Saturday, January 29, 2005

On Parsing

I wasn't going to do a post any time soon as I have been trying to finish a couple of stories before I miss another deadline. But then I thought a short break wouldn't hurt. I have told you, haven't I, about a typical Iranian's attention span? But then our kindly Nadezhda has had con-ver-sa-tion and remodeling in mind. (link on the side; feeling exceptionally lazy tonight.)

You know, in a happier time, way back when…well, when I actually thought academics genuinely believed half the crap they force-feed their students (Truth? Curiosity? Wonder?) I was quite taken once by a memorable presentation on perception. A central part had to do with the difference between conversation and argument. Well worth brooding about year after year.

The conversation part was easy. con/col/com/ together/jointly + versari, "to occupy oneself." Best think about this the way those cunning Brits say, as "a frequentative of vertere," to turn." More explicit in the English convert, invert, etc.

The more creative part was the take on arguments. Our brilliant chelovek (and adorable) highlighted a passage in Book XVII of Homer's Odyssey. Now remember aside from an old servant, it is, Odysseus's dog Argos who first recognizes our wily hero upon his return.

In that passage, a sad one really, the faithful companion is too old and weak to move. Resting in a heap of dung and covered with ticks, Argos just sort of wags his tale at his master before departing for the doggie heaven. (I'd like to think so, anyways, since technically paradise--pairi daēza-- is something the Greeks later appropriated from the Persians.)

The linguistic minutia eluded me at the time. But I think he started with the Latin arg¿t³re and ended up with *arg- and then persuaded everyone that given the connection with Argos, arguments are really a sign that the mind has finally settled in a pile of manure and so unable to move it awaits death.

In due time I finally figured that instead of starting with Argos, the white/ shining/ (Sk. Arjuna) he started with the neuter form argon, and hence assuming an alpha privation: a/without+ ergon he managed to arrive at that enchanting image of an idle dung-immured mind that limits argumentative souls.

And he probably couldn't have gotten away with it in a room full of argumentative linguists.

Now, I must admit here that I am always mindful of my limits. As many languages as I try to study whenever possible, I am kind of dense in that department. So I am perfectly willing to admit that I might very well be, along with Mr. Feith, "the dumbest, F@#$ing guy on the planet."

But as I focus on the occasionally tedious outbursts of the inebriated and the bozo pundits or Wretched and the Fiskers of this world, I genuinely wonder how they can be so bloody sure of all their predictable cackle about other cultures.

I mean, here I am having been called a man—MARD-- in Farsi everyday of my adult life and it was only relatively recently that I figured I am a MARD, because I die, MAR being the root. (Death=MARg) But some constantly give us that gobbledygook "the only language they understand is force because look HEYBAT is their central concept." It is unbelievable. What the hell does it mean, really?


Even simple political stuff. I mean all this talk about the MLK organization recently. But in all the many articles you've read arguing one way or another about using them to open a new front, have you seen a single reference to the age of these warriors? That they are mostly in their mid forties to late fifties with a few younger ones relatively recently imported from Europe and America?

Or that having been cooped up in isolated camps for almost 2 decades, the moment they open their mouths, they'll be spotted and done away with? Language changes over time you know.

Think about it. Hundreds of Iranian equivalent of unibombers on a secret mission in the land of the meddlesome. Go figure. I mean, talk about intellectual laziness. Some don't even do serious research anymore unless they are spoon-fed.

Or how about this "new breed of neoconservatives" in Iran we have been reading so much about? Have you seen a single name?

And some are so cocksure and self confident, just itching for another war. Talking about core values and condoning torture and wanting to "break" people, and smearing the accused (suspects really) with fake menstrual blood and thongs and three years of solitary confinement in chains with no lawyers, and leashes and body pyramids and even threatening nuclear decimation.

As if it is still the forties. That they can go on with their humdrum routine after dropping a couple of those A-bombs here and then SUV's and Spring Break in Cancun and that's that.

There will always be conflicts in one form or another and yet it is essential to keep a sense of humor and to pursue conversations. I mean, any idiot can pretend to be civil and decent and babble on sanctimoniously about Tolerance and Rights when feeling confident or safe and without an ax to grind, don't you think?
And so to me the need for con-ver-sa-tions sums it up really. If you go back even farther to the Indo-European root * wer- you can then reconstruct various interesting stuff including both wrath and writhe.

Better writhe in agony for a while instead of lashing out to torment others on account of an unwillingness to work through the wrath that comes with not wanting to hear what contradict empyrean self definitions. And all this nonsense about the putative "existential threat," is no excuse, really, because fear is no alibi.
Fear is a part and parcel of the human ex-pe-ri-ence which is best dealt with rationally. No escaping it. No expunging it.

Don't believe me? Look up *per.

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