Tuesday, 28 April 2009

Dial "C" for Courage

In a world within global community, with so many humans contributing to a vast array of belief systems and core values; in a world charged with recognising diversity while still maintaining political-correctness, those universal values that everyone can stand behind as righteous and true, these values, as a part of the North American vernacular, grow more and more vague, as well as infinitely more subjective. As subjective, even, as terms like righteous and true.

Nowhere is this more evident than in two places.

The first is politics with it's sweaty manpigs in costom polyesters, feigning outrage, turning red and veiny while backed by a minyan of babyboomers, clad in two and three pieces, banging their hands on well varnished Canadian maple desks, stay-at-home parents donning home-printed T-shirts, yelling and chanting slogans, "We're tired of..." banter thrown at cameras at an impolite volume, placards in one hand bearing giant YES' and NOs held over shoulders, the other hand raised in a defiant fist, ready to cast off the unconstitutional shackles of proposed cuts to forestry or allowing convicts to vote or something equally as evil and repressive. Carbon tax, maybe.

Second is Local News. One should not be so bold as to indite local broadcast, alone, although without the checks and balances assigned to more reputable national news streams, local news can often veer away from a responsibility to deliver rational and unbiased reporting, logical and in presentation of fact. These, along with national and international rogue media factions run amok, throwing around whatever terms they please with all the ardor of a past-her-prime soccermom in passionate explanation of how the cashier at the Safe-Way was rude to her in checkout or how some noisy painters managed to track mud on her carpets.

The result is a degradation - even an outright abasement - of the English language. Something that, to the well-spoken or well-read; to anglophiles and stoics alike; to really anyone who comes to expect an unemotional, responsible delivery of the news, this all can be rather insulting. Repulsive, even. Repellent. Cowardly. Misogynistic. Pedophilic, Fascist, dishonest, a drain on society, an allocation of tax-dollars, inconsiderate to others feelings, hurts babies and the elderly, contributes to the spread of swine flu, in violation of the bill of rights and international human rights laws...

That's not to say that the general public isn't guilty of the same rhetorical faux pas and social indignities, indeed, these two phenomena are both broad reflections of the society in which from which they grow. Your peers, your friends and coworkers, even your family, they're all frequently guilty of these linguistic infractions and prostrating orations. Exhibits A and B:

Ignorant. noun. This is a state of being uninformed, uneducated, sometimes used to describe a willful neglect of acquired valuable information on a given or relative subject.
I'm not certain if this definition even requires a follow-up paragraph to express one's frustration over it's extremely prevalent misuse. This will be said, however, "Being cut off in traffic or not yielded to when merging does not represent an act of ignorance". It's just rude. Inconsiderate, if one means to be technical.

Pretentious. adj. Behaving or speaking in such a manner as to create a false appearance or impression of worth. From it's root: To pretend.

It's come down to the somewhat infantile level of applying synonymy to the basic level of good and bad. Terms like "honourable" and "benevolent", really cheesy words of the like being utilized to represent the Dudley Do-Right attributes; the heroes and heroines. Words like "cowardice" and "dishonesty" come to describe anyone viewed as either villainous or just not on your side; The Snidely Whiplashes, as we perceive them. The general misuse is quite willy-nilly, and, to this degree, all vices, all virtues, are synonymous.

Let's talk a bit about courage. It has the ring of a reasonably good quality, something of a compliment assigned to those who demonstrate other good qualities like perseverance and conviction while in the face of danger. Danger of what, who's to say; A gorilla attack or eating pavement at 100 mph; Taking a mortar shell to the face or landing on your keys. This is a quality than can be synonymous with stupidity, as even the retarded can courageously pick fights with moving buses or brave an assault on a hive of bees. Regardless, it is acceptable to be lauded when aiding in the preservation of the law, saving a life, holding a fort or taking a front line: All acceptable.

Enter: "Olivia". A fourteen year-old girl from the Greater Vancouver district of Delta. Two days ago, listening to the CBC News, a headline from describing her heroing tale:

"A teenage girl is being honoured for her bravery today by Delta Police for foiling a burglary in her home on 53rd avenue. A man knocked on her door at about 9 pm last night. Olivia, who's last name cannot be released given her age, was not expecting anyone so she grabbed a phone, went upstairs and hid in a closet, where she dialed 911 and waited for police to arrive as the intruder began to riffle through the home for valuables..."

Submitted for your approval, this startling newscast, paying close attention to the last 20 second of video.

Delta Police spokesperson Sharlene Brooks said "Olivia" displayed the police department's core values of honour, integrity, courage and trust. Let's break down these core values as according to the OED.

1. honesty, fairness, or integrity in one's beliefs and actions: a man of honor.
2. a source of credit or distinction: to be an honor to one's family.

This is alright, since she is being honoured for her 8 minute Anne Frank shtick and it looks as though the definition of this value also includes...

1. adherence to moral and ethical principles; soundness of moral character; honesty.
2. the state of being whole, entire, or undiminished: to preserve the integrity of the empire.

From this we conclude that Olivia is a moral, ethical and trustworthy 14 year old girl. One might think that this virtue was not adequately demonstrated in this scenario but may I suggest: Trustworthy, perhaps, if the Delta Police's maxim is to trust people to call them when their homes are being burglarized.

1. the quality of mind or spirit that enables a person to face difficulty, danger, pain, etc., without fear; bravery.
2. have the courage of one's convictions, to act in accordance with one's beliefs, esp. in spite of criticism.

But wait, Delta Police spokes-yenta had this to say, "And on Friday night, Olivia demonstrated courage as we define it as challenging oneself to overcome adversity, and trust." It would seem that police have the power, not only to apply interpretation the law but to English, as well. It looks as though they snuck "trust" in there so, as demonstrated in the "Integrity" heading, Olivia qualifies, coming in just under the wire. Leading us to our final core value...

1. reliance on the integrity, strength, ability, surety, etc., of a person or thing; confidence.
2. confident expectation of something; hope.

We have a winner and and a Vancouver Police force has a hero. All the while the elephant in the room being slain, vacu-packed and frozen. Despite the fact that hiding in a closet is not a display of bravery, this continues to be an ongoing social embaressment. This case, in particular seems to be running on the assumption that police are good people.

May I submit a thesis under consideration for a future article: Police are not good people.

I'm sure all this bombastic critisism of society's terminology abuse may seem fairly pretentious but one can't help but thinking, it's just plain ignorant.

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