forgotten. There is no escape or, more to the point, all is escape.

Within the stuttering engines of language, we can yet detect some form of dialogue. Yet the old maxim holds true: "Language was given to man, to the end that he might conceal his thoughts".

Stephen Oliver is the author of 16 volumes of poetry. He lived in Australia for 20 years and now resides in the King Country, and is a freelance writer and voice artist.

Waikato Times