Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Another Soul Lost and The World Teeters Closer to the "Homegenic" Abyss

CD in Play: The Arcade Fire, Funeral

No, this is not about Heath Ledger. In fact, this isn’t so much about the passing of a specific person as it is about the end of a language and an era for one of North America’s First Nations. Chief Marie Smith of Cordova, Alaska died at the age of 89 on the 21st. She was the last, official speaker of the Eyak language and the last full-blooded Eyak person on Earth. Udach' Kuqax*a'a'ch (as Smith was known in her native language – it means “a sound that calls people from afar) may not have entertained millions of people on screen, on even distinguished herself on the national political stage – but she is significant.

Not everyone agrees with me or appreciates the diversity of languages we have in the world, but I do. Every language lost is another step towards homogeneity on planet Earth. You may never have heard of the Eyak. You may never have call to use Maori, Xipaya, Lacandón, Tagish, Tahltan, Corsican, Manx, Sami, Breton, Magati Ke, Ainu, Laz, Jalaa, Bete or any of the other 3,000 languages in danger of becoming extinct, but I think they deserve our respect or at least our regard.

It is hard to put it into words why I feel the way I do about endangered languages and cultures, except that I have always had a thing for underdogs. As tired as I get of the politically correct cries for support of cultural diversity (mainly I hate the self-righteousness and smug self-satisfaction that is often attached to those cries) it does make me sad to learn just how much we are going loose in terms of culture, history and identity. Think of it this way, homogeneity is like a whole horde of zombies slowing creeping across the world devouring all human life in its path. Bit instead of undeath, homogeneity bring sameness, conformity.

I couldn’t prove this to you right now, but the thought occurs to me that language is the ultimate sign of a culture’s health. The weaker a language the less resistant it is to cultural assimilation. I don’t know about but I don’t want to live on Planet China, Planet Britannia or Planet USA. Think of it like this, if cultures are like coffee shops then I want more choices than Starbucks, Blenz, Seattle’s Best or Tim Horton’s. This is why the death Udach' Kuqax*a'a'ch (aka Marie Smith) is significant for the people outside of the Eyak Nation.

8 Comments:

Blogger Thoth Harris said...

Werner Herzog has a similar story in his documentary about one of the last tribes to be "discovered" in the Amazon. The piece is ten minutes long and can be found in the portmanteau film, Ten Minutes Older

24 January, 2008 07:31  
Anonymous Gavin said...

I can't help but wonder if another set of new languages will emerge to compensate for the loss. I already think that we have spoken language different from that of Britain. This is based on having been there and not understanding the actual spoken language.

24 January, 2008 10:08  
Blogger Magnus said...

Colloquialisms aside, I do believe we still speak the same language. I just don't see the difference between Canadian English and British English being as big as say, High German and Low German, but then we'll see what I have to say once I have gone over there myself.
Then again, what I am referring to is the death of one language because it has been wiped out by the cultural dominance of another. EG - Nenets, Komi and Mari are being wiped out by the Russian Language. Same in North America's and Australia's indigenous peoples. populations with English

24 January, 2008 12:32  
Anonymous Gavin said...

When you've been there, you'll hear what I mean. And I think that over time (and not much more) spoken languages in Europe and in the Americas will diverge to a point where they will have to be classified as different languages.
BTW Francophones from Canada have told me the same thing about their European counterparts - they don't understand each other. I've been told that Swiss French and French Canadians understand each other the least. And Latin Americans have told me they can't understand Spaniards.

24 January, 2008 16:18  
Blogger Thoth Harris said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

27 January, 2008 07:52  
Blogger Magnus said...

Nope, it is still there - must be a problem on your end.

27 January, 2008 19:13  
Blogger Thoth Harris said...

How's the winter over there, eh? Getting any days off?

30 January, 2008 09:13  
Blogger Heath said...

Can't stand Heath Ledger. Don't know why, just rubs me the wrong way. I think the Joker should be a bit older than Batman as well or at least poximal in age.

FUCK YOU!!!!!!!!!!!
HLRIP

01 December, 2008 14:04  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home