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Ta-Nehisi Coates: A Public Intellectual Living in the Age of New Media

 

 

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intellectual: late Middle English: from Latin intellectualis, from intellectus ‘understanding,’ from intellegere ‘understand’

Like  many  bibliophiles,  various  works  within  the  literature  hemisphere  have  ultimately  sparked  my  intellectual  plug.  Works  like  Self-Reliance  by  Ralph  Waldo  Emerson,  Big  Sur  by  Jack  Kerouac  and  Ask  the  Dust  by  John  Fante  are  just a   few  examples.  I  recently  came  across  a  poem  by  Phillis  Wheatley   aptly  named,   “On  being  brought  from  Africa  to  America”.  I  thought  that  this  poem  would  be  a  part  of  this  wonderful  list,  so  I  was  profoundly  surprised  with  myself  when  I  thought  the  piece  to  be  overall  confusing  and,  quite  frankly,  slightly  repulsive  at  some  points.  Supposedly,  some  academics  have  created  the  argument  that  this  poem  was  at  the  core  of  African  American  literature.  I  sat  there,  in  my  American  Literature  discussion  class,  bewildered  with  the  line  “T’was  mercy  brought  me  from  my  Pagan  land”.   What  mercy  was  brought  upon  one  of  the  worst,  if  not  the  worst,  injustice  that  ever  happened  on   American  soil?

I  asked  myself  the  question:  Is  this  really  how  a  slave  felt  after  all  the  injustices  done  to  them?  Is  this  the  “justice”  that  he  or  she  would  want?   Is  this  really  at  the  core  of  “slave”  literature?  Understandably,  Phillis  Wheatley  was  an  educated  slave,  with  a  family  who  was  much  kinder  to  her  in  comparison  to  other  slave-holding  families  at  the  time —  so  her  perspective  on  slavery  may  have  been  much  more  lenient  than  others.  After  a  long  discussion  with  myself,  I  concluded  and  funneled  my  frustration  into  several  painstakingly  difficult  questions  to  answer:  Is  it  possible  to  bring  back  the  forgotten  language  and  intellect  of  Black  slaves  and  bring  to  light  these  thoughts  in  our  supposedly  progressive  21st  century  society?  And  if  so,  how?  And  who  would  be  willing  to  carry  on  this  massive  responsibility  of  bringing  justice  and  redemption  to  a  historical  conversation  the  world  has  tired  to  eschew?

Enter  Ta-Nehisi  Coates —  a  contemporary  public  intellectual,  writer,  journalist  and  educator  whose  distinctive  way  of  tackling  racism  is  to  look  to  the  past  in  order  to  confront  and  hopefully  solve  the   racism   of  the  present.

Coates  was  born  in  Baltimore,  Maryland  and  grew  up  in  the  Mondawmin  neighborhood  during  the  crack  epidemic. 32118

His  father  was  the  founder  of  Black  Classic  Press,  a  publisher  specializing  in  African-American  works  of  literature.  He  was  a  Vietnam  War  Veteran  and  a  former  Black  Panther.  Coates  grew  up  with  his  father,  and  his  political  and  socioeconomic  views  shaped  his  perspectives  to  this  day.  He  attended  Howard  University,  but  left  after  five  years  to  start  his  journalism  career.  In  2014,  Coates  attended  a  French  intensive  program  at  Middlebury  College  to  prepare  for  a  writing  fellowship  in  Paris.  He  is  a  national  correspondent  for  The  Atlantic,  an  American  magazine  based  upon  cultural  and  literary  commentary.  Founded  in  1857,  it  has  a  national  reputation  as  a  high-quality  review  with  a  moderate  perspective  on  current  issues.

Aside  from  being  a  journalist for  The  Atlantic,  Ta-Nehisi  Coates  portrays  the  role  of  a  modern  public  intellectual  through  the  use  of  social  media.  Through  his  Twitter  page,  Coates  expounds  upon  his  ideas  about  the  issues  a  Black  man  is  forced  to  face  in  the  21st  century.  He  also  tweets  opinions  about  current  issues,  articles  to  his  liking  and  self-promotion.  He  is  constantly  following  trends  and  giving  his  opinion,  often  bluntly,  to  his  716,000  Twitter  followers  about  socioeconomic  issues  spanning  from  the  Black  Lives  Movement  to  American  politics.

Furthermore,  his  intellectual  work  is   especially  distinctive  because  he  creates  a  conversation  by  recollecting  past  injustices  in  order  to  solve  the  issues  of  racism  today.

With  full  ignorance,  the  majority  of  the  world  naturally  ties  the  term  “African  American  literature”  to  only  the  Harlem  Renaissance,  a  warm  and  artistic  time  for  African  American  artists,  poets,  etc.

However,  Ta-Nehisi  Coates  is  the  complete  opposite  of  Langston  Hughes.  Ta-Nehisi  Coates’  views  both  reflect  ideals  from  Reverend  Martin  Luther  King  Jr.  and  Malcolm  X.  If  W.E.  Dubois,  Toni  Morrison  and  James  Baldwin  had  a  lovechild,  it  would  be  Ta-Nehisi  Coates.

Perhaps  he  is  best  known  for  his  best-selling  memoir,  Between  the  World  and  Me.  In  a  series  of  profound  and  sincere  essays,  he  writes  a  letter  to  his  son  concerning  the  concept  of  race  in  America  and  how  it  has  shaped  American  history  over  time.  The  Atlantic  writer  bravely  tackles  the  cost  of  black  lives  and  more  specifically,  the  cost  of  the  body  of  an  African  American —   stating  that  the  black  body  is  a  “stolen  body”,  a  term  he  is  widely  known  for  penning.

He  expounds  upon  the  breakdown  of  race  and  the  systematic  construct  of  assaulting  black  people,  stemming  all  the  way  back  to  Jeffersonian  ideals  and  the  Civil  War  and  coming  full  circle  back  to  the  Black  Lives  Movement.  For  the  sake  of  my  critical  analysis  regarding  Coates’  intellect,  I  have  chosen  this  novel  as  my  primary  source  of  textual  evidence  to  expand  upon  and  thoroughly  delve  into  the  intellect  of  this  specific  American  thinker.

In  order  to  thoroughly  dig  into  Coates’  way  of  thinking,  one  must  go  back  to  the  source  of  his  redemptive  thoughts  against  slavery  and  the  life  of  the  African  American  in  America.  On  July  4,  1776,  Thomas  Jefferson,  among  other  supposed  intellects,  signed  the  Declaration  of  Independence,  a  doctrine  which  states  that  every  American  has  the  right  to  have  a  life  built  upon  the  promises  of   life,  liberty  and  the  pursuit  of  happiness.

Liberty  is  the  key  word  here.

Thomas  Jefferson  was  a  man  full  of  paradoxical  ideals  —  he  stood  for  both  liberty  and  slavery.  He  disliked  slavery,  yet  found  Africans  to  be  inferior  to  white  people.  And  the  most  disgusting  fact  of  all  (the  one  American  high  school  history  books  tend  to  leave  out),  one  of  our  Founding  Fathers  had  a  sexual  relationship  with  his  own  slave,  Sally  Hemings.

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Thomas Jefferson and Sally Heming Family Tree

We  must  delve  into  Thomas  Jefferson’s  dark  history  as  one  of  the  sources  for  this  great  injustice  because  his  ideals  were  the  foundation  for  these  American  streets  to  be  made  and  for  certain  American  ideals  (i.e.  life,  liberty,  the  pursuit  of  happiness)  we  still  believe  to  this  day.  Specifically,  his  racist  ideals  furthered  the  fervor  against  African  Americans,  which  then  set  forth  the  engines  for  the  machinery  of  racism.  Through  mentioning  Jefferson  as  well  as  other  past  historical  figures,  Coates  harkens  back  to  the  past  in  order  to  make  sense  of  how  racism  is  still  happening  to  this  day.

Coates  states  in  Between  the  World  and  Me  that  black  bodies  were  “stolen”,  that  they  were  “held  in  bondage  by  the  earliest  presidents.”  One  of  our  Founding  Fathers,  Thomas  Jefferson,  owned  100  slaves  on  his  very  own  plantation.  The  black  bodies,  among  the  millions  which  came  later,  served  as  the  foundation  and  base  as  to  what  would  inevitably  become  American  capitalism.

I  would  like  to  expound  upon  Coates’  word  choice,  specifically  the  term  “stolen  body”.  To  “steal”  something  usually  translates  to  gaining  something  for  free,  but  at  the  cost  of  the  law.  Slavery  is  probably  one  of  the  very  few  events  in  history  in  which  stealing  a  person  was  legal — that  stealing  a  person’s  name,  personality,  family  and  life  was  ordinary  and  part  of  conventional  standards.  Coates  specifically  uses  the  word  “stolen”  because  he  feels  as  if  his  own  body  is  something  that  can  still  be  taken  from  him,  most  especially  from  police  brutality  today.

From  an  article  he  recently  wrote  for  The  Atlantic,  Coates  states  that  he  believes  in  a  world  with  “equal  access  to  safe,  quality,  and  affordable  education;  with  the  right  to  health  care;  with  strong  restrictions  on  massive  wealth  accumulation;  with  guaranteed  childcare;  and  with  access  to  the  full  gamut  of  birth-control,  including abortion”.  These  ideas  reflect  Malcolm  X’s  human  activism,  ideas  which  perhaps  may  have  been  passed  down  from  his  father,  a  former  Black  Panther.

However,  Coates  does  not  believe  that  “if  this  world  were  realized,  the problem  of  white  supremacy  would  dissipate,  anymore  than  I  (he)  believe(s) that  if reparations  were  realized,  the  problems  of  economic  inequality  would  dissipate.”   Their  backs,  organs,  muscles,  fingers,  veins — were  all  “transfigured”  into  “sugar,  tobacco  and  gold.”  Coates  approaches  the  fact  that  slaves  were  collateral,  that  they

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The Slave Ship, originally titled Slavers Throwing overboard the Dead and Dying, Typhon coming on – J.M.W. Turner (1840)

were  strictly  business,  that  through  the  machinery  of  racism,  innocent  people’s  eyes  and  hands  and  backs  and  feet  became  the  source  of  America’s  wealth  —  of  America’s  monetary  dynasty.   Again,  Coates  creates  a  visceral  image  from  the  past  in  order  to  comment  upon  the  consequences  of  the  systemic  roots  of  racism.

Coates’  representation  of  racial  injustice  is  something  I  agree  with,  though  I  have  to  point  out  that  not  all  slaveowners  at  the  time  came  to  be  as  malevolent  and  villainous  as  others  turned  out  to  become.  However,  this  does  not  erase  the  malpractices  which  occurred  due  to  racial  prejudice  and  systematic  racism.

In  the  memoir   Between  the  World  and  Me,  Ta-Nehisi  Coates  argues  that  “racism  is  a  visceral  experience,  that  it  dislodges  brains,  blocks  airways,  rips  muscle,  extracts  organs,  cracks  bones,  breaks  teeth”.  He  distinctively  creates  the  argument  that  the  black  body  is  a  breakable  and  destructible  thing  which  can  be  dislodged  simply  through  repulsive  practices  such  as  lynching.

The  legal  institution  of  lynching  was  a  tool  in  propelling  white  masculinity  and  white  power  by  racially  and  sexually  degrading  black  men.  These  acts  established  fear  within  the  black  population  and  completely  dehumanized  black  people  by  showcasing  their  murders  through  repulsive  propaganda  like  lynching  postcards.  Moreover,  these  acts  disgraced  blacks  through  sexual  torture  (i.e.  cutting  off  genitals)  as  a  means  of  stripping  black  males  of  their  manhood  within  a  public  setting.

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The lynching of Abram Smith and Thomas Shipp
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From a lynching postcard: This is the barbecue we had last night. My picture is to the left with a  cross over it. Your son, Joe.

 

Ta-Nehisi  Coates  states  in  his  memoir  that  “at  the  the  onset  of  the  Civil  War,  our  (their)  stolen  bodies  were  worth  four  billion  dollars,  more  than  all  of  American  industry,  all  of  American  railroads,  workshops,  and  factories  combined,  and  the  prime  product  ended  by  our  (their)  stolen  bodies  — cotton  —  was  America’s  primary  export.”  He  further  claims  that  “the  richest  men  in  America ..  made  their  riches  off  our  (their)  stolen  bodies.”

His  work  is  distinctive  due  to  his  thematic  construct  of  the  stolen  body,  of  the  stolen  mind.  Coates  firmly  believes  that  slavery  was  a  robbery,  and  “that  is  what  it  is,  and  what  it  always  was.”  The  author   refuses  to  ignore  the  cyclical  outbreaks  of  violence  against  racism  by  nudging  through  this  particularly  sensitive  conversation.  He  demands  an  answer  for  the  reasons  for  racism  by  bringing  up  the  harsh  past  and  through  this,  he  requires  the  present  to  converse  and  utilize  historical  facts  in  order  to  answer  the  question  that  is  racism.

Furthemore,  Coates  believes  that  in  America,  it  is  tradition  to  destroy  the  black  body  – it  is heritage.  His  intellect  is  characteristic  due  to  this  statement;  he  sticks  to  the  concept  that  the  black  body  in  America  is  a  business  engagement  and  if  need  be,  will  be  destroyed.

I  do  not  particularly  agree  with  this  statement,  most  especially  the  words  “tradition”  and  “heritage”.  Perhaps,  it  has  been  a  historic  aspect  that  certain  people  in  The   United  States  have  beaten  and  battered  the  black  body  due  to  slavery,  but  I  absolutely  refuse  to  say  that  it  is  part  of  our  heritage.  Beating  and  killing  bodies  in  general  are  not  part  of  the  Hallmark   list  of  American  holidays.  We  may  be  a  nation  of  imperfect  ideals,  and  perhaps  I  may  be  overstepping  with  this  comment,  but  we  are  not  all  purely  evil  that  destroying  human  bodies  out  of  racist  spite  is  part  of  our  American  heritage  to  this  day.

Coates  rejects  the  idea  of  there  being  a  God;  he  believes  that  “our  bodies  are  our  selves,  that  my  (his)  soul  is  the  voltage  conducted  through  neurons  and  nerves  and  that  his  spirit  is  my  (his)  flesh.”  From  a  historic  vantage  point,  slaves  and  African Americans  in  general  have  always  had  a  deep  relationship  with  a  Christian  God.  There  is  a  large  population  of  African  Americans  whose  culture  is  founded  upon  Christianity,  and  that  the  Lord  will  save  them  from  the  strife  and  injustices  that  have  happened  to  them.

In  comparison  to  this  African  American  tradition,  Coates  rejects  the  concept  through  his  atheist  intellect.  He  asserts  the  idea  that  God  will  not  be  the  one  to  save  his  body,  but  he  will  be  the  one  to  save  himself.  This  is  controversial  and  definitely  groundbreaking  when  considering  the  fact  that  most  African  Americans  are  generalized  to  being  deeply  rooted  to  Christianity.

Perhaps  the  root  of  his  atheism  lies  upon  the  murder  of  his  friend,  Prince  Jones.  He  stated  that  “for  the  crime  of  destroying  the  body  of  Prince  Jones,  I  (he)  did  not  believe  in  forgiveness.”  Coates’  strong  and  redemptive  prose  captures  his  vitriolic  anger  against  slavery,  the  machinery  of  racism,  the  racial  injustices  within  America,  and  the  memory  he  has  from  this  particular  event.  His  intellect  is  comparable  to  a  broken  record   describing  these  mistakes  and  injustices  —  he  will  always  remember  the  tyrannical  oppression  from  the  past  and  as  long  as  he  is  living,  he  will  exhaust  his  mind,  his  body,  his  heart  towards  the  subject.

“The  soul  was  the  body  that  fed  the  tobacco,  and  the  spirit  was  the  blood  that  watered  the  cotton,  and  these  created  the  first  fruits  of  the  American  garden.  And  the  fruits  were  secured  through  the  bashing  of  children  with  stonewood,  through  hot  iron  peeling  skin  away  like  husk  from  corn.”  –  Between  the  World  and  Me  

Ta-Nehisi  Coates  firmly  believes  that  tackling  the  issues  of  the  past  is  the  answer  to  racism  that  still  exists  today.    His  focus  is  not  on  the  generalized  misconceptions  of  racial  degradation,  but  within  the  less  visible,  less  pronounced  roots  which  have  been  systematically  ingrained  within  our  society.  Coates  refuses  to  ignore  the  cyclical  outbreaks  of  violence  against  racism;  instead,  he  takes  it  upon  himself   to  start  a  conversation,  whether  with  the  use  of  his  Twitter  account  or  simply  writing  an  article  in  The  Atlantic. 

He  allows  the  audience  to  see  an  ancient  problem  in  1,000  different  ways.   Coates  is  known  for  his  incredibly  refreshing  sense  of  the  truth.  He  refuses  to  preach  upon  people  his  ideas,  and  is  honest  about  his  lapse  of  knowledge  with  certain  subjects.

Coates,  in  every  shape  and  form,  is  a  public  intellectual  living  in  the  age  of  new  media.

Currently,  Ta-Nehisi  Coates  is  busy  writing  for  the  Marvel  realm  through  the  revival  of   the   first  black  superhero  series —The  Black  Panther.  His  artistry  and  script  was  inspired  by,  yet  again,  the  lack  of  conversation  and  representation  for  minorities  and  race.   Coates,  a  public  intellectual  and  Renaissance  man,  continues  and  will  continue  to  bridge  the  societal  gap  of  injustice  and  look  to  the  past  in  order  to  tackle  and  hopefully  solve  contemporary  racism.

 


 

For  more  readings  on  the  Public  Intellectual, please  click  here  and  here.

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La Parisienne: A Myth

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You  see  it  everywhere.  The  media,  in  particular,  relishes  in  it.  Books,  movies,  advertisements,  songs,  heck,  even  Barbie  dolls  have  been  inspired  by  it.  The  “it”  girl  of  all  “it”  girls:  The  myth  of  the  Parisienne. But  is  it  truly  just  a  myth,  or  has  it  become  such  a  grand  cultural  phenomenon  that  it  has  transformed  into  a  reality  within  the  modern  society  we  live  in?  Furthermore,  how  far  have  women  gone  to  transform  this  myth  into  their  own  living,  breathing  reality?  Is  it  really  worth  all  the  hype?  Or  is  it  all  in  the  group’s  selective  subconscious?

The  eternal  Parisienne  stems  from  the  late  19th-century,  historically  known  as  “La  Belle  Epoque”.  According  to  the  web  blogger,  Alison  Perrin,  the  eternal  Parisienne  is  essentially  a  myth,  and  “since  its  inception,  La  Parisienne  is  a  model  of  elegance  and  attitude.”  ( Perrin, Alison. “The Eternal Parisienne.” N.p., n.d. Web. 22 Oct. 2014.)  Essentially,  the  myth  is  an  attitude  that  comes  straight  from  a  woman’s  subconscious.

The  media  then  targets  the  subconscious  through  pointing  out  women’s  insecurities  through  the  representation  of  a  “desirable”  woman,  so  to  speak.  For  example,  in  Sarah  Mower’s  article, “Caroline  de  Maigret”,  she  describes,  in  painstaking  detail,  a  quintessential  Parisienne,  Caroline  de  Maigret.  Through  vivid  descriptions  such  as,  “One: “Don’t  be  afraid  of  aging.” And  two: “Always  be  fuckable”—even  when  you’re  standing  in  line  to  buy  a  baguette”,  the  author  creates  an  aura  of  self-indulgent  charm  for  de  Maigret.  Consequently,  Vogue  magazine  then  reflects  off  the  je  ne  sais  quoi  aura  de  Maigret  has  effortlessly  shown  throughout  the  interview  by  employing  that  she  is  a  strong  woman:  an  author,  a  model,  a  Parisienne,  yet  she  is  also  a  loving  mother,  which  is  depicted  in  the  image  of  her  and  her  son  smiling  at  each  other.  The  viewer  may  notice  the  household  setting,  which  increases  the  relatability  of  the  subject  and  allows  for  middle-class  women  to  believe  that  they  can  be  like  her.  At  the  same  time,  if  the  viewer  reads  the  caption  underneath  the  picture,  it  says  that  de  Maigret  is  wearing  a  “Rag  &  Bone  t-shirt  and  Chanel  trousers”—  which  then  encapsulates  the  idea  that  this  woman  is  effortlessly  charming,  yet  at  the  same  time  is  somehow  untouchable  due  to  the  expensive  clothes  that  she  is  wearing.

Furthermore,  in  media  discourse,  the  term  “Cinderella  effect”  from  John  Berger’s  Ways  of  Seeing  comes  to  mind.  Caroline  de  Maigret  is  the  text— the  Parisienne.  She  is  inexplicably  charming,  which  allows  women  to  look  up  to  her  and  want  to  be  her.  This  is  where  the  myth  comes  in.  “La  Parisienne”  is  a  myth  that  women  and  also  men  somewhat  invest  in  their  psyches  due  to  ubiquitous  media  circulation.  Arguably,  the  myth  stems  from  La  Belle  Epoque  artists  Manet  and  Renoir,  where  both  men  paint  women  “to  the  rank  of  supreme  elegance”  (Perrin, Alison. “The Eternal Parisienne.” N.p., n.d. Web. 22 Oct. 2014.).

However,  this  “rank  of  supreme  elegance”  is  exploited  in  the  article,  “To  succeed  as  a  Parisienne,  just  lie,  dupe  and  deceive.”  Written  by  Anne-Elisabeth  Moutet  from  The  Telegraph,  the  journalist  attacks  the  Parisienne  myth  by  pointing  out  its  flaws.  For  instance,  Moutet  claims  that  the  skinny  and  chic  physique  that  Parisian  women  are  widely  known  for  stems  from  their  chronic  use  of  cigarettes,  which  then  suppresses  their  appetites  and  lowers  their  want  to  eat.  Another  vivid  example is  that  in  regards  to  cheating  in  relationships,  Parisian  women’s  number  one  rule  is  to  “DENY, DENY, DENY.  Don’t  feel  guilty.  This  is  about  you,  not  against  him. What’s  good  for  you  is  good  for your  relationship:  basically,  you’re  just  being  a  thoughtful  girlfriend.”  (Moutet, Anne-Elisabeth. “To Succeed as a Parisienne, Just Lie, Dupe and Deceive.” The Telegraph. Telegraph Media Group, 14 Oct. 2014. Web. 22 Oct. 2014.)  The  author  then  points  out  that  this  effortless  charm  the  myth  employs  is  taken  into  extreme  and  can  be  seen  to  borderline  dishonesty  and  degrade  modern  relationship  ethics.

“La  Parisienne”  is  a  myth.  Being  a  Parisienne  is  a  state  of  mind,  an  attitude,  and  there  is  not  one  specific  person  that  embodies  every  description  of  this  myth.  Perhaps  Brigitte  Bardot  or  Ines  de  la  Fressange  can  arguably  embody  this  character;  however,  even  in  this  situation,  they  are  both  just  interpretations  of  the  myth, due  to  the  fact  that  they  are  not  the  same  person,  they  do  not  come  from  the  same  background,  and  each  woman  presents  a  different  aura  and  attitude—  which  then,  in  turn,  subjects  the  truth  to  the  reality  of  the  myth  itself.

LIFE magazine digitized its image archive. Photo recreation coming right up.

Should the French language be protected?

Preface:  Hello  readers!  I  know  that  I  haven’t  written  in  awhile,  but  I  am  currently  studying  university  in  Paris,  so  I  have  been  very  busy,  as  you  can  imagine.  This  post  will  go  under  my  “Opinion”  tab  and  is  based  solely  on  a  class  that  I  have  called  French:  Myths  and  Realities.  I  know  it  is  unlike  me  to  write  articles  like  these;  however,  it’s  fascinating,  and   I  hope  you  all  like it  (hopefully,  my  professor  will  too.)  Please  comment,  email,  like,  and  I  hope  you  all  have  a  wonderful  day  (or  night)! 🙂

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Language, in  its  definitive  form,  is  “the  method  of  human  communication,  either  spoken  or written,  consisting  of  the  words  in  a  structured  and  conventional  way” (oxforddictionaries.com). It  is  a  method  of  communication,  not  a  person,  place,  or  thing  that  needs  to  be  protected.  Granted,  language  identifies  the  multi-faceted  diversity  that  the  world  presents  and  allows  each  and  every  one  of  us  to  characterize  ourselves  through  this  vernacular.  However, when  language  is  dramatized  as  a  tour-de-force  spectacle —  much  like  how  the  French  treat  their  language—  it  becomes  personified  and  a  want  of  protection  becomes  evident.  Nevertheless,  this  said  protection  presents  a  problem  to  the  point  that  the  repercussions  as  to  which  their  people  defend  their  language  is  borderline  ridiculous.

In  1635,  the  Académie  française  was  created  under  the  great  Cardinal  Richelieu  in  order  for  France  to  protect  its  language  from  Italian  influences.  It  was  designed  to  be   “the  official  custodian  of  the  French  tongue”  (“The  French  protect  their  language  like  the  British  protect  their  currency”, Andrew  Gallix),  as  if  France  was  an  introverted  high  school  boy  that  needed  protection  from  the  outgoing  new  kid  in  his  math  class. In  contrast,  a  country’s  pride  belongs  solely  on  its  culture,  and  it  is  fairly  debatable  that  language  is,  in  itself,  a  culture.  It  makes  sense  that  if  invaders  came  and  took  over  one’s  country  that  one  would  retreat  and  try  to  protect  one’s  people;  it  does  not  make  sense  that  one  defends  one’s  language  from  invaders  because  let’s  face  it:  there  is  a  world  out  there  that  goes  beyond  Alsace,  Strasbourg,  Normandy,  and  (yes,  Emperor  Napoleon)  even  Paris.

However,  the  French  elites  are  naturally  punctilious  and  codified  that  they  tend  to  become  meticulous  within  every  inch  (or  centimeter,  perhaps)  of  their  affairs—  especially  language.  To  this  day,  the  French  still  make  an  effort  to  banish  languages  (with  the  exception  of  the  French  language)  from  their  system.  In  the  article,  “Nous twitterons,”  the  author  claims  that  “…By  law,  any  brand’s  English  slogan,  such  as  Nespresso’s  “What  else?”,  must  be  translated  with  a  subtitle  (Quoi  d’autre?).  This  produces  comical  results.”  Agreeing  with  the  comical  results  stated  by  the  author,  modern  society  must  not  forget  the  fact  that  the  supercilious  aura  that  the  French  emit  about  their  language  is  common  knowledge,  “good  sense”  as  Descartes  once  claimed  in  his  “Discourse  on  the  Method”.

This  haughty  mindset  pre-dates   back  to  1066,  when  the  French  language  became  the  lingua  franca  of  the  Western  world  and  lasted  between  the  1400-1500s.  Unfortunately, French  language  dominance  is  no  more,  and  in  the  article,  “Nous  Twitterons”,  the  author  bluntly  states  that  the  French  are  jealous  and  possibly  annoyed  of  English  language  dominance  through: “France  is  haunted  by  its  lost  American  future.” —  aka:

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Susan  Sontag  once  pointed  out  that  French  is  “a  language  that  tends  to  break  when  you  bend  it”  (“The  French  protect  their  language…”,  Andrew  Gallix),  and  she  is  correct.  Anglicisms  interwoven  within  the  French  language  are,  quite  frankly,  ugly.  “Linguistic  watchdogs”  (Gallix)  use  alternative  terms  for  words  like  “post-it  note”,  with  “papillon”. In  “Nous  Twitterons”,  the  author states  the  fact  that  a  fast-food  chain  across  France  “introduced  le  French  burger  to  its  menu,  helpfully  translating  it  as  le  burger  a  la  francaise”. Going  back  to  the  article  “Nous  twitterons”,  this  seems  utterly  comical  to  a  modern-day  student  like  me.

Isn’t  this  push-and-pull  between  the  meticulous  “immortels”  of  the  Academie  and  the  younger,  more  world-renowned  younger  generation  ridiculous?  Shouldn’t  the  French  give  a  little  more  slack  to  its  own  society  and  explore  beyond  their  borders  through  language?  I  am  implying  that  the  Academie  should  not  be  so  harsh  upon  a  society  that  is  widely  influenced  by  English  dominance;  instead,  they  should  use  it  to  their  advantage,  to  learn  two  (or  more)  languages  in  order  to  become  well-rounded,  more  intelligent,  and  more  adaptable  citizens.  After  all,  the  world  is  ever-changing,  and  the  way  I  see  it,  the  French  will  not  rise  up  to  first-world,  21st-century  expectations  if  their  mindsets  are  still  frolicking  in  the  17th-century.

5’3” and Under

Tayo’y mga Pinoy, tayo’y hindi Kano;  wag kang mahihiya kung ang ilong mo ay pango. – Francis M.

We are Filipinos, we are not American; do not be shy because you have a flat nose. (literal translation)

This post has been on my mind for quite some time now, however, I could not think of some way to give justice to this ongoing problem. Finally, after speaking to a cousin of mine back in the Philippines, I just had to write about this and express my opinion, which I have been keeping with me for a very long time.

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Southeast Asia consists of many islands, archipelagos, and small countries that always try to keep their country “world-class”. Having lived there for half of my life, I understand the reasons why; the constant power that Western civilization emits upon the world causes an abundance of pressure on these countries. As always, we all desire to be our very best; after all, the most fit within our society has a higher chance of surviving (according to Charles Darwin).

As I was saying, the pressure of being perfect and “world-class” has been blown out of proportion within the Philippines. I understand that throughout history, Filipinos have always been downgraded and demeaned due to our supposedly  flat-nosed, farmer-infested, short and stout hoo-ha of a country.

What generalizations to have about our own people.

The unfortunate ideology has been imprinted upon Filipinos for so long that we ourselves believe it. This unhealthy thinking has been causing a downward spiral in the Philippines for many years now, and I believe this is exactly why the majority of society admires celebrities over authoritative figures, such as Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago. To make matters worse, because of the failing education and economic system, there are more bystanders on the streets that watch t.v. shows that infiltrate their minds with people who seem to look perfect. These celebrities, little do they know, are often airbrushed and go through many procedures to add nose bridges, whiten their skin (which is, by the way, a feature that is ubiquitously praised within Asian countries), and hell, even wear six-inch heels everyday just to max out at a perfect height of 5’6”. And of course, if you’re poor and you have nothing else going for you, what else is there to do?

Try to be perfect yourself. 

But wait.. what happens to the college graduates that kicked butt in their schools, got 4.3 GPAs, participated in volunteering events, and played sports but did not graduate from Ivy League-like schools such as Ateneo de Manila, CEU, or La Salle? Well, they get sent back to their mom’s house and stay unemployed for about three years due to the fact that the major companies in the Philippines only hire specific uni graduates.

Oh, and if the racism against schools was not enough, within these uni graduates, there are even more requirements. Most of them are basic: one must be fluent in both English and Tagalog, one must wear stockings to work, one must be 5’3” and over, one must be presentable at all times, etc..

Wait.. 5’3” and over? Yes. Some (or most) of the companies in the Philippines solely base their interviews with one’s height. Ridiculous? I think so too. A simple and short interview depends upon one’s genetic development? Seriously.

Now, I understand that companies do not want their businesses to follow suit to the Philippines’ yo-yo economic status, and this starts with suitable employees. Being eye-candy does not hurt either. But we should ask ourselves, greed and power aside, what happens to the people that we reject? They go back to being unemployed, or they find jobs in other countries (which is unfortunately concurrent throughout the entire country). What if these drastic unemployment rates worsen in the following years, the education system is shot, and there are no more suitable candidates? What happens then?

I guess what I have been trying to say throughout this article is that we should not base one’s capabilities and intelligence with one’s height. There are plenty of other ways to better our companies and share our ideas with the world. We must not be in a rush to be a top contender in the world because in this process, we trample down our own people. In this process, we show the world how we treat our country. We must change our own ideologies in order to thrive again.

We must start to set aside our prejudices in order to better our economic status. We should put away our predispositions in a box and show the world, and ourselves, the reason we are proud to be Pinoy.

“If we’re all alone, then we’re all together in that too.” – Cecelia Ahern, P.S. I Love You

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