It’s not language that has a hole in its ozone layer…

It is not language that has a hole in its ozone layer – Kate Soper

A fellow student was violently pulled out of his wheelchair by the official representatives of legally-defined right and wrong. Some were trampled by horses whilst others were clubbed. They were defending their access to the education that I have already received. When I received it, it came at a cost that I could realistically contemplate paying. The fact that this may become close to impossible in the very near future makes me question what I do with that education. Am I ethically obliged to use it in a certain way? But which way?

I don’t know if it is enough of an answer to say, ‘well, I am free to choose’. Or: ‘I am using this education to create an academic career for myself’. I want to educate others; I want to research culture; I choose to spend my working time studying the world through the literature we have written. Is this enough? Someone I shared these dilemmas with said ‘I want to teach people about the responsibilities of language’. Someone else said ‘I want to teach people to use language correctly’. Something I read somewhere suggested that studying literature is a route to interrogating cultural assumptions. Some answers. But what of them?

And just because other people are struggling to get what I have does it really mean that I should value what I have at a higher price? Of course it does. Or is that just the old teatime line about the starving children somewhere else? Those of us who are inside the pod of the academy occupy a vastly privileged position.

We have galaxies of opportunity, facilities and resources silkstrung at the tips of our fingers. Most other people have to inch up twists of rusty industrial cord to reach these. To spend my time reading, writing, and opening up ideas is a luxury that exsurges well beyond white plastic apples and gold-encrusted fashion. I occupy an elite. But what am I receiving and what can I give in return? I am standing at the first staging post on a route that will be controlled by words, words, words and words of my own stamping. The view from this bridge is of the human-stamped world reaching the crisis of the biggest challenge it has ever faced. And shouldn’t I be dedicating my time to that? It makes my thread seem so tiny.

What are the ethics of choosing to receive the gifts of texts over fighting to preserve the gifts of the planet?

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One Response to It’s not language that has a hole in its ozone layer…

  1. I’ve been wanting to respond to this post for a while, but the words keep getting interrupted by the feeling their not good enough. But is the search for good enough words, like the “good enough mother,” going to repeat nothing other than an angst for a hierarchy that sits uncomfortable? And is separating the two a repetition of planet/text/real/imaginary/form/matter/nature/culture/man/woman divide that slashes across the texts “we” (or maybe just I) receive?

    so, I give up with good enough words, and go with the ones coming off my hands.

    The planet is a text too, being read, re-read, received, translated, examined, published, waiting for deadlines—- What this post has made me realise is the need for writers (and that’s what reading is re-writing spelled differently) to engage with/in that never good enough relationship– to be self aware that it takes more than two to have text— That words can reposition your place with the planet differently (even just for a moment, as you walk into a lamppost because you were reading).

    And maybe when I stop writing about other people’s words, make small steps to being a “good enough” body, and use my words to, highlight that crisis, that relationship– face people up to the horror of it all.

    Lucretius is the text on my shoulder. He stayed up late, wrote words that dealt with his global crisis and couched it in terms of “natura” – of the movement, the crises, of the planet— –he writes of words, bodies, the planet, the past, in this poem of connectivity and destruction, as connected, aware of each other– in a text which is the sweet poison of a world falling apart.

    Or is this clutching at threads? does clutching at threads sew them together anew, and maybe make a nice sound. Or just make a mess.

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