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Vaping is so 2014. Welcome to the world of post-truth

WHAT’S THE GOOD WORD?

What’s the good word?
By Shanta Gokhale

Vaping is so 2014. Welcome to the world of post-truth.

Exactly two days after Oxford Dictionaries announced posttruth as the word of the year 2016, the truth of the word hit me hard and true in my left ear. That’s the ear I put my telephone to. A dear old school friend who lives in Pune had called for help with a Marathi sentence her granddaughter was struggling to understand. Once that was out of the way, I asked, deeply concerned, “Do you have cash? Have you been standing long hours in queues?”

“What queues?”
“In front of your bank?”
“There are no queues.”
“Really?”
“Straggly little things. God knows where these newspaper photographers get those pictures from!”

BOING! The post-truth world had struck.

What a clever coinage post-truth is — brief, brisk, yet resonant with profound cultural and political, if not philosophical significance. I can already see it, sitting proudly erect in high-ceilinged seminar halls, shoulder-to-shoulder with venerable constructions like post-colonial and postmodern. That kind of word is made to endure. While telling us the truth about the present, it predicts a more than likely future. Other words of the year have not occupied time and space so expansively. They have barely been with us before they are gone. The 2014 word vape — what was that? More than half the world had never vaped; but, like it or not, more than half the world has been knowingly or unknowingly living in a post-truth world for years. Post-truth is big. With truth knocked out for the count by preening, self-indulgent emotion, you can’t be sure when it is going to get a look-in again.

Clair Fox, author of the freedomof-expression book I Find That Offensive! takes on what she sees as the pretensions of post-truthers in a hardhitting Spectator article. Dressed figuratively speaking, in stretchable chaddis, calf-length boots and a semi chest plate emblazoned with a stout red plebeian heart, she delivers this ultimate knock-out punch: “Perhaps it’s the international pro-truth brigade which is truly the ill-informed and irrational party — at least in relation to the lived experience and aspirations of millions of people across the globe. You don’t have to be a relativist to recognise that truths are contingent on different perspectives. The fact that so many experts so easily disregard the true views of the masses, I would argue, means they ought to stop poring over the evidence — and get out more.”

Truth has retired bleeding, recognising that it was never absolute, only relative. My friend on the phone didn’t see the winding queues at banks. She saw a media conspiracy in their place. That’s her truth. Who dares argue with it? And if her eyes are on the side of post-truth, can her aesthetics be far behind? What will she say about the 2000 rupee note which is dyed in arguably the most revolting colour ever thought up for currency — violent mauve? Our neighbourhood car- washer remarked drily, “I want to spend it as fast as I can just to get rid of it.” But my friend from Pune possibly looks upon this same piece of paper with admiring incredulity, saying, “What a piece of work is this note, how uncorrupt in character, how divine in colour, in patriotism how like the god that made it!”

The good news is, post-truth is democratic, as unarguably proved by the majorities that Brexiteers on one side of the Atlantic and Trumpeteers on the other have won. Pro-truthers must now rest on the sidelines, wearing expressions like last year’s emoji. Oxford Dictionaries defined emoji as a grinning face shedding tears of joy. But in a world of many truths, the following is my interpretation:

1) Tears, emotionally neutral, are salt water, whether shed in sorrow, joy, anger or boredom.

2) Notes, morally neutral, are paper currency whether they go straight to the tax man or oil their way under tables into greasy palms.

3) So, in 2016, the emoji’s happy grin is for the triumph of democracy and its bitter tears for the defeat of truth.

This emoji is my consolation gift to anti-Brexiteers and anti-Trumpeteers. I also have a gift for the people of our post-demonetisation country. Let us go back briefly to the Oxford Dictionaries’ word of the year for 2012: omnishambles. The lexicographers who chose it defined it as “a situation that has been comprehensively mismanaged and characterised by a string of blunders and miscalculations.” Besides being sharply relevant to us, the noun also has great grammatical flexibility. Verb: omnishamblise. Adjective: omnishamblic. Adverb: omnishamblically. Take your pick. http://mumbaimirror.indiatimes.com/columns/columnists/shanta-gokhale/Whats-the-good-word/articleshow/55588290.cms

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Comment (1)

  1. K SHESHU BABU

    The relevance of the word is becoming more and more as situations are getting worse. The dictionary word may find itself among the most used word in future.

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