dimela yekwai on Wed, 12 Mar 97 21:43 MET

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nettime: Communication and Its Journey into the Modern World


by Dimela Yekwai

Communication is the oldest interaction between people since the beginning
of time.

Ever since our distant ancestors made the first grunt thereby exercising
the vocal organs we were on our way to create speech and, therefore, verbal
communications between us.

We did not stop there, however, after all human beings are not only
enterprising but creative and so we wanted to convey messages even in our
physical absence.  It was then we stumbled on the idea of using a stick for
recording information by using the earth as an interface.  After all we had
learnt to track animals by not only reading the footprints left behind but
by the information contained in their droppings etc.  Nature had helped us
on our journey by giving us not only the insight into the practical
application of communications but the tools for making it possible.

Soon we were to graduate in speech and the use of abstract symbolism to
represent specific things, events, people etc.  This know how were already
being transferred to the written language and the interface for these
representation was just as varied - from writing in the sand, to rock
painting, carving in the living bark of trees, cave paintings etc.  Mostly
these were pictorial text which tells stories of mythical and or life
experiences.  In continuing this evolutionary journey the pictures became
even more abstract and, therefore, symbolic.  See the hieroglyphs of
ancient Egypt to the Andinka signs of Ghana to the Sanskrit of India to the
Roman numerals of Europe.

However, as there can be no life without death the communications graveyard
became a feature of this relationship.  Here we have witnessed many deaths,
some burials and some attempts at prolonged resuscitation - Latin for
example has been exhumed and exhausted attempts made to breath life into
its decaying bones.  Once this was the language of commoners but was
usurped by the aristocracy of a later era and used as a weapon against the
very people whose ancestors gave birth to its existence.  Its elitist
approach gave rise to its own death but still its rotting carcass is being
paraded as the desired state of language evolutionary peak.  (For example
see the so called scientific labelling/categorization of plant and animal
life around the world - again negating indigenous/traditional names and

When this is compared to the Welsh language for example and how its near
death occurred - a subsequence of the English colonialist/ expansionist
- we see how language can be used as a weapon of subjugation.  (See the
history of the English expanionist drive in the British Isles for further
insight).  On further examination  we realise that the purpose of
relegating some languages  an inferior status while elevating other(s) to a
status of superiority becomes inherently functional in an environment based
on elitism and exploitation.  In such an environment language has not only
lost its sacred role but has become a commodity answering to the dictates
of the capitalist curve.

We need to go back to the beginning if we are to put this relationship in

Communication evolved as a means of passing information from one human
being to the next.  It was a way of enhancing our interaction with each
It, therefore, had the power of externalising feelings, experiences and
innerspirations using abstract symbolic mediums to impart these

Speech was developed when we learnt how to regulate the breath over our now
developed speech organs and as the breath was synonymous with life language
was considered a sacred gift.  In many societies highly symbolic languages
developed that only the initiated had access to.  This knowledge allowed
the initiates whose only criteria for access was their commitment to
tapping the vastness of their internal power and as a result connecting
that power to the external universal power.  This was their human quest -
realising the God self.
Language here was not a commodity but a devine spiritual manifestation of
the self as related to the physical and spiritual world while at the same
time interacting with other selves of like minds.  There are many examples
of this littered along the corridor of human history.

When we look at examples of the Amerindians who referred to the invaders of
their continent, the Europeans, as a people who spoke with fork tongues..
The message here is self evident - one thing is said while meaning
something entirely different usually against the interest of the listener.
Rhetoric is the term used in our urban technocratic environment but the
meaning remains unchanged.  In other words speaking not from the heart
which is symbolic for truth, justice and righteousness but from the head -
cold, manipulating and calculating.  We see the evidence to support this
argument littered across the earth.  Consequently, communication has become
the epitome of exploitation, alienation, subjugation and sometimes death.
We watch people across the world bury their identities - no longer
recognising their ancient and sacred systems of communication but instead
sought to imitate clinically sterile languages usurping their very spirit
in the name of capital.

Within this hierachical language relationship there exist numerous examples
of secret coded languages aimed at sifting the echelons of power even
further.  This is where the seat of 'draconian' power lies and it stretches
across  institutions and professional disciplines.   Initiation here is not
hinged on the quest to unravel the mysteries of the inner self but to
control in the interest of material power.  Burying the masses in perpetual
ignorance  is the objective.  The self is not only short circuited but is
reduced to being commodities in the graveyard of capitalistic enterprise.
The inevitable consequence is that the infinite power of the universe
becomes hidden from the masses because their own internal power source is
undermined or destroyed.  Alienation from self is the result.

English, with its parade of accents and dialects, is a prime example of
this relationship coming as it did out of humble origin - the language of
the underdog.  In its imperialist cloak its status was polished and it rose
to become the medium of communication for the aristocracy when they
rejected Latin thereby signing its death warrant.  (For more information
explore Henry V111 and the Reformation Movement which gave rise to the
English Protestant Church).  However, instead of embracing and respecting
other people and their languages as would be expected it became the very
thing it had rejected and sought to dominate, control and ultimately kill
all other languages in its wake.  In the words of Churchill, "The sun never
set on the British empire" and it goes without saying that this was
analogous to the English language.

In our modern times people as diverse as Afrikans, Chinese, Indians, Inuets
all speak English as their first or more succinctly official language.
In recognising these connections we see English as the language of enslavement.


I speak English with a fluency that dots
Every 'i' and crosses every 't';
'The rain in Spain falls mainly on the plane'.
Yes, I speak English like a native;
No, you couldn't tell us apart when speaking
Except my English was born in pain.

I remember massa's whip settling on my back
Cutting a comfortable place in flesh to lie:
I remember my screams in Yoruba, Fanti, Twi
Who knows,
It's just an echo now.

I remember singing sweet lullabies to my little ones
Narrating the strength and honour of ancestral lineage;
That might have been in Igbo
Who knows,
I have fortotten.

It is as if I have been given a lobotomy
And language which links into personality,
Spirituality and culture have been ripped out.
In its place English with its many varieties have now been implanted.

I have reached because I speak English
With the dotted 'i's' and crossed 't's'.

I watched my brother who refused
To accept Charlie as his name
But instead carried his ancient name
Which moulded his personality and linked him with his
I watched him celebrate his existence
Every time he uttered his name .

One day massa said, 'Today you will accept your name is Charlie".
I heard my brother scream his ancient name
And the echoes reverberated in the atmosphere.
I saw the men in grey whipped him until he was weak

But still,
Like from a cavern
The echoes came
Like the eruption of a volcano.

I watched as they forced his mouth opened
And the tongue severed
I watched the lifeless tongue
With blood drip, drip,
Drip from its tip.

I heard the voice in English say
'Let this be a lesson to you,
>From today no more mumbo jumbo
Your names will be Dick, Jack, Mary, Dorothy!
Those of you who master the language will be rewarded abundantly.

I became as mute as the brother who had lost his tongue.
I stayed that way for a long time
And I awoke one day as if from a bad dream
And my first utterance was in English.

Like ripples from a distant shore
Imagery from a more sober past
Come floating on the horizon of my mind
But English cannot mould them
Cannot give them life so they die a death
And my true self continues to be submerged
While I speak English like a native.

The evidence of this legacy of subjugation is scattered around the world
and so now I speak English as a first language even though my roots is in
Afrika and my birthplace is Jamaica.  The same principle goes for French,
Portuguese, Spanish and as history tells us German tried to muscle in hence
the first and second world war and the Jews became the victim caught in the
cross fire.  In other words if the truth be known we in our time have
witnessed the continued displacement of traditional modes of communication
and the replacement by one form or another of European language mode.  It
does not stop there, however, because as with any language comes a
particular cultural pattern etc. resulting in the total displacement of the
subjugated people's world view.

In the modern technocratic world this relationship has evolved a stage
further as the world is now considered a global village which is wide open
to the influences of western style communication - something that even the
Japanese  have bought into in the wake of the atomic bomb being unleashed
on their homeland resulting in wanton destruction of people, environment
and property.  People are still, to this day, suffering the consequence of
this evil act against humanity.

In 'buying in' the Japanese must be making a statement because they have
speeded up the evolution of the means of propagating this relationship by
forever pushing the technological frontier ever further.  Programming the
unwitting minds of the west to know instinctively 'we (the Japanese people)
won the war', the economic war and that is where the power lies.

In all of this we, the practitioners of this medium..of communication
are the living witnesses to this evolution in progress and its potential
influence on the lives of people around the world.  The position held will
be dependent on allotted status.  In other words, here comes the computer
and its internet:World Wide Web but who is at the hub manipulating the
What messages are being sent to the rest of us and for what purpose?  Again
we see communication and capital walking hand in hand after the frenzied
copulation spelling death to the potential of the world wide masses while
the offspring of this bitter love affair feed off their carcass.


Now you STUDENTS, he said
Here in front of you is a machine
Only a tool to be manipulated

On your right is a mouse
Let it work for you
You are in control
After all this is only a machine

Yes, said the student
I have got the brain
Machine you are fucked
I am at the control

Click goes the mouse
I pressed the shit out of it
Oh, what is happening?
It is running and hiding

Listen here
I am the master
Right now I say MOVE
Move I say

Click goes the mouse
My right index finger excert a gentle squeeze
I am more cautious now
Don't want to upset him
I am the master
I wonder if this bloody mouse knows that

Move the mouse to application
Click on photoshop
Let go

What is this?
My mouse is still
I can't see his eyes but I know they are not friendly

Fuck this
I am going to make a coffee

Refreshed I start again
He is yielding now
He knows I am in control

What is that I see?
Can't open photoshop
Not enough memory

I wonder who is right
My teacher
Or the mouse who speaks in my brain
Challenging my status

I will not succumb
I will click your button yet
Taking you on journeys against your will
Surfing the internet
Calling up another mouse
This is the final challenge
Submit or burn yourself out

Oh, so you understand my language
I see fear in your scanter
So you are yielding
You have heard my commands

Victory will be mine
Confidence building I wiss round the applications
Mouse subdued
The final battle is being waged

Victory is mine!

We now ask ourselves to consider the fact that big business with its
history so steeped in subjugation, control and death with communication as
its unwitting alley: can communication ever again be the sacred expression
that it once was?  Or is innocence as it is linked to the discovery of the
self among other selves on our journey through life a dinosaur: extinct
leaving only fossilised bones in the annals of time? ONLY TIME WILL TELL!	


Like water droplets in the early morning
Words fell from mouths
Exploring inner mysteries
Hovering on the edge of time

Words formed in the unconscious
	Revealing mysteries in time and space
		Casting ripples on the expanse of eternity
			Energising beings of other worlds
				Revealing secrets
Kindling enquiring minds with vivid manifestations

Words flowed with the breath
Like a river flowing to the sea
The capsule of imaginations
Carrying the rhythm of life
Birth is witnessed in all its timeless glory

Conversation continues
	Falling through space
		An asteroid landing in time
Beings of other worlds walk in front of eyes
Eyes waiting to see
		To see into the pool in which all realities swim
Like foetuses waiting to be born

This is the timeless knowing
Of conversation on the edge
	First step into the abyss
The black dot
		The capsule of all knowing

As I have said only time will tell and us, the masses letting our God given
right to free expression be a reality in our time!

(c) Dimela Yekwai - February, 1997
	(This includes all poems).

[lecture presented at Internet Galaxis in Budapest, Hungary, March 1, 1997
during the MetaForum Afternoon section organized by the Media Research

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