Opinion Solicited

Robert Phillipson rp.eng at CBS.DK
Sat Mar 29 09:51:27 UTC 2003


We were all suffering from information overload even before 9/11.
Now, thanks to
- lists like Language in the New Capitalism, and to a lesser extent
CRITICS,
- a few radical publications like Le Monde Diplomatique (we get its
monthly English version along with our subscription to The Guardian
Weekly)
- following up leads like the website of the Newamericancentury.org
- input from economists showing that the Gulf War, though initially
costly for the US and a few Arab governments, has been paid for by
consumers of oil and was 'good business', just like the present one is
intended to be (Italian research forwarded to us by Francois Grin),
- Denmark (in 'liberal' Scandinavia) having a fundamentalist neoliberal
government with an anti-immigrant agenda that does US bidding, is also
at war with Iraq/Saddam, and is systematically reducing academic freedom
at universities,

we now have even more information that we ought to have known of or
thought through earlier, but which does make a serious impact on one's
professional identity and the value judgements that underpin our various
activities. Even if a lot of what we read is ephemeral, even Said's
admirable article (and earlier related ones), and which therefore does
not fit easily with scholarly journals with long production schedules.

One specific attempt to harness peace efforts is the protest on
www.zmag.org/wspjart.htm
with 'names' like Chomsky, Monbiot, Arundhati Roy.

Getting an Editorial Advisory Board to suggest topical themes that need
exploring is a sound consultative strategy. Even if our information
overload problems will be aggravated.

It seems to us that language and discourse-related issues are in most
cases not related to or even mentioned in today's protests and
analytical attempts by others than linguists. We seem to be talking
amongst ourselves and not reaching many of the others, people in other
disciplines, NGOs, etc., who are working for a more peaceful world.

We have a couple of very provisional thoughts that could link the
current hideous military scene to other efforts. All of these could be
mentioned in any thematic numbers, with contact addresses and, where
appropriate, short notes/articles by the people behind each effort, in
some cases short interviews with them, with sociolinguists asking 
people in other fields about how they see the role of themes we are
working with in what they do, and possibilities for linking up:

- there were efforts in Porto Alegre to get language issues addressed by
NGOs that are attempting to influence globalisation in more democratic
directions. These should be followed up and supported. They were both 
general and also related to the languages situation of indigenous
peoples.
- the book "Alternatives to economic globalization. A better world is
possible", a Report of the International Forum on Globalization (John
Cavanagh and Jerry Mander, co-chairs, 20 on the drafting committee),
published by Berrett-Koehler, San Francisco, 2002 has very little on
language, identity or education, though it does cover cultural
diversity, human rights, and equity briefly. There would be a
substantial challenge to integrate our areas of special interest and
competence with the wider global and local scene. 
- Barbara Schütte (babel77 at aol.com) from Hamburg reports that somebody
in Amnesty International interested in LHRs (linguistic human rights)
was thinking of maybe "establishing a field dealing with LHRs in ai".
That would be an example of an NGO broadening its field towards
languages. 

The way that fundamental democratic principles, however fragile, have
been ditched in the past 18 months is horrific, but everything currently
taking place has been planned in the Pentagon and by Cheney, Rumsfeld,
Wolfowicz et al quite publicly for a decade and more. This continues the
foreign policy of George Kennan, US Cold War planner. He wrote in 1948,
in the aftermath of the passing of the first parts of the UN Bill of
Rights: "We have 50% of the world's wealth, but only 6.3% of its
population. In this situation, our real job in the coming period is to
devise a pattern of relationships which permit us to maintain this
position of disparity. To do so, we have to dispense with all
sentimentality ... we should cease thinking about human rights, the
raising of living standards, and democratisation."

"We didn't know" is no more defensible now than vis-a-vis Nazi genocide.
Teun, Ruth, Tom and Terry have started an existential debate - thank
you.

Robert Phillipson
Tove Skutnabb-Kangas


Ruth Wodak wrote:
> 
> In my view, it would also be important to define the aims and goals:
> discussion forum, debate forum, other opinions, editorial, etc....Invite
> somebody else as a discussant?
> The functions should be defined explicitly.
> Best
> Ruth
> 
> On Fri, 28 Mar 2003, Kelly L. Graham wrote:
> 
> > Dear JLIE EAB Members,
> >
> >     Terry and I ran across an interesting piece by Edward Said that appeared
> > in the Al-Ahram Weekly on -line.  The link is below.  Please open and read
> > it.
> >     We are wondering if you think we might consider publishing it as a
> > reprint in JLIE in a new section, something like 'Media Articles', or
> > 'Current opinions', or something like that.  We could have these from time
> > to time covering a range of opinions on topics relevant to language,
> > identity, and education, written by people of the caliber of Said.
> >
> >     After reading the article, please contact us with your views on a) the
> > idea of having a feature like this in JLIE, and b) if you like the idea, do
> > you think this piece would be a good choice.  We value your thoughtful input
> > on this matter as we explore ways to enliven and broaden the coverage in the
> > journal.
> >
> > Best regards,
> > Tom and Terry
> >
> > <http://weekly.ahram.org.eg/2003/630/focus.htm>
> >
> >
> >
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