Morning workouts bring cracked dust trails and seldom used railroad tracks. The California Sun is nowhere near as hot as the one over the New Mexico desert where I roamed aged 12. Yet, it’s just hot enough to peel back layers of memories revealing the most pleasant sensations of my early rides to the college where I’d double-booked classes only to capture lab time with the mainframe. What’s missing now are the oil pits, wind-blown plumes of invisible petroleum stink, and the web of caliche roads which seem to hold the Llano Estacado to Earth. In boiling heat I plotted back country pumpjack routes ending near the southwest quadrant of the road circumscribing NMJC. Summer weekdays I made the trip on an old ten-speed carving frustrating ruts when the hardpan failed. I suppose I was motivated by the same obsession I see in my own children today: Machine time. Still, I see no similar adventure in their own lives–solo quests over treacherous lands–and it saddens me. And today, every small avoidance on my trail run triggers instincts to instruct them as to what to watch for, what to avoid, the geology, and the observation of the toil of others, but my children aren’t there. Their absence begs the question: What have we wrought? A question repeating in my mind, but the words are not my own. While science and society progresses, we haven’t made any significant strides in our own nature. We’re still viciously vying for wants; corruption has no obvious face, and it is everywhere; the workplace is just a facade behind which hides a nature no different from ranchborne butchery; and cooled offices and retina displays have only changed the face of our routines. Beneath the thin veneer of our professions exists the same grunting club armed primate waiting to bash in your head for a few corporate kudos. How to prepare them?
after gathering surface samples Officer Jolene Manipulates the transnoumenal plasma plotting our course to next star system–altering reality with the touch of a small, sensitive hand.
Recent US Supreme Court news has focused on DOMA; however, there’s another case which intrigues me more: Salinas v Texas. Here’s the holding:
When petitioner had not yet been placed in custody or received Miranda warnings, and voluntarily responded to some questions by police about a murder, the prosecution’s use of his silence in response to another question as evidence of his guilty at trial did not violate the Fifth Amendment because petitioner failed to expressly invoke his privilege not to incriminate himself in response to the officer’s question.
Specifically, police informally asked questions to a suspect; pre-Miranda; suspect answered most; when presented with a question that might incriminate him, he remained silent. His silent pause was used against him in court as evidence of his guilt.
Language–the means, mode, and act of communication, syntax and grammar, verbal or otherwise–is on stage here. Before this year, I’d never attempted a critical, circumspect investigation into language and its role in forming society and, more important, reality. In my pursuit of tying specific words to concepts as I understand them (something most important to me over the past two years), I’ve learned to appreciate the role language plays in all things human. I’ve found many discrepancies in my notions of definition and meaning by practicing pause when considering important values I hold. For example, I value integrity as a defining characteristic. I often shape my world-view around what I would do in a particular situation to maximize a positive outcome for myself and for all. But, what does integrity mean to another person? This is a problem. Since I’m not The Other, there’s no way for me to ever, ever know we absolutely agree on, well, anything at all.
In work, language and the act of communicating is perilous. We’re constantly misinterpreting. Text messages, chats, and emails amplify the problem. I’ve heard: “I messaged So-and-So over thirty minutes ago, why haven’t they responded? Did I make them angry somehow?” Silence can be scary, and it’s never clear what it means. This court case and outcome I find astounding because no reasonable way to interpret the silence of Salinas. In this case, a man’s life was at stake.
More troubling is that the existence of rights is tied to an act of language. Our Supreme Court confirmed Salinas should have exercised his right, and only then would his silence be inadmissible. With the conjuring of a right by his use of language it would have created the reality keeping him out of jail. Yet Salinas’ silence was instead used as a determining factor of his guilt. All this time I’ve acted as if rights are intrinsic. You have them, or you don’t. No magic spells required. I’ve obviously misunderstood Miranda as a safety net for the uninformed: The police must tell you your rights just to make sure you know them so they can’t coerce you to incriminate yourself. Instead, you do not have the right to remain silent without incriminating yourself until the police have informed you of your rights and you have used a form of language to exercise those rights. I believe this is a mistake and a marked indicator of our flawed society.
This issue indicates the power and provides clear evidence of the important role language plays in defining what and who we are. Every day I talk to dozens of people, and many of those conversations happen in a closed room, in a one-on-one setting as it’s part of my job. I listen, and I do whatever I can to help them, even if it is trivial. After countless hours of conversations with hundreds in this setting, I’ve become exceptionally aware, I believe, of the Otherness of the person in the room. I routinely and clearly see the barriers to communication: Distance, hesitation, fear, doubt, distrust, confusion, cultural issues, and just plain frustration in trying to convey an idea. You see the patterns enough, they become obvious. Today, it’s difficult to avoid acute self-awareness during these conversations. I’m constantly reminded there’s another person in the room with their own world-view, their own values, their own concerns, and it’s all wrapped in the period of time they’ve existed. Now, once at the front of my thoughts, the mechanics of identifying and addressing the concerns of the Other become automatic.
I think this takes a huge amount of practice, and I suspect most people never have such an opportunity. I think I’m probably lucky to be in this position; however, I can’t overstate how difficult it can be to always reach a positive outcome–and maintain that integrity I value. Language deficiencies leave room for misinterpretations that may prohibit outcomes perceived as my maintaining integrity, no matter what I do.
The United Nations Commission on Human Rights, considers the recanting of a person’s religion a human right legally protected by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights:
The Committee observes that the freedom to ‘have or to adopt’ a religion or belief necessarily entails the freedom to choose a religion or belief, including the right to replace one’s current religion or belief with another or to adopt atheistic views […] Article 18.2 bars coercion that would impair the right to have or adopt a religion or belief, including the use of threat of physical force or penal sanctions to compel believers or non-believers to adhere to their religious beliefs and congregations, to recant their religion or belief or to convert.
In some countries apostasy from the religion supported by the state is explicitly forbidden. This is largely the case in some states where Islam is the state religion; conversion to Islam is encouraged, conversion from Islam penalised.
- Iran – illegal (death penalty)
- Egypt – illegal (3 years’ imprisonment)
- Pakistan – illegal (death penalty since 2007)
- United Arab Emirates – illegal (3 years’ imprisonment, flogging)
- Somalia – illegal (death penalty)
- Afghanistan – illegal (death penalty, although the U.S. and other coalition members have put pressure that has prevented recent executions)
- Saudi Arabia – illegal (death penalty, although there have been no recently reported executions)
- Sudan – illegal (death penalty, although there have only been recent reports of torture, and not of execution)
- Qatar – illegal (death penalty)
- Yemen – illegal (death penalty)
- Malaysia – illegal in five of 13 states (fine, imprisonment, and flogging)
- Mauritania – illegal (death penalty if still apostate after 3 days)
- Morocco – illegal to proselytise conversion (15 years’ imprisonment)
- Jordan – possibly illegal (fine, jail, child custody loss, marriage annulment) although officials claim otherwise, convictions are recorded for apostasy
- Oman – legal in criminal code, but according to the family code, a father can lose custody of his child
The only way to get out of a mirror-maze is to close your eyes and hold out your hands. To write this allegedly ultimate story is a form of artistic fill in the blank, or an artistic form of the same. [jb, 111]
For the first time in that night alive with signs and stars, I opened myself to the gentle indifference of the world. Finding it so much like myself. [c ts 122-123]
All these creatures spend their time explaining, realizing happily that they agree with each other. In Heaven’s name, why is it so important to think the same things all together? [s n 8] I am beginning to believe that nothing can ever be proved. These are honest hypotheses which take the facts into account but I sense so definitely that they come from me, and that they are simply a way to unify my own knowledge. Slow, lazy, sulky, the facts adapt themselves to the rigor of the order I wish to give them. I have the feeling of doing a work of pure imagination. [s n 13]