In UK, linguistic “revolutionaries” try to “ban” those with other opinions
Hamlet puts it well when he says he asks himself: “If it is nobler in spirit to suffer / The slings and arrows of scandalous fortune, / Or to take up arms against a sea of ââturmoil, / And by opposing their end?
A review I read years ago said that Shakespeare was referring to the image of an alien invasion by sea in which slingshots and arrows were shot by the invading armadas. Therefore, he calls them a âsea of ââturmoilâ.
Sweet reader, I was not convinced. I’ve always thought of these slingshots and arrows as metaphors for the insults, injuries, twists and turns and personal catastrophes that everyone encounters, just being alive. And the sea of ââtrouble? Not invading ships, maybe but just a word for the vastness?
What the boy is wondering is should he endure these S’s and As’s or should he struggle with such opposition or adversity. We all have, I’ll bet my last dollar (I didn’t know you had dollars; and how do they relate to your bottom? – Ed. Sirji, please sharminda muth keejiyeh – fd) , experienced this Hamletian dilemma.
We deal with it in all kinds of ways from childhood. Let me, for the sake of the following argument, focus on the slingshots and arrows I encountered when I first came to Britain. I was considered in the obnoxious and widespread vocabulary of the time as a âwogâ and a âPakiâ, two derogatory terms that I heard quite often. Blacks and Asians, through the 1960s and 1970s, the time I am speaking of, often or occasionally experienced racism in the form of not being served in pubs, of not being accepted as tenants in rooming houses in towns, being randomly assaulted by tramps on the streets – and of course, there was deep-rooted institutional racism in other ways. Slingshots and arrows or sticks and stones and I decided, I guess, to take up arms against this sea of ââturmoil. No more noble, just a reaction.
My “take-up” took the form of joining organizations that actively opposed these particular S&As and ideologically dedicated to Britain’s progress towards an egalitarian society. I must say here, gentle reader, that my perception and that of my comrades of these organizations – and there were thousands of them – was that there was a staunch decency in the vast majority of the British population which understood and welcomed the change in global demographics, although some institutions, mostly class-based, needed to be radically shaken.
And when I say we took up arms, that meant working for these organizations 24/7, as the jargon says. We picketed, demonstrated, wrote, raised the scum, went to jail, were burned outside our homes by firebombs thrown at them by racists (yes, I was the victim of one of those assaults but I jumped from the second floor of the burning building) and did what the “activists” are doing.
So it is with a certain disappointment rather than with concern or a feeling of betrayal that I am now witnessing in Britain a change in this âtake-up of armsâ. Let a small and a large example illustrate my point – that is, radical activity against this particular ocean of wrongs has turned into a linguistic posture.
Language revolutionaries target words and opinions. UK university students have developed a habit of ‘no platform’ with people they disagree with. They forbid them to express their opinions on university platforms. In some cases, this censorship is just plain ludicrous, such as when the Oxford University Students Union instituted a council of “sensitive readers” who will review all articles in Oxford University student newspapers to eliminate anything that they think might offend someone. Editors of century-old university magazines like Cherwell at Oxford will not be in charge. The sensitivity censor will be. And it’s in Britain, not North Korea.
Another ridiculous incident needs to be mentioned. A geography teacher at a school in south London, discussing Africa, spoke to his class about the Niger River. He said, with laudable cautionary intent, that the river was spelled with a “g” and that they had to be careful not to spell it with two as that would spell the objectionable and insulting “N” word. He pronounces the word to warn students against its use. A black student came out of his classroom.
The student’s parents asked the school to suspend the geography teacher. They went to the national press who wrote their reports without providing the context or the very appropriate warning instincts and intentions of the teacher.
Yes, the offense is on the victim’s mind. The censorship of the Oxonian sensibility works wonders. They protect the readers of these publications – other students – from being offended, but do these readers only read the publications of Oxford University students?
Surely they will read other things and soon leave the shelter at Oxford and roam the real world, where “taking up arms” will mean more than using earplugs?