Mark Ulyseas – Civil wars, refugees and lost languages

Mark Ulyseas LE Mag Feb 2014

The reportage from around the world continues to spew out mind numbing words and images of countries mangled by religious and civil unrest. The news gets contaminated by misinformation and disinformation. It is now getting harder to decipher this incoherent and warped reality that appears to camouflage the truth.

Perhaps the only path towards lasting peace is increased people to people contact through non-governmental avenues away from the rancidness of politics and religious fundamentalism: An exchange of knowledge of each other’s cultures with the assistance of academics, writers, poets, painters, et al. Under this all inclusive umbrella the coming together of people of diverse cultures can and will stem the seemingly endless violence that appears to have engulfed many parts of the world.

Violence erupts because it feeds on ignorance, ignorance of the masses and manipulation by those that seek to create their own worlds of controlled societies. There are organisations and individuals who are fighting a vanguard battle against this murderous tide. However, these are too few to make a lasting impact.

And while guns roar and blood spills on the streets of cities, the common folk seek refuge elsewhere taking their families and meagre belongings to another land alien to their culture. In this process much is lost on the way. The first casualty is the language of their ancestors for it corrodes, dilutes and finally loses the very essence of its wisdom. This is a tragedy for language is the soul of a culture.

– “According to UNESCO, approximately 600 languages have disappeared in the last century and they continue to disappear at a rate of one language every two weeks. Up to 90 percent of the world’s languages are likely to disappear before the end of this century if current trends are allowed to continue. Moreover, fewer and fewer children are learning indigenous languages in the traditional way, from their parents and elders. Even when the parental generation speaks the indigenous language, they do not often pass it on to their children. In an increasing number of cases, indigenous languages are used only by elders.” LINK

– In India 780 languages are spoken and there are 86 different scripts. But 250 languages have been lost in the last 50 years. (The People’s Linguistic Survey of India) LINK

– “As a result of linguistic erosion, much of the encyclopaedia of traditional indigenous knowledge that is usually passed down orally from generation to generation is in danger of being lost forever. This loss is irreplaceable and irreparable. Customary laws of indigenous communities are often set out in their languages, and if the language is lost the community may not fully understand its laws and system of governance that foster its future survival.” LINK

– “The loss of indigenous languages signifies not only the loss of traditional knowledge but also the loss of cultural diversity, undermining the identity and spirituality of the community and the individual. Biological, linguistic and cultural diversity are inseparable and mutually reinforcing, so when an indigenous language is lost, so too is traditional knowledge on how to maintain the world’s biological diversity and address climate change and other environmental challenges.” LINK

Governments and politicians are known to use language as a weapon to dismantle a culture. For instance, the Chinese government is conducting a form of cultural genocide by not recognising/using the Tibetan language and further by enforcing Mandarin Chinese as the medium of instruction in schools and colleges in Tibet. What better way for an occupying force to subjugate the masses than by making them learn the language of the conquerors…Propaganda by brain washing then becomes so much easier.

On February 21, 2014, the world will once again celebrate International Mother Language Day. One hopes that the projections of the UN about the loss of 90% of all languages by the end of this century will not come true.

Language is the essence of a culture. It is also a repository of a people’s history. When language dies, a culture dies. And the people become cultural refugees.

In the meanwhile let us promote people to people contact to bypass the usual barricades erected by those attempting to keep us divided and ignorant.

Om Shanti Shanti Shanti Om

@ Mark Ulyseas

01 February 2014

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