Uwe Pörksen has a term for words like sexuality, development, management, economics, enlightenment, information: ‘plastic words’. Plastic words are words that have become supremely abstract though being stripped from their original context or meaning.
Plastic words have a ubiquitous power and a kind of durability—like those ‘garbage bags that time cannot decay’ to quote Leonard Cohen. They are hypnotic; they corral humanity in a narrow bandwidth of perception, create a hidden empire of amnesia, reduce our speech into appendages and apps for a virtual humanity. Plastic words are like satellites hovering over our world, their meaning so distant that they casting no shadows.
The power of plastic words is in their obscurity. For instance, torture is called ‘enhanced interrogation’, human beings are managed as ‘resources’. Real violence is hidden under an aura of expertise and authority in the giddy jouissance of news-feed word orgies.
When when we ‘text’ rather than speak — we risk losing the timber and depth and expressiveness of the human voice. Seduced by plastic keywords we be become post-human information machines in positions of penultimate pornography, human battery fuel for the advertising industry matrix creating a consumable toxic noise. Is this the sign of the apocalypse? — that language is reduced to ‘tweet‘-like hyperbole.
Language, however, still has the possibility of being pristine — but first it must have a soul. Words can also reveal part of the world by pointing to something rooted and real, rather than an abstraction. Did you know that the Japanese have a words for ‘early spring rain’? Such beautiful exactitude reveals part of the world by naming, locates us in space, intimacy, and mystery — in objective reality.
Are you looking for a revolution? Find the living language, ever-bubbling up from a pure dawn. It is entirely available, it is the language of amorous revealing, it is diamondtine. Find that language and you will overturn the powers of the world.
Written after listening to David Cayley’s wonderful podcast: http://www.davidcayley.com/podcasts/2017/2/18/plastic-words