Returning to the Tower of Babel

Almost everyone is familiar with the legend of the Tower of Babel.  Everyone spoke the same language and then God swooped in and mixed up the party so no one understood each other anymore and they scattered about the earth.  Thus, one could argue God, and not migration motivated by hunger, was the originator of diversity.

Ironically the singular act that divided us (yet one could argue also made us much more interesting as a species) is being reversed by none other than the beneficiaries themselves.  It hasn’t come full circle of course, but it is well on its way – just like global warming.

Practically everywhere you go in the world now there is somebody who speaks English and plenty more who are struggling to learn it.  The striving towards establishing English as a lingua franca sadly has nothing to do with wanting world peace via establishing universal communication via a single language.  It is based almost solely on money and the insatiable greed for more of it.

Therefore, everyone tends to look to the language of the “Superpower” as the means of emulating those folks who seem to know how to get it.  This despite the fact their educational system is pretty lackluster compared with many other parts of the world and their economy is increasingly shifting from a manufacturing base to a service one.  In other words they aren’t leading the pack in “making the mold” anymore, they’re just selling cheap knock offs of well-trodden products made in China in most cases.

To be sure, there are other elements contributing to the often aggressive establishment of a lingua franca.  For one, minority languages are discarded by the steamroller called “progress” and relegated to obscurity.

Even the diversity within English itself is shrinking.  There are certain words that even native speakers aren’t allowed to utter anymore without getting a scornful look from others.  Right or wrong (depending on your point of view) controversial words or topics of discussion are routinely snuffed out by mob attacks – raids conducted most frequently by anonymous posse’s roaming the internet day and night.  Often based more on hysteria than fact, those venturing outside the lines are frequently shamed into coming back into the accepted fold or bullied until they are shut down all together.  Yet ironically, at the same time there are countless people who espouse that the internet is making the world smaller and bringing us all together.  True on the surface, but not so much when you dig a little deeper.

Just think, many segments of ancient societies thrived on rhetoric and debate.  Of course there were some that did not.  Yet if we claim to be advancing as a society, shouldn’t we draw on the best of our traditions?  Instead of fearing or outright destroying ideas we either don’t agree with or understand, shouldn’t we be willing to debate even the most controversial of subjects in the hope that the most logical end of the argument will prevail?  Of course there are always going to be hateful, hopeless cases that are closed to all sense of reason.  But if you can turn the light on for even one of them it goes a long way to keeping world wars at bay.  Isn’t it worth the effort?  None of us is omnipotent, but together as a whole we can come mighty close to figuring out the mysteries of this world more often than not.

I’m not in favor of singular thought any more than I am in favor of singular language.  Diversity in all its forms is what puts us on top in the animal kingdom.  True or not, the myth of the Tower of Babel should teach us, if nothing else, that God got it right when he didn’t want us all to be on the same page.

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The Nod in Brussels

I’ve been to Brussels several times. I liked hanging out in the lace shops in the Grand Place. I always found the people to be so friendly. I had so many good experiences there.
I even remember driving through Arab neighborhoods where you would swear you were in the Middle East. All the shop signs were in arabic and the women were all dressed in their traditional styles. I always remember being at a stop sign and seeing a young man staring at me. I smiled to be friendly and he bowed his head and smiled back.
It’s easy to villanize entire populations based on the blind insanity of what some call warped idealism. I think there is no idealism or singularity of thought behind any of this terror. Lets face it, they would blot out the sun given the chance, for no other reason than the fact that it’s there and they might succeed.
They’re just murderers, plain and simple. They ought to call them what they are and not generalize them behind the term which specifies the emotional response their barbarism elicits – namely terror(ists).
I choose to believe that young man is still wandering around the streets of Brussels and that were I to come upon him again today, he would still be willing to extend kindness amidst the madness. After all, if we lose the capacity to search for and vigorously work to uncover and nuture (or even create anew) – “light” in all its forms, (no matter how scattered or dim amidst the darkness), then we are well and truly doomed to be swallowed by a blindness born not of hate, as theirs is, but of apathy.