by Lee Cross
Recently I attended a talk about ‘Artistic License in Ireland’, which centered on a debate over whether the Science Gallery could, should or would display a copy of Dabiq (a propaganda magazine published by the “so-called Islamic State”) as part of an exhibition they’re currently running.
The talk was very interesting, featuring minds far greater than my own, and webcast live. I’m sure you’ll be able to find a link somewhere online and it’s definitely worth looking up if you have the time to do so.
The point I want to discuss was triggered in my mind by Professor Something or Another (I can’t remember his name… he was smart, calm and confident to the level of certainty), who voiced the idea that there are two words a person will not say… one begins with N… the other with C. Apparently, he tests this theory on his junior freshmen by asking them to say the N-Word out loud; 9 out of 10 flatly refuse to do so (10 out of 10 if he is lecturing to Americans).
This got me thinking, if I was a journalist would I be prepared to use words like F***, S***, A***, C*** and B*******, in my work; let alone N*****???
Hmmm…well, speaking as a barman, I haven’t got a fucking clue which side of the fence I’d come down on. Speaking as a reader, I believe that words gain their power not from the voice of the propagator but in the mind of the assimilator. Or to say it a less wanky way; shit happens, people get offended and you’re not going to please all the people all the time, so you’re better off speaking your mind in whatever way you are most comfortable doing so.
That being said… I won’t say, write or type the N-word; not because of what it means to black people, or white for that matter, but because of what it means to me. It represents hate… it stands for discrimination… but mostly, it is a word that reeks of pure fucking ignorance and stupidity.
‘Pakki’ is equally disgusting to my tastes and I would NEVER choose to say it (I hope my British friends of Asian descent will forgive me this one time) but am doing so because it’s an offensive term I’m not sure American’s have heard. This P-word doesn’t mean, ‘people from Pakistan’, it is a derogatory term that stands against all persons of Asian descent in the UK.
I hate that word with such a passion because I grew up saying it… because my parents used it with impunity… because no one ever taught me it was wrong (quite the opposite) and because of all the offensive I may have caused people, when I used it in ignorance, as a child.
I don’t mind causing offensive – but if I going to offend someone, I’m going to do it for a damn good reason; not because, “I’m going to the P- shop for a loaf of bread.”Gosh… I’ve gone a little political, which wasn’t my intention – I’m here to blog about books after all, which really is my point; do novels, the realms of fiction, do they exist within the same value structure as
Gosh… I’ve gone a little political, which wasn’t my intention – I’m here to blog about books after all, which really is my point; do novels, the realms of fiction, do they exist within the same value structure as those discussed @ToxicAccess?
Holy shit, what a puzzler… ironically, I’m going to come to the same conclusion that was reached at the end of the talk, and I say it’s ironic because it’s the opinion I walked into the lecture hall with – that, ‘It all depends’.
I’m not sure how to express what I mean, so I’m going to give an example-laced with spoilers (please forgive me), that of Martin Amis’s The Zone of Interest. I loved this book, it was moving, well written and of the deepest black style of comedy.
Or to put it another way, it was a book belittling the events of Auschwitz; laughing at the acts of murder, torture, and rape. The Commandant of the camp is constantly struggling with ‘the final solution’; not the morality of it, but the logistical problems involved in carrying it out.
I loved the book! What a novel, a true work of art… but I have yet to be able to adequately get that point across to anyone who hasn’t taken the time to actually read it.
I’d like to believe that I’m as open minded and far sighted a man as you’re likely to meet (of course I could be wrong) and, speaking as such, I don’t ever foresee a time where will ever be able to say whatever we want, to whoever we want, whenever we want… but again, that was an opinion I walked into TOXIC ACCESS with.
What I took away with me was idea that there may never be a time when we, as readers/writers/free thinkers, ever should have the right to act without the deepest and most careful considerations.
Fictional worlds may only exist in the shared mind of the reader and writer, but the power of words is born in ‘the real world.’ As long as our feet touch the ground our minds will never be truly free to go wherever they will.