Berlin, 2009

Berlin, 2009
We want more voices, thoughts and languages!

Friday, January 23, 2009

Work in progress, intro. part 1

"How must democracy be undemocratic?"
In the best of the possible worlds, there was once upon a time: a democracy. It literally means: government of the people, i.e. people govern. Although none is directly people, many can be one of them. The word to designate that entity which is named “people” in English has got equivalents in other languages: il popolo, le peuple, das Volk, die Leute, el pueblo, Народ… The question about who can be one of the people is not tautological, since there are and have always been exceptions. It is not enough to be one in order to be one of the people, rather there are many criteria of selection, so for example, just to mention those likely to be most relevant: one must belong to one or at most two peoples in order to be one of the people. It goes with it that then there are beings, who do not respect this exclusiveness of belonging, that do not belong to any people. To belong to more than two peoples means not to belong to any of them. So the first demand people require is respect for a principle of exclusiveness. I will not concentrate on the case of double citizenship, the phenomenon which justifies the belonging to two different peoples, and which involves special agreements between nations yet, rather here I will focus only on the one-people-belonging, i.e. people-belonging.
There are adjectives strong enough to become firstly nouns. So for example, there are people who are tall. There are people who are fat. Yet this does not make of them principally “the talls” or “the fats.” But there are people that are gay. There are people who are criminal. There are people who are mad. And this is often enough to make of them “gays,” “criminals” and “madmen.” As there are people who are black, and that makes “blacks” of them. Then there are people who are disabled, and they are “the disabled.” There are blonde [women], and there are “blondes”, and then “brunettes.” The line between a word being mainly an adjective or mainly a noun is weak. But certainly there is a time for every society in which some adjectives become strongly nouns and they stop designating the plurality of the individual in order to determine him or her as one of a people. Nationality determinations belong to such second way of designation. If in many languages the use of capital letters marks a difference, like for example the Italian “francese” and “Francese” (“he is francese” and “he is a Francese”), the English capitalization of the adjective makes it clear that the adjective works as strongly as a noun: “he is French.” Often the adjective has got a noun variant, like “Jewish” and “Jew.” In different historical times and in different places, people decide who, inside themselves, are not belonging to them as people, since these people belong also to another sort of people: for example “the gays,” “the criminals,” “the madmen.” Other nouns to define people are the ones relative to gender, age, skin color and health conditions. Some have already been mentioned. So we have got men and women, a young guy is a youth, for old age instead there is only “elderly people” in English, but we have got “sick” that can easily become: “a patient.” Being drug-addicted, one becomes immediately a drug-addict. Examples are endless.
The difference between meeting a gay and a tall person in the street is the same which lies between determining one as such (as a gay) and qualifying and pluralizing one (as someone that is tall); it is the same difference between chaining someone as one of a people (the gay population: the population of gays), and pluralizing the spectrum of variants one can represent: being tall and short, skinny and beautiful, and beautifully fat. There is a time in which the oscillation between being gay and being a gay is so heavily pounding on the side of the noun that a gay can even be considered belonging to another people (the gays), so not respecting the first criteria for “being one of the people” that is “being one of only one people,” fidelity to the people, and therefore be excluded from people.
There is a time in which the oscillation between being gay and being a gay is so heavily pounding on the side of the noun that a person can be considered to belong to the gays, at the exclusion of being one of the people. So not respecting the first criteria for “being one of the people” that is “being one of only one people,” fidelity to the people, can mean an expulsion from humanity in the sense of intelligibility and human rights.

There are times of alliances, in which prejudices are confined and do not mouth into the most ferocious denial of rights: as it is the case today in many parts of the world, where, to remain with our example: gays cannot get married but at least are not burned with fennel to make the smell of flesh more bearable. These might be considered inter-people alliances (like it is the case with different nations sometimes) between people and the population of gays; they find some sort of arrangement.
The making of nouns came parallel with the making of Americans, and the Christians, and so on. Religious designations are other examples of the strength with which an adjective meant to pluralize ends up determining someone as such. Also children do not vote, and here age comes into play to determine what we see when we look at someone, because there is a big difference between seeing a youth and a young person, between seeing a gay and someone who is gay, there is that above mentioned difference: the same which makes it sound weird “seeing a tall” but common “seeing a gay”.
Then there are mothers, and brothers, players, engineers, prostitutes, husbands, readers. Social relations and jobs, activities and entertainments are other areas for other examples of nouns which determine someone as such. “Driver,” “audience.” Different historical times and different places not only create new words but also determine when an adjective becomes mainly a noun: so one can suppose that “doorkeeper” had not had any meaning before the action of opening the door became routinised in the figure of the one who repetitively does that gesture. The description of an action becomes instituted in the noun which determines the one who acts. A dustman is someone who dusts, and yet there have always been people who dusted. At one point the action of dusting becomes determining in the subject who acts. This might happen because of the specialization of work, or for many thousands of other reasons. In any case an incidence of factors come together to determine whom we see when we see someone. So for example, the way we see a gay in the street, we might also see a dustman. Before there were peasants, now pickers. The one who picked fruit (and “picking” was a pluralizing description of a person’s activity) becomes a fruit-picker. Consequently one might understand that at any moment fruit-pickers and dustmen might be considered belonging to some other sort of people, like workers or the population of the exploited and have not any right to vote any longer. So it might have been the case when there were dukes, barons and peasants.
Then we have mentioned mothers and brothers, we might add children, then we have the swear words like “idiot,” “dickhead,” “bastard,” “coward” and so on. One who is idiotic easily becomes an idiot. As far as familiar or social relations are concerned there are endless numbers of words: “friend,” “neighbor,” “acquaintance”… Following our exampliologic (this word must be used) procedure, we might consider for example the weight of the noun “mother,” which describes the status of someone who had previously already been determined as “a woman,” on the person who is so designated or potentially so designated. Feminist critiques pointed out that “mothers” are people as well, and if they have never been excluded from voting because of their being mothers as such, nonetheless their belonging to the people of the mothers precluded them from social participation. If we consider the noun “child” we immediately realize how intimately it determines the person it designates, so that for example we cannot imagine to substitute it with any other expression, unless we use some redundant formulation like “a really young person.” Children also do not vote. As we meet a gay in the street, in the same way we meet a child.
I did not pretend having written more than a random list of examples; I tried to archive them as best I could, just for the pleasure of reading in them some sort of order, but it does not want to have any pseudo scientific basis: it just aimed to a narrative outline. However, as we read and rethought the obliqueness, prevalence and significance of the multiplicity hidden behind the name of democracy worldwide, we decided to join in expanding the discussion disarticulating “democracy” in all its names, all of them given to what was originally supposed to be democratic with practico-theoretical considerations.


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