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#1172: How to measure (linguistic) violence? DeGraff comments (fwd)

From: Michel DeGraff <degraff@MIT.EDU>

I welcome recent clarifications from various list members about the
language issue.  I myself still disagree with various remarks on the
dispensability of official documents in Haitian Creole and/or on the
(non-)importance of (Haitian Creole in) education in Haiti.  In addition, I
still cannot imagine any "organisation du pays" (Chamberlain's phrase) that
is independent of the language issue.  But such disagreement on my part may
be due to my own lack of knowledge and imagination. I may have lived the
comfortable life of an academic for too long, and the recent arguments on
this list seem to have reached a level of sophistication that go way beyond
my intellectual capacities.

In any case, such intellectual limitations seem to have put me in the
(in?)decent company of some of my in-situ compatriots.  Many in Haiti seem
to have already realized that there just can't be any rational
"organisation du pays" without a program for universal education that makes
key use of Haiti's national language.  In fact, "organisation du pays" sans
la langue du pays strikes me and a few others as (pretty much) business as
usual, once the rhetorical smokescreen is taken off: `organisation du pays
sans la langue du pays' in the current linguistic context is bound to
proceed without the participation of the Haitian majority.  Adding my own
twist on Chamberlain's terminology, `organisation du pays sans la langue du
pays' = `organisation du pays sans les gens du pays'.  Of course, such
"organization of the country without the language and the people of the
country" is what has led the country to its current DIS-organization.

The way I --- a "nostalgia"-ridden linguist --- see it, the continued
non-use of Haitian Creole in key aspects of Haiti's socio-economic and
political life has been quite effective (for 2 centuries now!) in blocking
the participation of the majority at every significant stage.  In fact,
such non-use of Haitian Creole renders Nation-al participation in affairs
of the State virtually `unthinkable' --- again: State against Nation.  But
others seem to have different analyses, which I am still struggling to
make sense of, given the little I know about Haiti's linguistic and
socio-economic profile.  Oh well...

Be that as it may, I think my previous messages provide as much commentary
on these issues as I may ever be able to provide via this medium.  What I
do want to briefly touch on one aspect of Chamberlain's recent rhetorics,

> I think DeGraff's extremely strong language speaks for itself.  Can we try
> to go beyond it?


> Does the violence of De Graff's reply tell us something else?

DeGraff as intellectual terrorist???  I kind-of like that. And no, we ---
or, rather, I --- can't go beyond it...  My replies are indeed "extremely
strong", specially in their explicitness, and this is on purpose.  How
could anyone afford to offer `weak' commentaries in this context? I am
replying to proposals that are based on a state of continued hypocritical
"violence", and I don't see any other way to address such violence.  (See
my previous post regarding Haiti's apartheid; and see Paul Dejean's book
_Haiti: Alerte, On Tue_ for more details.)

As it turns out, Chamberlain's rhetorical move (i.e. decrying the
"violence" in MY message, but not in his and others like his) is not
unexpected.  In fact, such rhetorics is so common that they have long
received the attention of sociologists.  Here I do want to abstract away
from the particulars of Chamberlain's position.  Instead, I want to poke at
the larger ideology of various players and observers, and the sort of
rhetorics they give rise to when the cherished status quo (`French first'
or, rather, `me and my clique first') is being threatened.  When
challenged, the old-age "violence" inherent in the status quo is now
attributed to those who denounce this very status quo.  It is important to
keep this perspective in mind as accusations of "violence" are likely to
befall anyone who dares explicitly challenge comfortable lies and
stereotypes about Haiti on the national and international scenes.  Similar
reactions are found in academia when long-held and much cherished theories
--- e.g. about Creole languages --- are shown to be false; but this is
another (related) topic.

Interestingly, rhetorical strategies (that attribute "violence" to those
denouncing the very violence inherent in the status quo) have received
enlightening treatment via the pen of the French sociologist Pierre
Bourdieu whom I'll quote at length here (from Bourdieu's book _Language and
Symbolic Power_).  The lesson is definitely worth learning:

  "The symbolic violence that any ideological discourse implies, in so far
  as it is based on misrecognition which calls for re-misrecognition, is
  only operative inasmuch as it is able to make its addressees treat it the
  way it demands to be treated, namely with all due respect, observing the
  proper formalities required by its formal properties.  Ideological
  production is all the more successful when it is able to PUT IN THE WRONG
  anyone who attempts to REDUCE it to its objective truth.  The ability to
  accuse the science of ideology of being ideological is a specific
  characteristic of the dominant ideology: uttering the hidden truth of a
  discourse is scandalous because it says something which was `the last
  thing to be said' ..."  (emphases in original)

Thus, with all due DIS-respect,

MIT Linguistics & Philosophy, 77 Massachusetts Ave, Cambridge MA 02139-4307
degraff@MIT.EDU        http://web.mit.edu/linguistics/www/degraff.home.html