[OPE] Marta Harnecker's Ideas

From: Jurriaan Bendien <adsl675281@telfort.nl>
Date: Fri Dec 04 2009 - 02:30:18 EST

Jerry, I do normally write what I intend, and if Professor so-and-so comes
out with an astonishingly dumb idea then the appelation "Professor" might
serve to highlight that he should know better than that. Conversely,
Professor so-and-so might come out with a really luminous idea which is
derived from years of research, and in that case the appelation "Professor"
might indicate that we are dealing here with the full weight of scientific

The bourgeois Left and the bureaucratic Left think that ordinary mortals
should be in reverence of authority, but for us that is a reification - real
authority is a matter of proven competence, humanity and experience.
Hierarchies there will be, but everything depends on the criteria on which
they are based.

In the bureaucracy, the (academically trained) cadres can sometimes be a bit
like Alice and the Mad Hatter - "words mean what I want them to mean",
except that it is not a joke anymore - in the political sense they want to
control the use of words, and rule out certain meanings which are not in
their interest.

The rational basis for that is that if you have an organisation, people have
to understand work processes in an organisation in the same way. If they
don't, you get misunderstandings and this leads to inefficiency. But this
presupposes that they understand the work processes - in fact however what
often happens is that control is exercised by defining the meaning of what
participants in the work process do, and that communication about
information becomes a technique for asserting power and for negotiating
between interests.

In other words, the negotiation of meaning becomes a negotiation of
interests and an assertion of power. It turns out that people rise to power
not so much because they really profoundly understand things, but because
they are clever with words, and are able to silence the words of the
workers. And in fact they often don't really understand that workers can
understand very much even if they cannot put all this nicely into academic
words or into bureaucratically precise language.

That makes language use itself often directly political, to the point where
people start thinking "never mind the bullshit, no tell us for god's sake
what is really going on". Because the language may hide as much as it
reveals. And this means that a person of integrity has to be very aware of
the use of language.

I do not like Martha's paper, in part not even because of the content, but
because of its form of expression. And I think that if then somebody says
that I should hail this scripture because it is written by a "great
authority", we are dealing with a mystification. I am not really prepared to
decipher an academic paper in which the words could mean all kinds of
things, unless I have a particular interest in doing so.

As a translator you strike this problem sometimes because academic so-and-so
sloppily writes a paper, and expects the translator to turn it all into
perfect and persuasive language. Which is possible. But it can be sort of
like, I have the grandiose idea, originality and the superior intelligence,
and you can just "spruce up my fantastic ideas". In reality that is elitist,
and the content of the paper cannot be separated from its form. Effectively,
the translator then has the job of doing the academic work for the
academic - the "fantastic ideas" and "originality" are not even apparent
except for his work. Well if the translator is paid for it, he might do it,
but by the time you are entering into a scholarly discussion translating the
meaning of what another scholar says, you have bought into bulshit. The onus
is on the scholar to explain himself clearly, and if he cannot do it, then
why is he a scholar?

It depends on what you want to do, but if you want to be a fuhrer and make
grandiose claims about "what the Left should do", my own advice is to
communicate in a way which is clear, precise and to the point, adduce
salient and incontrovertible evidence to make the case, and apply sound
logic. Because otherwise you and your grandiose ideas are not part of the
solution, but part of the problem.


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Received on Fri Dec 4 02:45:03 2009

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