The Ball Bearing Analogy

In a day and age where delineated beliefs and staggered factions have led to the sanctification of diversity, diversity itself may prove to be a veritable cause for concern. Both adversity and diversity inspire integrity in the hearts of people, but that is only a distinction with a difference – in the face of adversity, people become united to liberate themselves; in the face of diversity, people are united in an apocryphal attempt to portray a unison while the pride taken in “being different” unmistakably shines through.

Being different is not always a good thing: if you believe you have the onus of having to preserve, if preservation it is, the substance of what you believe in and espouse, then do it. If you are convinced that the principles that strung up your bildungsroman are endangered, then do it. But do not let such an encouragement blind you to its repercussions, for they are few but sagacious.

Where and how can this unification begin? As for the “where” conjecture, a good answer as well as one that might sound sarcastic owing to how difficult it would be to bring about is our language. Imagine a world with a unified language – that immediately erases most borders if not all; all the belligerence conceived from a linguistic superiority is diluted in its unimportance and irrelevance as we all will become aware that we derive our strengths from who we are and not who all we are.

Although I may concede that the multitude of languages being used to communicate are testimonies to hundreds and hundreds of years of survival in a world that is composed of others just like us, although it may speak of the spirit of endurance, the continued existence of more than one way communicate poses its problems in a way with which the phrase “more than meets the eye” could be used.

The problems and the issues around us will persevere and refuse to abate for a long time to come. Their defeat, or our victory for that matter, does not seem to be presentable as much of an incentive since the devastation that has already been caused through repeated clashes has bled us dry. You may speak of compassion, you may speak of caring, you may even speak of relief, but as the attrition is prolonged and the sparks of hatred burn into the walls we have erected around ourselves, such things lose their meaning. Our dreams have evolved as well as devolved from visions of a world that has received charitous reprieve to a world where each man has more bullets in his gun than the next. In such a scenario, everyone deserves equal incentives when there are going to be equal penalties.

Remove a variable from the equation. Make it less chaotic and more deterministic. Software programmers and IT houses from around the world aspire for one powerful and unified programming language because, then, it would become easier to adapt as well as debug – when we can identify such concerns in otherworldly matters, why is it so hard to sublunarize the context?

At this point, I’d like to call your attention to the Interlingua. Here is an excerpt from an article written by Stanley Mulaik, President of the American Society for Interlingua.

The idea of Interlingua is that its vocabulary is not an invention but an objective extraction and standardization of the international vocabulary in the major European languages. English, French, Italian, and Spanish/Portugese were initially chosen as sources for international words because these languages are major centers of radiation and absorption of words to and from other languages and are extensively involved in economic, scientific and cultural exchange between nations in the world. German and Russian were later added as alternative sources.

One of the reasons I am beginning to appreciate this initiative is that it is one. As much as I can rant on about the beauty of my native language – Tamil – it is not an easily spoken one and, being one of the oldest in the world, my “people”, if that is the word, have become violently possessive of the right to speak it – some deem that one must be particularly qualified to utter words in it. If such an initiative had been taken in the vicinity of such a culture, it would have been squashed and wrung dry by a socio-political stampede. If a widely-sponsored project had been proposed, invaluable time would have been lost in trying to answer just one question: “Why not my language?!”

Pardon me for the analogy I am going to draw here, but look at the image of the ball bearings below.

Ball bearings and the lingua franca

We are the bearings – the silently rolling mechanical lubricants between the inner rim that is the culture we so strive to preserve and the outer rim which is the face of the changing world. Let the culture and all that we want to preserve stay preserved, let there be no conflict between who we were and who we are. Let us learn to draw the line between what shaped us and what is shaping us. What is there today around us is not a matter of endangerment – a language singular in its being and plural in its regionalism does not need preservation or veneration of any sort.

There were 1.65 billion people on this planet in the year 1900; Wikipedia claims there were between 5,000 and 10,000 languages, and that is without counting the number of languages that had been atrophied from their root cultures. In the year 2008, there were 6.69 billion people fooling around with the same number of languages – what does it mean? It means that we are still functioning as primitive tribes today, clinging on to our antediluvian sociological constructs while selfishly ignoring our burgeoning numbers and, more importantly, changing goals. We are still subliminally guided, or misguided for that matter, by the demands of our ancestors.

The things that we seek to preserve must only remain in that zone of reverence, and are not to be drawn out like a double-edged sword every single time we have a losing argument. If you found a rare urn from the age of the Pharaohs of Egypt, would you flaunt your luck by using it as a flower vase when a rich “friend” comes over? Let Tamil stay in the sacred shelf. It is the time for Interlingua, and English with it.

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