Thursday, August 12, 2010

Αμερικανός






















The "matrix" of America is a mental prison. One of its many walls is that our schools don't start teaching us foreign languages when we're young, nor are they properly taught when we finally get the opportunity to learn them. Thus from an early age we're deprived of exposure to other ways of thinking and the insights of other cultures older than our own. I don't think this is a coincidence. I believe this ignorance flows into the halls of power, oozing like toxic waste into the rivers of diplomacy and foreign policy. Instead of striving to understand others, we bomb them, and that's why America is an inferior country to those that have long ago learned to exist beyond their former states of constant warfare. Our "policeman of the world" arrogance infuriates me. The light of liberty we claim to bask in is obscured by our own long shadow of blood, money, and deception. Too blind to communicate, we intimidate. Sorry, polyglots. Our heroes carry guns, not dictionaries. That's the American Way.

The more I read about the history of other countries in the modern era, the more I find that the United States government has been meddling in their affairs from the beginning, undermining their stability, exploiting their populations, and overthrowing their own democratically elected leaders. The whole world knows it and so do I. It makes me sick, and I won't stand for it. My patriotism is to liberty and equality, not hypocrisy. As I see it, the way to break out is to learn another language so you can leave and prosper elsewhere, preferably in a country that actually practices peace. That's what I want to do. Despite the appearance that corporate rule has nearly engulfed the entire planet, I'm pressing forward. 

One of my recent break-throughs in studying Greek is that while Rosetta Stone is decent and has lots of vocabulary, Pimsleur actually gets you conversing right away. After eight lessons of Rosetta Stone, I've learned how to say lots of things, but they lack immediacy and practical purpose. Knowing that "the car is red," "a bird is flying," or "boys jump into a swimming pool" is great, but how is that going to help me when I step off the plane in Athina?

After my first Pimsleur lesson (a free download available from their website) I could understand "Excuse me, Sir/Miss, do you understand English?" along with "Yes, No, I do, I don't," and so on. This required no books, no writing, no pointing at pictures of dogs and saying "skilos," just 30 minutes of listening and being treated as if I were in an actual conversation with someone. It's not hard because it's taught in the right way and it's stuff that's pertinent to what you actually need. The next morning I had no trouble recalling what I learned, so went ahead and bought the entire program, whose arrival I'm eagerly awaiting.

Rosetta Stone has its merits, and I will continue to learn from it, but the way it's structured is a bit wacky. Last year I put in nearly two solid months on it in Spanish, but still felt like an idiot trying to converse with natives. For all I had learned, I still couldn't put it together to form sentences someone might actually want to hear. I blamed myself and quit, not having realized what I do now. I mean, imagine a foreigner coming up to you for the first time and saying "Man, woman, ball, cat." That's basically the first "lesson" of Rosetta Stone. Great, but how are you supposed to respond? "Yeah bro, cool. Boy, girl, cube, dog." In contrast, by the end of my first Pimsleur lesson I could confidently say in Greek, "I understand a little Greek," and it felt great because at that point it had become something true, and of practical value.

If we want to become better Americans, more of us should learn a language from one of the countries whose people came here to make this place, not simply settle for the language of our former oppressor. There's a lot less incentive to kill someone once you get to know him. The flip side is that it's easier to defend yourself against an enemy when you know how he thinks. I'm sick of "shock and awe." It's time for "listen and learn." No language is morally superior to any other, but English is just seeming more and more like the language of corporate oppression, American hegemony, and the gibberish of a failing empire. The Greek empire failed long ago, but the Hellenic Republic still stands, patiently waiting for my feet to find its shores. To know the future, we must know the past. If America is destined to die, then fuck it, I'm going back to the cradle of democracy to bury the baby.

I've always wanted to be bi-lingual, go somewhere else and live another life. I've always had a thing for languages, but could never understand the barrier to learning them. The method is important, as is the subject matter, in that the former must work and the latter must be useful. My motivation is driven by the need to stab through the myopic bubble of stupidity and ignorance that encapsulates me. I want at least one respectable intellectual achievement before I die, and I want to put it to good use.

My Dad always said, "Get an education." It was good advice, but not very specific to my needs. What he meant by it was "Go to college," but since it sounded more like a threat, i.e., "Do it or else," I resisted out of spite. Since high-school held so little meaning for me, I couldn't stomach the thought of four more empty years, living at home enduring people I had come to hate. I didn't realize that my education was something I had to find on my own and go experience for myself. My whole life up to this point has been a discovery, so I don't really see how I'm any less "educated" than anyone else. But I don't want just any education, or a life lived by default. I want one that serves my purposes. I want to snap the monolingual chains of my indoctrination and go someplace else, both mentally and physically. It's either that or stay trapped in America, living a fantasy of fake freedom forever.