Monday, September 27, 2021

Manner of speech & messages

Cultural variations dictate and determine the contents and characteristics of the manner of speech of various peoples across the globe. It is said that generally Asians make small talk before coming to the main point. Some would even say we beat about the bush before we arrive at our point ~ which is what this Editorial would be accused of doing. There is also the issue of double-speak in the manner of our speech ~ in the sense that sometimes it is extremely difficult to understand what the other person is actually trying to say. Forget individual experiences, even as a newspaper, this is a problem we constantly face. We often get press releases and statements that say one thing, which are later claimed to say another thing but eventually on the third day, they are asserted to mean something totally different. This could be due to varying levels of the knowledge of the English language amongst our people but then this could also be a matter of the famed Asian “face-saving” tactics. We also like to use a lot of allegories, metaphors, symbols, fables, similes, terms, phrases, etc. to get across a point but the problem is our languages being such, they could mean several things simultaneously ~ or none of them, which in turn gives the speaker a good number of escape routes and face-saving exits. So yes, our languages and manner of speech allows a good deal of non-committal messages ~ in the sense that one has spoken but hasn’t said anything. Then it is also considered polite for Asians to generally inquire after the health and well-being of a person, as well as ask whether s/he has eaten meals depending on the time of the day, which in non-Asian cultures would be considered impolite and poking one’s business in another personal matters. Well, different strokes for different people, which make the human race more colourful, one supposes. Be that as it may, coming to the main point ~ at the cost of breaking all Asian rules of politeness and civility ~ it must be said that it is very difficult to make sense of what actually the PDA Government in Nagaland is saying vis-à-vis the Citizenship Amendment Bill, 2016 (CAB). The reported speeches of the Chief Minister and the Home Minster, and the speech of the President of the NDPP during the consultative meet of political parties with NGOs at Chumukedima on January 31, 2019 are hard to understand because they do not tally with what all these worthies have been reported to say, most of which were published in our local newspapers in the past few weeks. Indubitably, the state Government and the political parties in it have done an about turn after the public kept away from the Republic Day celebrations after the boycott call by the NSF and the ruling political parties realized that their masters at Delhi would not be casting votes in the elections here. So, what can we make of Nagaland Chief Minister reportedly saying in the aforesaid consultative meet: “Since today all the organizations have opposed the CAB 2016, we have got a mandate from the people to talk with Government of India,” adding the state Government would take it up with the Central Government? The public and all NGOs’ opposition to the CAB were well expressed and documented in all our local newspapers, which was good enough for the state Government to report to the Central Government. Besides, it’s not as if the Central Government doesn’t know every word that is published in our local newspapers and every other newspaper and magazine published in India. Then the Home Minister reportedly said: “If the proposed amendment bill goes against the interest of the Nagas, the Government will oppose it.” If? This shows that the Home Minister and even the PDA Government aren’t still convinced that the CAB will “go against the interest of the Nagas”, which is sad because it further substantiates the PDA-Government’s claimed opposition to the CAB is purely a matter of political exigency ~ and because of the seemingly limited knowledge of the theory and practice of Article 371 (A) and the BEFR, 1983. Seemingly ~ because our manner of speech also obliquely reveals intransigence. While the CAB is so revealing, so is language and our manner of speech ~ to anyone who will see.