Friday, 6 February 2009

Logic as a 2nd Language: Part II

You really must take a look at this post by Matthew Syed in The Guardian. Someone should really tell poor Matthew that tests, like the Implicit Association Test, of instinctive, unconscious reaction should really not be taken more than once, and definitely not with the intention of writing the results up, second time around, to be incorporated in a consciously, all too consciously written op-ed!

More about 'golliwogs'

Matthew promises to prove that use of 'golliwog' is wrong, by adducing as evidence the undeniable truths that ethnic minorities suffer from discrimination, poverty and underachievement. He also adduces the very probable truth that his father was under-promoted at work. However, whilst all these things are true, they don't add up to any kind of case against that word in particular.

This isn't something that can sustain any more argument; the simple truth is that some people will never accept symmetry between the word used by Ron Atkinson and the word 'golliwog'; some people will; and some, predominantly older people, will not see any particularly great problem with either. Lots of different groups, each with different opinions. Quot and tot, as a Roman might have said.

Legislation for the nation!

The legitimate question is how we should legislate or act in such a divided society. My own view, for what it's worth, is that a community-of-meaning which happens to enjoy the power to enforce its own views about language with sackings or pieces of legislation, ought to realise the essentially arbitrary and very probably transient nature of its own supremacy and act with equanimity. We should all be able to exercise a wide degree of freedom in our choice of language. There is a legitimate place for laws against discrimination, but the bar for sanction simply must be higher than the one-off use of a contested word without apparent malicious intent.

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