Plastic waste

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Espace spirituel anglophone

dimanche 4 février à 8h45

Durée émission : 10 min

Espace spirituel anglophone

An urgent environmental problem exists in everyday conversation today...

So, yes, well, like today I want to speak to you about plastic waste, if you know what I mean.
I mean, not actual waste, that would be well, like, like I don’t know what (do I have to actually make a comparison at this point – is  that what you are expecting when someone says - well, like, like?)
No, of course I’m not talking about plastic, not as such. No way. I’m talking about the way so many people are tongue tied when they have to speak in public, and so their conversation goes into holding mode, it becomes littered up with words and phrases that purposely interrupt the flow; you know, they hold things in suspense while they try to think of two words to put together in order to actually communicate an idea.
Talk about cat got your tongue...

So, SO. Everything begins with a So in this world of non-communication, and it usually ends with one, too, when the ideas run out altogether and all one can come up with is ... “So, yeah”. So implies that you have already explained almost everything without uttering a word; as if the background information was already held in common and you are developing a train of thought that was already shared. Why are we supposed to know, or indeed care? And, in any case, to know what? When you are asked a question, a very simple question like “what do you do, John?” is it really necessary to begin, “So, I’m actually into my music a bit” – as though there is a hidden password which we ought to know, enabling us to decode what John is talking about. And it gets worse: “I’m actually into my music-a-bit?” – that raised tone at the end of the sentence, the Australian question mark I call it, it’s another way of spicing up the conversation without actually adding any content. Intonation makes the world sound interesting – even if it isn’t really. Why on earth does there have to be a question mark at all? And anyway, how is it YOUR music? Can’t you bear to share it, your eclectic taste? Is it so specialised, that we’ll never get it?

Can you see where this is going? What I’m complaining about isn’t verbal diarrhoea: it’s the exact opposite! This conversational detritus is actually blocking up perfectly ordinary exchange of ideas. Especially ideas, never mind the abuse of our beautiful English language. Who reads books these days when you can exchange tweets? The very structure of communication is under threat. Once there was a time when Er and Um were the only permitted interruptions to spoken discussion. They were inevitable perhaps, especially if the conversation went into unfamiliar territory. But they didn’t actually pervert the course of the argument, the way So and Like do. So sends a signal to look back into earlier phases of the discourse - even if they didn’t actually take place. Like sets up an expectation that a comparison is about to be made: “Your eyes shone like diamonds penetrating my soul, like stars lighting up the heavens”. But, we’re too embarrassed to launch into that kind of flowery flight of fancy these days; everything’s got to be bland, uncontroversial, inane. And above all, short. Nowadays, Like is just a holdup while we get to the next image, which turns out not to be a simile but a description of the next situation to be mentioned. Which isn’t like anything different and illuminating, but is just - what happened next.

Plastic waste hides meaning from us, it buries it, perhaps purposely, because we don’t want there to be meaning, we don’t want to face the consequences that the world is full of meaning and indeed, is actually full of discoveries waiting to be made. If we are truly to communicate with one another, to share insight and accept the challenge of picking out the significant, then we have to avoid padding our words with bubble wrap and shiny packaging. Sound bites and catchy tweets only prolong the failure to reach to the depth of meanings in the world around us. And this is more than just a pity; it’s a collective failure to engage. It’s the worst aspect of populist politics. All of us have a duty of authenticity, an obligation to tell things as they are, to take on the complexities of human relations, to cut the crap.  -  Know what I mean?

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