Pink Floyd and Pronouns

Some Scribbles Concerning “Us and Them”

It’s a pleasant afternoon out here in the Midwest with a glass of bourbon and The Dark Side of the Moon playing. Pink Floyd’s “Us and Them” is a sincere and understated piece concerning war. One of the aspects of the song that always resonates with me is the subtle use of pronouns to dehumanize one’s enemy (I could also go on about the use of prepositions but that’s a topic for another time). “Us and Them” shows us how easy it is to unperson those we don’t like, or those we are told not to like.

The Dark Side of the Moon

The line “…It’s a battle of words?” shows the audience that pronouns are used to dehumanize and unify. By using words such as us, them, you, and me it is easy to dehumanize the opposition, and these same words are used to create unity, a collective spirit, for those on the other side. Propaganda runs deep through the song showing it’s easy (too easy, so easy it’s kind of scary) to convince people to march and die at the whims of generals or for anybody who holds a position of power or importance.

The talking heads on the news (I use term news with serious reservations) and other various media outlets revel in throwing around labels and pronouns these days. Before you step inside to chat with the man with the gun, ask yourself who they are and who you are (more importantly who you want to be and do they want you to be somebody different)?

-K-

The Dark Side of the Moon (1973) by Pink Floyd.

Emotional Exile

Slighted, Snubbed, and Shunned

Have you ever been at a table with friends at the local pub or chatting online and they talk over or around you as if you weren’t there? Have you ever had the feeling of being slighted, snubbed, or shunned? I read somewhere (a long time ago so I don’t remember the source) that the smallest minority is one person and that’s why individual rights are so important. Many people seem all to willing to unperson/cancel others these days without considering that individuals have rights (even if it is a right to be a fool), but it’s truly sad when unpsersoning occurs among friends.

Being unpersoned doesn’t have to be a public or political affair. It can happen among friends drinking a few pints at the local pub or on one of the many (so damn many) social media sights that crowd the interwebs. Say the wrong thing, make an improper comment, or have an unpopular opinion and you’ll find yourself exiled to drinking alone or watching a conversation scroll along without you. Once unpersoned those who were friends will slight your comments, snub your views, and possibly shun your presence, and this is often done without a thought to individual rights.

“Empty Chicken Shack”

When individuals are quick to turn on friends and willingly unperson/cancel them for comments made or views held it gives one pause to think about how they would treat people they don’t know. Sometimes we should and need to remove a peer from our circle of friends, but before committing somebody to emotional exile maybe we should ask if in doing so are we considering that person’s rights (because we would want the same consideration).

-K-

Orwell and the Unperson

The Importance of the Last Chapter of 1984

Considering unpersoned is the current topic of conversation I’m going to address the source, meaning, and an application of the word. The word unperson appears no fewer than five times in George Orwell’s 1984 and is one of those Orwellian words worth a closer look. It has a particular importance in the last chapter of the novel.

An unperson is a nonperson, a person who has no rights, and a person publicly ignored (especially by the government and media). In extreme cases an unperson is an individual Big Brother executes and erases all traces of his/her existence. Now, if you haven’t read 1984 you will want to stop now and hopefully come back after you finish the novel. If you have read the novel, think about Winston at the end of the novel as he whiles away the hours at the Chestnut Tree Café. Winston fits the definition of an unperson. Big Brother has effectively made Winston a nonperson who is entirely reliant on the very government that has destroyed his life. Winston is beholden to Big Brother for his menial government job of no importance, acknowledges that he betrayed Julia after being tortured, and simply moves from one day to the next lost in a drunken fog of Victory Gin. Winston Smith exists but is of no importance, save to possibly serve as a cautionary tale for those who may question the authority of Big Brother.

1984 by George Orwell

The last chapter of 1984 shows the reader the extent of Big Brother’s power. It would have been easy to execute Winston, to make him disappear, and wipe his existence from history. Instead, Big Brother breaks Winston Smith and makes him an unperson. This life of being a nonperson, of being ignored, of being canceled (to use a modern variation) is a much worse fate than death.

-K-

1984 (1949) by George Orwell

First, the books are bowdlerized. Next, the writers are censored. Finally, the readers will be unpersoned.

-K-

Some Thoughts on Unpersoning

There’s Nothing Cultured About It

Cancel culture is not new, but as we stumble along into a new decade it’s as if the threat or fear of being canceled or unpersoned (‘unperson’ is one of those wonderful Orwell words) is more prevalent now than in previous years. Both the concept and the practice of unpersoning/canceling an individual fascinates and terrifies me. Cancel culture is not a cultured practice but it has become a cultural phenomenon that is worth a closer look.

“Out of Town”

-K-

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