how we use words


When Alaric sacked Rome, followed by the Goths, the Samaritans, Huns and Vandals, they were called Barbarians. When European barbarians sacked Africa, they were called civilizers.

About makagutu

As Onyango Makagutu I am Kenyan, as far as I am a man, I am a citizen of the world

29 thoughts on “how we use words

  1. Ohhhhh….is that what they call them……

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  2. Barry says:

    As always, history is a creation of those who tell the story. And it doesn’t just apply to the nations of Europe. One side describes an event in glowing colours, the other side will have a very different perspective.

    Liked by 4 people

    • makagutu says:

      They say a history of the hunt will praise the lion or something to that effect.
      I think this is one of the main challenges of retelling the past.

      Liked by 3 people

      • Barry says:

        I think I am fortunate in that I learnt about the effects of colonisation direct from the mouth of a Māori woman who had experienced the horrors of it. I was around 7 or 8 and she was in around 100. Her property and my parents’ property shared a common boundary.

        Liked by 1 person

        • makagutu says:

          I am a late bloomer in my interest in local history. At the time my interest was piqued, all I had is written.
          Our syllabus in school, looking back, was really terrible.

          Liked by 3 people

          • Barry says:

            In the 1950s the “official” version of New Zealand history was from a very sanitised Pākehā perspective. I lived in a small community (pop 4000) where Māori made up around 25% of the population, perhaps a little more. It was also the town where the NZ Land Wars started. Unlike most of the country, we learnt it from the Māori perspective, both in school and in the community. In more recent times the “official” telling of NZ history is more balanced and nuanced than it generally was in my youth.

            Liked by 2 people

            • makagutu says:

              Ours, I doubt has improved. One of the contested points is how independence was attained. The long myth has been that it was as a result of the mau mau n by extension a mainly kikuyu effort. The story is much more nuanced than this.

              Liked by 3 people

  3. johnfaupel says:

    Jacques Derrida, in ‘Dissemination’ 1981, reduced language to the level of meaningless, and it’s now abused to ‘brain-wash’ people to make them believe in what they’re being told. Having on tribal, national, political, spiritual, or ethnic identities is the solution.

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    • makagutu says:

      Wouldn’t this be detrimental to his case/ cause? Taking language to be the way or means with which we communicate ideas. What would making language meaningless then do to our ideas?

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      • johnfaupel says:

        At one time, before formal language was developed, Homo sapiens communicated their sensually-conscious feelings to each other, principally by their facial expressions and body language. Since the birth of written language though, we’re all forced to accept more conceptually-conscious thoughts, and punished if don’t! It’s resulted in the transfer, from smaller egalitarian communities that believed in ‘cooperation’, to much larger hierarchical societies that believed in ‘competition’. Which would you prefer?

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        • makagutu says:

          cooperation any day of the week

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        • Barry says:

          I think the die was cast long before written language was developed – when spoken language developed. However I can’t agree with you when you state “we’re all forced to accept more conceptually-conscious thoughts, and punished if don’t!” As someone who doesn’t think using words and who is unable to read facial expressions or body language and consequently doesn’t use them in communication, I can assure you that it’s not those who use them who are punished. For around 98% of the population they are an absolutely essential component of communication, although undoubtedly less so than with early hominids. I, on the other hand, have been at the receiving end of some very unpleasant “punishment” simply because facial expressions, body language, and vocal intonations are absent in my communications.

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          • johnfaupel says:

            In 1999 Libert, B et al, shown, from brain-scanning techniques, that our intentions were generated before we become consciously aware of them, or to put it another way: we can only become aware of our intentions after their volition, allowing us a brief moment in time to approve or veto them. Although we’re inclined to believe we’re capable of making thoughtful and rational decisions, this may simply be ‘confirmation bias’, congratulating ourselves when they turn out well, and denial of them when they don’t. And the fact that our subjective feelings about our experiences are generated before our objective thoughts about them was realized more than 200 years earlier by Jean Jacques Rousseau, who said: “I felt before I thought; ‘tis the common lot of humanity. I had conceived nothing, but felt everything. These conferred emotions, which I felt one after another, certainly did not ward the reasoning power that I did not yet possess, but shaped them in me.”
            The problem is that the ‘right and left brain’ try to influence each other, backwards and forwards via the Corpus Colosseum, sometimes millions of times a second, which is why our more sensually conscious feelings about the world are fundamentally different from our more conceptional-conscious thoughts about it, and, IN MY OPINION, look what a mess these thoughts are making – polluting the seas, destroying plant and animal life &c., all for the sake of trying to prove how ‘clever’ we are, by awarding ourselves Nobel Prizes, and decorating ourselves with medals and honors; no wonder we’re all so stressed.

            Liked by 1 person

  4. renudepride says:

    The refreshing thought is the “civilisation” the civilisers brought with them has overwhelmingly proved to be false, inefficient and anything but!

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  5. john zande says:

    One man’s freedom fighter is another man’s enemy.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. As someone else says in the comments we follow our impulses, then afterwards we create stories to justify them.

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  7. rautakyy says:

    For decades after (and even today) our civil war has been called the war of indipendence, or more literally translated, the “liberty war” by those on the winning side and their offspring. They preferred it as a war against the Russians, altough in reality they fought against the poor, the hungry factory workers and farmhands, who admittedly got help from the Russian red troops, that had just murdered their officers. The winners got help from a division of German stormtroopers landing behind the lines. The entire concept of a “liberation war” was part of the leaders of the winning side propaganda to motivate the hapless troops. Such lies may have long standing consequenses and provide basis for division, segragation, partisanship polarisation and further lies to hide the previous lies. As time passes, they are being discussed and one respected writer tried to reconciliate the two different narratives by saying, that perhaps it was a war about liberty, because both sides fought for liberty and against what they saw as threatening it. To me the question remains, whose liberty to do what?

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    • johnfaupel says:

      Jacques Derrida deconstructed language to the level of meaninglessness in ‘Dissemination’, yet so-called ‘civilization’ has become increasingly depends on the use of other words, such as: ‘hierarchy’, ‘ownership’, ‘theft’, ‘punishment’, ‘law, &c., &c., all designed to validate it. Doesn’t it show how uncivilized we’ve become? No other species is dependent on ‘language’ in the way we have, and the fact that many of them have survived far longer than we have should tell us something.

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    • makagutu says:

      Which were the contesting sides. I must confess my ignorance of your country’s history

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  8. rautakyy says:

    Up to the WWI Finland had been an autonomic Grand Dutchy of Russian Empire for about 100 years, having been a part of Sweden before that dating back to the era of crusades. The Finnish military, that had fought for Russia with distinction in places like Chechenya and the Balkans, was disbanded by imperial order long before “the Great War” when an era of panslavism brought “russianisation” to Finland. During the late war turmoil in Russia the wealthier Finns had started to organize into armed militias, the poor organized themselves into Red Guards in response to this.

    Just after our parliament had asked and been given indipendence in 1917 by the newlyfuonded Soviet government and mr. Lenin in particular, the Finnish Reds, that is the Communists, organised a coup.

    The reason for their rebellion and wide support it recieved from factory and farm workers was war profiteering our official government did not tackle seriously enough. It profited the rich and land owning freeholders especially. The poor people, however were on the brink of famine (like much of Europe at the time).

    The militias of the wealthy politically aligned to the right renamed White Guards (in response – you guessed it – the Red Guards) declared their alligiance to the elected government and declared a war starting by a massacre of a surrendered Russian garrison in the west of the country. Initially the war did not go well for the White Guards, but soon they recieved trained and experienced soldiers from Germany. These were Finnish nationalists who had volunteered to the German army to learn how to fight the Russians for future indipendence of Finland. Later more help came in a form of German stormtroopers. After bitter fighting the Red Guards lost many were executed after brief mock trials and the rest were put to concentration camps where thousands died from famine, disease and vanton violence by the guards. Especially women soldiers of the Red Guard were appallingly treated. This atrocity continued until the owners of factories and farms had had their revenge and started to miss professional workforce back to their estates and industry at wich point many a broken Red was released from captivity.

    Some Reds had managed to escape to the Soviet Union, but they ended up in labour camps there, because Stalin did not like Communist idealists.

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    • makagutu says:

      Thanks for this brief 101 on Finnish history.

      Liked by 1 person

      • rautakyy says:

        Well, you asked for it. Personally I am much more interrested in quite a lot older Finnish history and I have been planning a series of posts about that for ages. But for the purposes of your topic, I think the way the word liberty has been used in my country is a fairly good example how educated smart people can be totally blind to the influence the usage of a simple word may have on their thinking.

        Liked by 1 person

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