Monday, October 24, 2005

Please don't ruin my language

What do skulls, CEOs and test scores have to do with each other? Have you noticed that everything we say often means the exact opposite? Am I being vague? Then I will spell it out, my dears.

As a proud 80s punk, I liked skulls. Skulls scared the popular girls away. Boys didn’t mess with girls who wore skulls (although they may have wanted to in private) and mothers certainly didn’t want anything to do with girls who wore skulls. Skulls were gross and badass back then, and all was right. Well, about five years ago I heard someone in the fashion industry call skulls the new “happy face,” and although I didn’t exactly know what the sell-out whore meant, the phrase stuck with me. Oh, to be blind again. Now, one can go into any Mandee, check out Delia’s Online, or visit the trendy poseur capital of the world, Hot Topic, and find skulls on underwear, sneakers, scarves, hats, jeans, jackets, sweaters, purses…I won’t go on. Pink skulls. Pink skulls. NO SKULL SHOULD BE PINK! A skull should ONLY be pink if the oozing blood of its crushed brains has been diluted by the acid rain pouring down upon it! They have smiley faces, even! Why? I will tell you why, my humble reader – money. How do we make the hellacious set of the 80s a nostalgia that everyone wants to buy? Make their anger pink. Happy pink fu***** skulls.

But this mentality isn’t limited to the punk subculture that created independent music and film that is now owned by Disney. It attempts to wrench the life out of much of the creativity that tries to revive culture in the U.S. There is an ad that has been running nationally for a while now where a CEO explains to his underling that he is “sticking it to the man” by purchasing a certain product. The underling claims, “But you are the man.” Ah, but what the little underling doesn’t realize is that even THE MAN HIMSELF longs to stick it to the man. So now, when the man sticks it to the man, it really means that there is no sticking done at all. Hell, WE could be the man, thus making the man nonexistent. Right. It’s kind of like when someone who knows nothing of street culture tries to use its language. Ewww. To quote John Leguizamo, “Please don’t ruin my language.” Must you, Mr. Man, take what little strength we have in our own poetic phrases by appropriating them? Thus, sticking it to the man has no strength now. Pink skulls.

Not only are phrases weakened, but also some phrases are outright lies. Believe it or not, I am not inspired by the Orwell classic, 1984. When I read that novel, even though I am prone to a theory or two, I wholeheartedly believed that his portrayal of names and statements that meant the exact opposite of what they said was a possibility that might happen after I was dead and buried. No, my inspiration comes from all around me. We have “fat free” foods that have so much sugar in them that the sweet stuff ends up being stored as fat because our bodies are not equipped to break it down fast enough. We have a mayor in New York who dismantled the Board of Education and allowed teachers to work without a contract for years and is claiming to be the “Education Mayor” now that elections are coming. We had a “war on drugs” during the time our country was forging a new international drug economy that still exists today. We have countless vendors claiming that we can SAVE money if we just SPEND X amount of dollars. We have a Justice Department that often has very little to do with that; don’t mess with me on that one – my grandmother’s name was Justicia (not kidding). I shouldn’t go on, but I haven’t gotten to the test scores. Ah, yes, the test scores. We have a program called NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND and just because it isn’t in the news as often anymore doesn’t mean its shadow isn’t lurking around the corner. Some states have taken the tests already. In Chicago, Illinois, it is estimated that over 30 schools may close due to inadequate test scores. Under NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND, schools that have low test scores get no money from the government, and schools that have no money often close. Students in wealthier neighborhoods have test scores that are just fine (ensuring their schools will stay open). An upbringing without poverty and knowing your teacher cares for you are the two things that have shown the only consistent results in better student performance, so I guess the poor kids are screwed unless they have loving teachers (which is all we can hope for). If not, where will the poor, uneducated kids go? Who knows, but they sure as heck won’t get LEFT BEHIND! Maybe they’ll stick it to the man by wearing a damn pink skull.

These are a few of the ways I’ve noticed that we say the opposite of the truth. I’m sure all of you wonderful readers are aware of many more. Post ‘em!