Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Global Cryptocurrencies and Language

This overview of cryptocurrencies and decentralization offers additional components of influence into the debate about language and economic policy. In Language Policy & Political Economy (2015) Thomas Ricento argues that “language policy scholars’ lack of sophistication in political economy impacts their ability to critically address the effects of neoliberal economic policies on the status and utility of both global languages, such as English, and non-global languages that could play an important role in local economic and social development in low-income countries. The author addresses three “competing views on the role of English in non-English countries in the world as (1) a form of linguistic imperialism, (2) a vehicle for social and economic mobility, or (3) a global lingua franca necessary for a global demos necessary to achieve global justice” (Ricento 28). He then argues “that the economic dimension of neoliberalism in the world system today and its role and relationships with flows of opportunities that might advance or retard the interests of differently positioned individuals in various contexts, globally, informs all of the[se] positions” (Ricento 33).

I argue that a proper understanding of Ricento’s concerns must include the impact of the distribution of capital across national borders via cryptocurrencies. The reason this is important is that (1) blockchain technologies disintermediate the need for governments “to secure and distribute fairly the liberties and economic resources individuals need to lead freely chosen lives”--communitarianism (“communitarianism”), (2) cryptocurrencies give people with low net worth ability to become share owners of corporations with voting rights at reduced costs, and without intermediaries, and (3) cryptocurrencies allow for the creation of blockchain based economic zones that operate under common law and thereby lessen the need for acquiring a lingua franca or national language. The decentralizing nature of cryptocurrencies and blockchain technologies makes it possible for local communities to secure and distribute fairly without a trusted third party such as a government or central bank. Christine Lagarde, head of the International Monetary Fund seemed to indicate as much “while addressing a conference in London on Friday, [Sept. 29, 2017.] Lagarde said virtual currencies, which are created and exchanged without the involvement of banks or government, could in time be embraced by countries with unstable currencies or weak domestic institutions. ‘In many ways, virtual currencies might just give existing currencies and monetary policy a run for their money’” (Pylas).

To conceptualize the transformations now underway I offer a synopsis of the history and philosophy behind open source software and cryptocurrencies, and the growth rate of cryptocurrencies. Additionally, I include the rhetoric of open source developers promoting the decentralization of the centrally controlled--government sanctioned--monopolies as well as quotes from present banking representatives to show that the war of words is not much different now than during the buildout of the Internet: between open source software developers and Microsoft. And finally, I describe a symbiotic cryptocurrency / blockchain technology counterpart to Ricento’s communitarianism alternative to orthodox neoliberalism and the role of language(s) on social justice (33), namely Startup Societies.

The open source software known as Bitcoin carries with it an often forgotten philosophy defined by Richard Stallman, a visionary and founder of open source software programs. According to the website on September 27, 1983 Stallman wrote, “Starting this Thanksgiving I am going to write a complete Unix-compatible software system called GNU (for Gnu's Not Unix), and give it away free to everyone who can use it.” In a copyrighted article in 1996 Stallman defined Free Software:
Free software” means software that respects users' freedom and community. Roughly, it means that the users have the freedom to run, copy, distribute, study, change and improve the software. Thus, “free software” is a matter of liberty, not price . . . as in freedom . . . We campaign for these freedoms because everyone deserves them. With these freedoms, the users (both individually and collectively) control the program and what it does for them. When users don't control the program, we call it a “nonfree” or “proprietary” program. The nonfree program controls the users, and the developer controls the program; this makes the program an instrument of unjust power. (Stallman)
Stallman’s operating system combined with the Linux kernel developed by Linus Torvald’s open source project became known as Linux. Stallman’s philosophy gave birth to the thousands of open source software projects that quickly developed the Internet into a freely distributing information system. The fact that open source software such as Linux and the Apache Web Server software power Google and Facebook, and the fact that Apple’s operating system comes from an open source version of Unix called FreeBSD verifies the transformative social power of open source software. Again, to quote LaGarde, "’Not so long ago, some experts argued that personal computers would never be adopted, and that tablets would only be used as expensive coffee trays, so I think it may not be wise to dismiss virtual currencies’" (Pylas).

The combination of proprietary corporate interests with open source software historically parallels today’s cryptocurrencies and blockchain technologies. Bitcoin moves Stallman’s philosophy from the free flow of information to the world of finance and implies the free flow of capital. In 2008 a paper published under the pseudonym Satoshi Nakamoto titled “Bitcoin: A Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System” Nakamoto wrote: “What is needed is an electronic payment system based on cryptographic proof instead of trust, allowing any two willing parties to transact directly with each other without the need for a trusted third party” (Nakamoto 1). By the beginning of 2009, the open source Bitcoin network arrived via a posting to a cryptography mailing list by Nakamoto:
Bitcoin v0.1 released
Satoshi Nakamoto Fri, 09 Jan 2009 17:05:49 -0800
Announcing the first release of Bitcoin, a new electronic cash
system that uses a peer-to-peer network to prevent double-spending. It's completely decentralized with no server or central authority. (Nakamoto)
The phrase “completely decentralized with no server or central authority” is the focus of debate between governmental banking systems and the fintech community, and it exists by virtue of Stallman’s philosophy and open source software.

Although various coin or token based payment systems for online gaming predated Bitcoin, by combining open source software with cryptography Bitcoin spread to become the first global digital currency. The blockchain ledger, a type of hacker-proof cryptographic distributed database of transaction record keeping is trustless: it requires no third party such as a bank to verify that currency transactions take place. Although cryptocurrencies do carry a small transaction fee, like open source software they are easily distributed and available. Another parallel to Stallman’s philosophy is that many open source cryptocurrency projects are controlled by democratic voting rights based on the number of coins held. As in the free market, the Neocoin Project refers to their Coins as shares. Therefore, open source cryptocurrencies cannot be used as instruments of “unjust power.” Cryptocurrencies’ rapid acceptance as an investment vehicle and thus their increase in capitalization, results from their trustless quality, low transaction fees and their availability of open source code to other developers.

The growth in cryptocurrencies parallels the growth of the bubble of the late 1990s and until very recently has only entered the regulated and sanctioned domain of the world’s stock markets. According to a paper from the Cambridge University Judge Business School, Centre for Alternative Finance, titled “Global Cryptocurrency Benchmarking Study” by Dr Garrick Hileman & Michel Rauchs (2017), “[t]he total cryptocurrency market capitalisation has increased more than 3x since early 2016, reaching nearly $25 billion in March 2017” (Hileman and Rauchs 16). As of this writing, according to, seven months later in October 2017 the total market capitalization of approximately 1000 different cryptocurrencies stands at $174 billion. Bitcoin grew at a rate of 800% over the last year to a price per coin of $5,787. According to, “in April, [Japan] passed a law recognizing bitcoin as legal tender (Graham). In, Stockholm, Coinshares, a professional cryptocurrency investment company comprises two exchange traded bitcoin notes (COINXBT & COINXBE) and according to
No longer limited to OTC and/or other potentially "shady" exchanges, investors who want direct exposure to [E]ther[eum] [a token carrying contract cryptocurrency] can now trade via a broker platform; Notably, the 2 listed trackers are the only route for European investors to add ether to their portfolio via an established exchange. Today's launch means that the NASDAQ [Stockholm] now has 2 crypto-assets listed, Bitcoin and Ether, making it the only established exchange with multiple crypto-investment vehicles. (Durden)

Although the growth rate appears to mirror the growth of the Internet during the tech boom it is important to distinguish the difference between the growth of technology for the distribution of information and the growth rate of the distribution of capital. Whereas the control over information distribution relates to the ability of corporations and governments to persuade citizens through media and politics to particular and questionable neoliberal narratives of benefit, the distribution of capital is inseparable from the socio-political power structures and treads upon the very foundation of neoliberal policy. What does it mean to imply that neoliberal policies help to provide economic justice in third world nations when the capital from first world nations begins to flow transparently across borders directly into the pockets of third world citizens and for that matter lower and middle class first world citizens? A recent ICO--Initial Coin Offering--of a project called Airswaps announced 85% [of its coins] sold out [to ‘9,447 people from 135 countries’] in the first minute, and the rest [of the ICO] was sold over the course of 15 minutes” (Airswaps). The attention of central bankers who traditionally control the flow of capital now take note of the rapid expansion of cryptocurrency throughout the world.

The dynamic interplay between the forces of governmental corporatism and the forces of the open source community as expressed in each side’s rhetoric enhances innovation of both the Internet and cryptocurrencies by preventing either side from getting the upper hand, and at the same time, allows each side to innovate according to the others’ developments. To quote Ben Bernanke, former Chair of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System in 2015:
[Bitcoin]'s interesting from a technological point of view. We’re in a world where the payments system is evolving quickly and new approaches to managing payments are proliferating, and some of the ideas around bitcoin will no doubt be useful in doing that. But I think bitcoin itself has some serious problems. The first is that it hasn’t shown to be a stable source of value. Its price has been highly volatile and it hasn’t yet established itself as a widely accepted transactions medium. But the real serious problem that it has is it’s anonymity, which is a feature, and is also a bug, in that it has become in some cases a vehicle for illicit transactions, drug selling or terrorist financing or whatever. And you know, governments are not happy to let that activity happen, so I suspect that there will be oversight of transactions done in bitcoin or similar currencies and that will reduce the appeal. (Phillips)
And according to Zerohedge, “Bernanke told an audience at Ripple's Swell event in Toronto today [Oct. 16, 2017] that: ‘. . . new technology like blockchain or electronic currencies can be used to improve’ global payments, and added that Ripple's technology is ‘promising" as they work with regulators’” (Durden). Ripple, a banking backed cryptocurrency, openly trades on cryptocurrency exchanges along with Bitcoin and others. Bernanke’s rhetoric persuades negatively toward open source cryptocurrency and emphasizes regulation. His rhetoric is similar to when “Microsoft operating system chief Jim Allchin said [in August 2001], ‘Open source is an intellectual-property destroyer. I'm an American, I believe in the American Way. I worry if the government encourages open source, and I don't think we've done enough education of policymakers to understand the threat.’" His statement came at a time when Linux represented Microsoft’s biggest competitor. Of note here is that Microsoft incorporated open source software code into its operating system and Openoffice is an open source version of Microsoft Office.

Within this changing space, cryptocurrencies have the opportunity to influence global language(s). As the debate between those that want to regulate and those that believe in trustless (self-regulating) cryptocurrencies continues Startup Societies implement common law, blockchain technologies, and cryptocurrencies within economic zones. According to Michael Strong, Startup Societies are at the bleeding edge of technology but he envisions a time when “we will see thousands and thousands of governments [within economic zones], and communities, and cultures, and societies, that allow everybody on earth, seven billion, eight billion, nine billion to have an exponentially better quality of life.” Strong goes on to explain that “zones result in greater economic liberalization in China, Ireland, to some extent India, Mauritius, and arguably in a number of other countries.” He talks about how Dubai and Abu Dhabi have installed common law systems in economic zones that operate outside of the traditional Sharia legal system, how Honduras allows for common law to operate within economic zones, and how other nations are working to set up common law systems in economic zones. His argument is that bad governments and legal structures are directly responsible for poverty and “keep people unnaturally poor.” He thinks that “we can develop software in terms of [educational] governance and law that can outperform Hong Kong and Singapore.” Strong advocates for blockchain developers and more common law attorneys. Additionally, in support of promoting the power of cryptocurrencies and decentralization, the Startup Societies Foundation highlights decentralizing value, regulation, and energy and commodities via blockchain.

Whether or not Startup Societies or blockchain driven economic zones become an influence on income equality over the next decades, the fact that capital is flowing into cryptocurrencies and blockchain technologies at an ever-increasing rate, both from the top and the bottom of the global social spectrum of people that invest into cryptocurrencies, implies to some extent the decentralization of the role of government, and the lessening of the forces behind learning a lingua franca or national language for upward mobility. Through the process of decentralization--localizing economic prosperity--the need for communitarianism to preserve economically beneficial local language(s) diminishes.

Works Cited
Airswaps. "Airswap Token Launch Report." Airswaps, Accessed 16 Oct. 2017.

communitarianism” Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
Durden, Taylor. “Bernanke Backs 'Ripple' At Blockchain Conference: ".The Tech Is Promising.’"
-. “Ethereum Goes Mainstream: First Ever Ether ETN Launched On Nasdaq
Stockholm.” Zerohedge, 11 Oct. 2017,” Accessed 16 Oct. 2017.
Graham, Luke. “As China cracks down, Japan is fast becoming the powerhouse of the bitcoin
Hileman, Garrick and Michel Rauchs. “Global Cryptocurrency Benchmarking Study.” Accessed 16 Oct. 2017.
Nakamoto, Satoshi. “Bitcoin: A Peer-to-Peer Cash System.”,
Accessed 16 Oct. 2017.
Oct. 2017.

Phillips, Matt. “Ben Bernanke on bubbles, bitcoin, and why he’s not a Republican anymore.” Qz,
anymore. Accessed 16 Oct. 2017.
Pylas, Pan. “IMF chief tells central bankers to not dismiss bitcoin.” USA Today, The Associated Press,
Ricento, Thomas. Language Policy & Political Economy: English in a Global Context. Oxford University Press, 2015.
Stallman, Richard. GNU. Accessed 16 Oct. 2017.
Strong, Michael. “The Rise of Startup Societies.” YouTube, uploaded by Startup Societies, 28 Aug.


Monday, October 9, 2017

Native Speaker by Chang-Rae Lee: A Review by Ray Steding

Native Speaker exposes the psychological function of the persona through descriptive interactions of the narrator's life. The book journeys from the first generation of Henry's non-native English speaking parents, through his native English speaking personal life, to his company that gathers data on multicultural persons of interest as a means to hold them to their personas or accordingly fold their personas from them.
I've often thought that identity seems to be a habit of the mind rather than what a person is; a habit of mind that passes away within two generations or in the case of Henry, his next assignment. People are neither their bodies nor their cultures nor their identities. They are the overall flux of their electrochemical states at any particular time.
To point out what the text does regarding emphasizing culturally specific personas that consist of habits of mind I juxtapose the alcoholic whose habitual actions transcend all cultures and blends individual traits into someone that is common but self-unidentifiable. The alcoholic’s persona deteriorates opposite to that of an idealized cultural habit worn as a mask. Emphasis placed on Henry’s immigrant family highlights the social code of mechanical characteristics of mind common to a cluster of like-minded individuals; all of whom wrap themselves in a collective Korean persona.
Henry de-masks his father’s persona into habits that people take on during their struggle to survive and live a healthy life. By following the flow of capital and the habit of humans to attempt to control it Henry reveals a cross-cultural persona and the real human quality that hides beneath it. As Lacan says, "We can find no promise in altruistic feeling, we who lay bare the aggressiveness that underlies the activities of the philanthropist." About his father, Henry states:
you worked from before sunrise to the dead of night. You were never unkind in your dealings, but then you were not generous. Your family was your life, though you rarely saw them. You kept close handsome sums of cash in small denominations. You were steadily cornering the market in self-pride . . . You considered the only unseen forces to be those of capitalism and the love of Jesus Christ. (47)
In the above paragraph the viewpoint of what one considers themselves as being and how they really are may be seen in its phrases and ideas: “not generous,” the family is “your life,” “cornering the market in self-pride,” and the only consideration being ideals of “capitalism and the love of Jesus Christ.” The paragraph expresses concepts to hold in mind and habits necessary to survive.
Continuing, the narrator depicts his father as having the romantic image of an ideal immigrant: "in his personal lore he would have said that he started with $200 in his pocket and a wife and a baby and just a few words of English . . . he would have offered the classic immigrant story" (49).
And, cultural identity as a means of survival builds stability, collectively reinforcing that image through association with other like-minded individuals: "there was a sense of how lucky they were, to be in America but still, have countrymen near" (52).
And finally, "My father like all successful immigrants before him gently and not so gently exploited his own" (54).
This last statement expresses the falsehood of the ideal of cultural identity through authenticating it as a mask worn for exploitation, the base necessity of surviving is used to exploit the habits of those wearing the culturally identifiable mask.
To me, having worked in machine shops in Brooklyn and Manhattan, and having partied with elites at the Mudd Club, Andy Warhol’s Factory and CBGBs, the book fabricates the way people are by heightening a viewpoint that reduces their humanity into base concepts. In this way, I found the novel a fiction of real human nature and not the way that people genuinely function in multi-racial / cultural societies: it cherry-picks a particularly stereotypical point of view by way of its descriptions when, in reality, people as individuals have only partial access to an objective view of who they are. I also found it excessively descriptive and to have a sentimental, conservative tone. The author takes sets of individuals, human collections, and generalizes them by giving them his imagined masks within geographically located spaces. He then places these specimens into mixing bags of workplace and family to highlight cultural issues through comparative / contrast descriptive review. In other words, it suffered from its synthetic viewpoint in a way that identity politics does--it lacks emphasizing the dynamics of the human mind and instead focuses on habits.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

A Review of a Series of Essays On Comparative Rhetoric Due for This Week

Preface from the screenplay of Being There
President "Bobby": Mr. Gardner, do you agree with Ben, or do you think that we can stimulate growth through temporary incentives? [Long pause]
Chance the Gardener: As long as the roots are not severed, all is well. And all will be well in the garden.
President "Bobby": In the garden.
Chance the Gardener: Yes. In the garden, growth has its seasons. First, comes spring and summer, but then we have fall and winter. And then we get spring and summer again.
President "Bobby": Spring and summer.
Chance the Gardener: Yes.
President "Bobby": Then fall and winter.
Chance the Gardener: Yes.
Benjamin Rand: I think what our insightful young friend is saying is that we welcome the inevitable seasons of nature, but we're upset by the seasons of our economy.
Chance the Gardener: Yes! There will be growth in the spring!

The prompt for this week's assignment is as follows:

“Based on the readings for this week and the discussions on Chinglish we have had, consider some ideas/models that may help us approach translation and/or cross-cultural understanding (and knowledge sharing) more meaningfully.”

Luming Mao
Department Chair
Professor of English and Asian/Asian American Studies
Ph.D., University of Minnesota
M.A., University of Minnesota
B.A., East China Normal University

"Thinking beyond Aristotle: The Turn to How in Comparative Rhetoric"

Professor Mao illustrates through "highlighting the need to study both 'facts of usage' and "linguistic and other symbolic behaviors and experiences that have been disqualified, forgotten, or deemed something other than rhetoric"--"facts of nonusage" (449). The author speaks of the Dao, and according to Wikipedia, Dao is "a Chinese word signifying 'way,' 'path,' 'route,' 'road,' 'choose,' 'key' or sometimes more loosely 'doctrine,' 'principle' or 'holistic science.' Within the context of traditional Chinese philosophy and religion, the Tao is the intuitive knowing of ‘life’ that cannot be grasped full-heartedly as just a concept but is known nonetheless through an actual living experience of one's everyday being."

I partially understand Mao’s argument but what I liked most is his comment that the "Facts of nonusage, in fact, conceal or embody conditions that led to their exile and led to the sanctioning of facts of usage. Parasitic on each other, the two become the yin and yang of rhetorical reality" And, according to note seven, facts in one culture may not be within the context of another.

I did not understand the example given nor the author's use of Zhuangzi’s quotes about "You’re not a fish--how do you know what fish enjoy?," or "Zhuangzi's reasoning about it," but I sensed it. I read Huizi's question as rhetorical "you're not a fish--so you do not know what fish enjoy." Zhuangzi's takes it as a question: "so you already knew I knew it when you asked the question." The dialogue became stuck in a recursive loop echoing rhetoric positions.

I seem to disagree with solutions ex-post facto to re-envision the future and I prefer to promote a synthesis of the present into something not conceivable--something dynamic that arises because of the trajectory of the past.

I’ll attempt to bring the Being There preface together with Mao and professor Lu below to arrive at a response to the prompt. In doing so, I risk misjudgment due to an improper framing of Professor Lu’s paper.

Professor Min-Zhan Lu, University Louisville, Kentucky  "Multiculturalism: The Politics of Style in the Contact Zone" Professing Multiculturalism (1993), or, rephrased another way as many are reading the word multiculturalism today: based on the disfunction that surrounds multicultural societies and the perception that multiculturalism is racism against white people: “Racism: The Politics of Style in the Contact Zone.” By rephrasing the title, I present one of the problems that must be addressed when considering cross-cultural understanding and that is the effect of the institutional policy.

The title words multiculturalism, contact, and zone imply an assumption that multiculturalism is something positive and associated with politics and style in a multicultural contact zone; the words assert that multiculturalism is to be taken as something worth bringing into political discussion through style. And, since this has been the case in American culture for centuries most would agree. My question, of course, is so what? And, why bring it up as something new? The article is 24 years old and around the time of modems and bulletin board internet usage. I find the content of the article within the context of limited global information sharing interesting because when I read the article, it seemed to apply as well to today. Lu quotes a lot of her words as if to pronounce them loudly; as if she is not being heard. Looking back from this time, it seems as though she sensed that a global transformation was underway and there were many back then that were not listening. I admire her paper and her intent.
Some of the words that she uses in her academic rhetoric follow. Notably missing is the word privilege:
1. Diversity
2. Contact Zone
3. import
4. articulate
5. discourse
6. ghettoization
7. aligned
8. negotiate
9. informed
10.profound 'heteroglossia'

Lu takes the route of pathos to persuade her audience through words that provoke the reader's sympathies. I believe it is enlightening to denote a few instances.

1. students at the fringe
2. anxiety
3. feel
4. worry
5. guilty
6. self-conscious
7. blundering
8. having problems
9. error
10. Mr. Roger's Neighborhood

Lu’s paper does not address a student's maturation into adulthood. It does not stress that students must develop a sense of morality by learning to deal with reality while living in a multicultural world, and it seems to presume that multiculturalism will somehow magically solve divisiveness. The obstacles to Stein and Dreiser are what made them who they were, to write what they did. I think we papers that address the importance of what it means to be human in a multicultural and diverse society rather than papers that address what it means to be a part of collectivist ideologies enacted through policy.

This where I think we can take Mao's words above and apply them to Lu’s paper. The "rhetorical reality" of political multiculturalism, political diversity, and identity politics accentuates separation and discord and breeds racism and acts of violence equal to an increase in meaningful translation and cross-cultural understanding.

In an interview on my blog by Chris Martenson of Melissa Zimdars, I give an example collective acts of violence. In particular "Suspected Berkeley [professor] Antifa Bike Lock Attacker Eric Clanton Arrested For Assault." So, what I believe Lu’s paper represents is the cultural conditioning of individuals that suffer from the listed sensitivities, beginning in 1993 and continuing to this day, into the alt-left extremist domestic terrorist group Antifa. And, I'm quite sure that Professor Lu did not foresee the potential adverse side effects of multiculturalism and diversity. I merely wish to point out that through the indoctrination of multiculturalism and diversity there are those that become twisted to the point of radical racism against people that they feel are different. That is what collectivism does. Through group identification, the other is projected from one's dark, repressed side onto a perceived enemy. The way that people become moral is that they learn to deal with their feeling side by integrating it into their total personality, and they do this by facing life without government intervention; not by institutions that protect them from individual integration.

I posted the quote from Being There because its humorous and astonishing portrayal of being in the right place at the right time. But, synchronicity functions independently of whether sequences of events lead to positive or negative outcomes. Therefore our prompt this week requires both an exigency and a productive solution rather than a policy solution (which may be worse than no answer). If a solution implemented adequately at this time, the it may lead to meaningful cross-cultural understandings simply by being there.

From my life's experience, co-operation in a multicultural workplace or academic environment is the best solution. I lived in Los Angeles for 45 years or so, and from being in a multicultural living environment, I've learned a lot. Two of my favorite literature classes were Latin American Literature which had both English and Spanish side by side on both of the books that we studied, and French in Translation with all of the French artistic authors. And, in group projects both at UCLA and CSUN my partners were from cultures other than mine. I also had a Chinese co-researcher as a partner for a two month long research project at UCLA.

Beyond the interpersonal relationships, I would immediately petition the large Internet monopolies Google and Facebook to come up with a way that let's say independent Hindi and Chinese media productions be made available to Western world users in their feeds. In other words, open up the Internet in such a way as to show what is essential in one part of the world as being important in another part of the world. News feeds should automatically be translated and trending no matter which physical part of the world people live. The commodified ghettoization of global cultures should be freed from servitude to the monopoly powers.

I believe academic solutions should focus less on historical culture. Instead, more productive solutions of multiculturalism are ones that rely on what is synergistic within the current global information system of the Internet, uncensored and non-commodified. The way people naturally interact may lead to a less multi-polar world so that multiculturalism arises not out of policy, but from the readily learned morality of the individual to unite with what I imagine Zhuangzi naming "being there." Or, said another way, knowing through the experience of not knowing; by being there immersed in the information, perceptions of whatever it may be, at the level of the simulacrum, uncontaminated and open for discussion.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

"Interpretations of 'Chinglish': Native Speakers, Language Learners and the Enregisterment of a Stigmatized Code" by Eric Steven Henry, and Chinglish by Henry David Hwang

[David Henry Hwang is a Tony Award-winning American playwright, librettist, screenwriter, and theater professor. Wikipedia
Born: August 11, 1957 (age 60), Los Angeles, CA
Spouse: Kathryn Layng (m. 1993), Ophelia Chong (m. 1985–1989)
Awards: Tony Award for Best Play
Parents: Dorothy Hwang, Henry Yuan Hwang
Books: FOB and Other Plays, Chinglish (TCG Edition), 
How does Act I of Hwang's Chinglish represent various attitudes toward Chinglish and China English that Eric Steven Henry's article "Interpretation of 'Chinglish'" discusses?
Eric Steven Henry, in his article "Interpretations of 'Chinglish': Native Speakers, Language Learners and the Enregisterment of a Stigmatized Code," argues “that Chinglish is not distinguished by the presence or absence of any particular linguistic feature, but a label produced in the intersubjective engagements between language learners and native speakers. Chinglish is structured by and reinforces the relations of expertise within the Chinese English language speech community, thus representing larger anxieties about nationalism and modernization in a global context” (669). “Act I” of Henry David Hwang’s play Chinglish “represents various attitudes toward Chinglish and China English that Henry’s essay discusses in several ways. To show how Chinglish represents these attitudes it is necessary to understand what Henry means by the word enregisterment. Barbara Johnstone in her article “Dialect Enregisterment in Performance” (2011) defines enregisterment and contextualizes its meaning:
[t]he process by which sets of linguistic forms become ideologically linked with social identities has been called ‘enregisterment’ (Agha 2003, 2006). Enregisterment occurs through ‘metapragmatic’ activities that permeate discourse (Silverstein 1993). These are activities in which people show one another how forms and meanings are to be linked. In recent work, my colleagues and I have been exploring how one set of linguistic forms has become enregistered as the dialect known as ‘Pittsburghese’ through a variety of discursive practices, including face-to-face conversational interaction, online discussion board talk, personal experience narrative, and the production and consumption of t-shirts (Johnstone 2007a, 2007b, 2009, 2011; Johnstone, Andrus and Danielson 2006; Johnstone and Baumgardt 2004). (1-2)
Thus, the title of Henry’s article addresses the labels “the faces,” the personas, that people and societies put on, but through the communicative enregisterment process, the result of which is Chinglish, discover labels, the faces/masks, are but a pretext, a gloss over the baseness of identifying with things such as nationalism, a title of judge in a lawless society, the use of guanxi for personal gain, that very baseness of identifying with signifiers that signs in Chinglish readily expose. In other words, falsely identifying oneself with a label causes anxiety. And, communications through Chinglish reveals the falseness of such labels by its use as an intermediary language of culturally diverse interpersonal relationships.
   Henry states “The explicit interpretation of Chinglish as a barrier to understanding (a communicative issue), overshadows the implicit negative valuation of its speakers (a symbolic issue), and the extension of this evaluation to the social group, and nation, as a whole.” Throughout Chinglish, relationships bear these facts out. As Henry goes on to explain, “The discourse of Chinglish . . . is a discourse on modern Chinese identity” (670). In “Chinglish” the business is that of communicative signs. Guanxi, the business of relationship is successfully accomplished during Daniel’s first encounter with Minister Cai except when Vice Minister Xi Yan, a female, implies that Daniel’s sign company may not be required:  “the problems with the Pudong Grand Theatre [mis-translations on signage] . . . have been corrected” (Hwang 29). As Qian attempts to explain “The Vice Minister is . . . drawing a comparison between attempts to make translation both in Western and in China, also pointing out the absurdity of both cultures” (Hwang 31). Thus, proving Henry’s point above that “a communicative issue [] casts a shadow on “a symbolic issue.” It brings to light the reality that a person’s identity is something other than a face or mask of cultural substance.
   Despite both Daniel and Xi being speakers of each other’s languages (Xi doesn’t know that Daniel speaks Chinese yet) on a more interpersonal enactment they resort to using Chinglish. Each unmasks their feelings by speaking about their spouses in the following Chinglish dialogue:
Daniel: . . . My wife--if I started to tell you! . . . My wife and I” Really. Not perfect.
Xi: My husband, only thinking himself, so therefore, no understanding.
Daniel: And he doesn’t know you are here?
Xi: He not ask.
Daniel: The two of you don’t--talk so much? No talking?
Xi: Is better, agree? Husband and wife, not so much, talk?
Daniel: Wow. Back home, that isn’t really a // philosophy--
Xi: Making the long marriage. You, your wife--talk?
Daniel: Do we--? Well, since I’ve been here in China. With the time difference. Day is night, night is day.
Xi: Yes. Husband, wife. Day, night. We agree.
Daniel: I guess. And you’re OK with that? You want that?
Xi (Laughs, then): Nobody ever asks. (Hwang 58)
Unpacking the dialogue above to point out the use of Chinglish by both Xi and Daniel in their interpersonal relationship reveals a counter-argument to Henry’s idea of “Chinglish as a barrier to understanding” and a “negative valuation  (symbolic) of its speakers”. Despite Xi’s ability to speak almost perfect English, as in her repudiation, during their business meeting, of Daniel’s reason for wanting to be the professional in charge of supplying perfectly translated signs. Here, Xi drops the auxiliary verb doesn’t in her line “He not ask, ” and she drops the subject “It,” the auxilliary verb “do” and the subject “you” from her question “Is better, agree?” Further, Daniel uses Chinglish by dropping the subject “We” and the verb “are” from his reply in the first line above “Not perfect” when he means to say "My wife and I are not in a perfect relationship either." Both Xi and Daniel utilize the process of enregisterment to express meaning through their use of Chinglish. Far from a “barrier to understanding” Chinglish helps Xi and Daniel communicate in a deeper interpersonal relationship by allowing each to express their feelings (should I say show their real face) to one another in the social context of each other’s cultural marital traditions. Xi’s use of the Chinglish analogy “Husband, wife. Day, night” reveals their understanding that the reality of the institution of marriage is that it may lead to a loss of communication in both cultures; their mutual understanding is sealed by Xi’s statement “We agree.” Linguistically, Xi's Chinglish "Husband wife, Day Night" may be said to enregister the phrase through its indexical link to communications necessary, but not existent in either Xi's or Daniel's case, for a healthy husband and wife relationship regardless of culture. In a way Chinglish may play a role as a register that is similar to the acceptable use of baby talk during romantic dialogues; unconsciously proceeding, without much thought about risks, to be heard and understood outside of the constraints of the formalities of language, to communicate one's vulnerable but genuine feeling side to another person. And, although my counter-argument to Henry may apply in one sense, Henry continues within his article to mention that Chinglish may have “an underlying hint of charm,” as in Xi's and Daniel's dialogue above. And, Xi’s analogy indeed “comes to metonymically represent the social value of the speakers” as it relates to the value of communications within the institution of marriage (672).
Part B from the following weeks prompt: What is David Henry Hwang trying to communicate through Chinglish, the play? Use textual evidence (and analysis) to support your answer.
David Henry Hwang mentions that he feels that romantic love has become, to him, a kind of humanistic religion that has replaced the old religion of the Middle Ages, and that popular art is "to glorify romantic love" (A Conversation 4). Much of the play's emphasis is on the state of romance in both Chinese and American cultures, but as an artist, I think Hwang is interested in going beyond popular culture to express through humor what could not be said more easily. His interest is not mainly to show that people of both Western and Chinese cultures are contemporarily nearly the same in manners of an individual's need for personas, marital relationships, and romantic love. I believe as an artist Hwang is most interested in answering the question suggested to his audience of pop culture minds: "If something cannot make money, is it valuable? So what do we put up in the cultural center?" (A Conversation 5).

Hwang's question is introduced to the audience when Minister Cai mentions the Party Secretary calling and "asking how [he] plan[s] to attract more tourists!" (Chinglish 54). Cai afterward asks out loud "Does that mean everything now has to make money?" Which brings up a satirical point about the cultural revolution that used brutal force to bring about cultural change. But, Hwang turns it into humor by having Cai say "sometimes I miss my old army days" (Chinglish 55). So, that is the point of the question. If you can't use taxation, or force by some means that allows for the undying performances of the Chinese Acrobats how does a cultural center survive? Or, even for that matter, remain cultural? It is in answer to this question where I believe the esthetic value of Chinglish resides. Hwang creates a kind of double entendre to first ask the question through the use of satire and then provides the play as the answer. It is sort of risky boldness to employ commercialism as esthetic value, but not something that I think goes beyond the artist's conception of bringing the meaning of art through the new religion of romance to his audiences. I mean to say, how does one reveal to the masses the importance of art without the use of a humorous adventure? But, the beauty of the play is in the way that it brings to light so many issues, such as language, culture clash, political corruption, the falseness of character, relationships, and so on, all in two Acts.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Timbur In Light Of Ricento

Note: If you see this sentence then I'm working on a Google slideshow presentation of what is below.

The acronym ELF provides an abbreviated means of discourse for the overused and lengthier--contained/labeled--concept of English as a lingua franca.

The letters ELF say nothing as to the nature of what English as a lingua franca means yet presupposes a level of understanding.

To those unacquainted with the acronym, it appears presumptuous thereby making the reader more acceptable to believe once the definitions of the Italian words are known that the concept is understood.

As Thomas Rincento illustrates throughout Language Policy and Political Economy, the acronym is as obscure as a worn out label on a bottle of an unidentified and unidentifiable substance. Although, if and sometimes when clarification of what the chemical composition of the contents is the labeling ELF has value.

Despite the uncertainty of categorization and tendency to extrapolate special case studies to imply that what takes place in the microcosm will take place in the macrocosm, educators, sociologists, and policymakers use and misuse the concept of English as a lingua franca.

My presentation attempts to illustrate some of the issues to be wary of through a contrast and comparison of John Trimbor's essay "Linguistic Memory and the Politics of U.S. English" and Ricento's book.

Admittedly, Ricento and the many authors of the information contained in Language Policy provide me with an unfair advantage for the contestation of Trimbur's conclusion which states the author's desire to have a "national language policy [that he believes], goes beyond a discourse of linguistic rights to imagine the abolition of English monolingualism altogether and the creation in its place a linguistic culture where being multilingual is both normal and desirable, as it is throughout much of the world" (587).

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Authors Thomas Ricento and Gloria Anzaldua

Language Policy and Political Economy by Thomas Rincento

Thomas Ricento
Thomas Ricento is Professor and Research Chair at the University of Calgary, Canada. He has published widely in the field of language policy and on the politics of language in North America. He was a Fulbright Professor in Colombia (1989) and Costa Rica (2000), and a visiting professor at universities in Chile, Germany, Spain, and Switzerland. He was Director of English Language Programs at the Japan Center for Michigan Universities, Hikone, Japan from 1989-1991.

 I enjoy reading Ricento's book. With it, I've been able to place many ideas that I've had into more rounded associations with what I have seen taking place but have not thought about until now. Notably, within academia and the political sphere, his writings have made me aware of what communitarianism is and why it seems to be being implemented within U.S. colleges as policy. Unfortunately, for most of what is within chapters one through four I have yet to encounter the statement "Since corporate control of Western governments represents a modern day form of fascism, governmental policy is always to be classed as a form of colonialism, and any and all laws created are imposed for the profit of corporations. Therefore, any so-called social justice regulations shall be used to further suppress the populace into serving corporate interests." Although the text never goes so far as stating the obvious, it may be easily surmised by the honest and factual information put forth. Taking my point as a premise, it leaves moot any arguments from such authors as Kymlicka about group rights or individual rights because anything provided by the government is a guarantee to gradually take away all rights of those subject to the law in favor of corporate "rights." Corporations do not and cannot have morality because they are not an individual! Let me be brief here because more of what I have to say may be made clearer after first looking into the cross-textual connections between this week's readings.

Gloria Anzaldua (September 26, 1942 – May 15, 2004) was an American scholar of Chicana cultural theory, feminist theory, and queer theory.  

Anzaldua presents the theme of corporate colonialism when she mentions "U.S. colonizing companies" (32). Now that corporations are global all nation-states are but enforcement arms of borderless parasitic colonizing entities. This is the real world and not some academic fantasy land that we live in. It is past the time that all of the people should come together to address the threat. The end of corporate colonization may occur in either of two ways. The one end is the entire consumption of all peoples and resources into one corporate entity that eventually consumes itself. The other is some change brings about an end to the horrors now being inflicted on people by the global corporate elitists' systematic colonization. Anzaldua writes the article as a communitarian piece with identity politics as a theme when she speaks of the white conquest of the Americas and how her ancestors were mistreated by the whites. She fails to talk about how in the past whites were enslaved and abused by other whites, vaporized masses of fellow whites in ovens, and built the most complex society in history. The act of mistreatment is subordinate to greed and should it work to the benefit of greed then people everywhere would be lining up to subject themselves to slavery as they very much do.

Further verification that Borderlands may be classified within the identity politics genre is in the second chapter where the author speaks of boys being told to beat their wives, the use of the terms "other," "half and half" and homophobia: all things that most people don't really care about; things that have little or nothing to do with the ongoing corporate colonization taking place today; much as it took place when the author speaks of the exploitation of the indigenous populace in the first chapter. Something seems to be missing to me and that is the circumvention by the elite to use the educational system to deflect the injustices of global corporate colonialism by way of communitarianism/identity politics such that the actual cultural tyranny they inflict is transferred from them to racial or identity groups within their subservient populaces: through the establishment of racism, the myth of homophobia, and sexism; all of which are fabricated to rise within an existing homogenized and highly contemporary society. To me the implementation of communitarian ideology by academia already proved it on the path of other communist ideologies such as Stalinism and Maoism through its social justice efforts to shut down free speech via political correctness and censorship, violent political aligned protests, and the tearing down of statues, the re-writing of history and all such things that lead to the stamping out the only source of morality, the individual. Inevitably this leads to a cultural revolution and the mass murder of tens of millions of people, none of whom are likely to be members of the elite ruling class.

Outside of the sentimentalities of individual concerns imbued into the prose of Anzaldua, Ricento states the global corporate fact that "[o]nly the countries that invest massively in education and research can appropriate the foreign technologies necessary to catch up with the rich countries" (39). NAFTA minimized the effectiveness of the border wall between the U.S. and Mexico allowing U.S. (and now globally owned corporations that had once been U.S. based) corporations to do what was necessary for the establishment of autonomous Mexican corporate operations. With the achievements of NAFTA complete and with the multinationals influence over the nation-state government of Mexico, the wall can go back up like a quartering off of a prison cell block for easier multinational divide and conquer control. This time the wall seems to be more to prevent capital flight as recently implemented through various means in China rather than to have anything to do with immigration: it is being built to keep U.S. citizens or Mexican citizens from fleeing with their wealth during any future economic uncertainty. Multinational corporations and the elite class that owns them are global and not restricted by inconveniences of nation-state borders. They are the new masters of a global slave-based economy established by way of modern colonization methods: control the nation-state governments; turn the populace against one another. And, if that doesn't work, then create terrorists, Islamify the EU and as a last resort turn their countries into rubble: as in the Mid East.

So it is that I'm mystified by the value academics place on English or language as it relates to social justice or if whether or not English should be the preferred lingua franca because of this or that. The value of these concerns when compared to the "bull within the china closet," the one that such issues are subservient to, is very small. It is as if they are completely unaware, although here I presume that being able to write what I have, that Rincento is equally if not more aware than I and cannot write such things in an academic book. He comes out and says that "[t]he agendas and policies of the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, and the World Trade Organization, for example, are determined largely by self-interested governments of the original G-7 countries, which are greatly influenced by the largest banks and corporations, all of which seek to maximize their self-interest when it comes to investment and trade policies" (38). What he does not say is that those banks print money and give that money to other banks and lend it to corporations at zero percent interest rates. Or that they can buy corporate bonds like the ECB, or government bonds and stock ETFs or like the Swiss National Bank become the largest stockholder of Facebook, or as in the United States purchase so many mortgage-backed-securities that they become the largest mortgage holders in America. Corporations are now in the process of taking title to all assets in the Western world by printing up money out of thin air for their owners. So, this is my mystification. Academics are supported by student debt, loans that come from a government under the control of corporations. They fail to see that this debt removes an entire generation from the purchase the real property that the corporations are currently taking title to. How can it be that academics write about justice, language rights, democracy, and participation in communitarian ideology, or concern themselves with whether or not English is going to provide some upward mobility when they are participating in, benefiting from and therefore complicit in the greatest inhumane colonialization by an elite class?

I can't say enough about how much I appreciate having to read Rincento's book for an assignment. I've recommended it to my brother, an English professor at LAVC, and to all of my Facebook friends. I especially liked learning about the key words and terms such as liberalism, neoliberalism, social justice, identity politics, language rights, the conceptions, and misconceptions that the author's hold about democracy, capitalism, mixed-economies, nation-states, communitarianism, code-mixing and so on. I fell in love with the book when Rincento stated that the elements of Van Parijs's argument cannot find "common ground and common purpose in a world in which everything has been, or will soon be, commodified, owned, and priced, with the owners increasingly controlling decisions about economic inputs and outputs on a global scale in the service of their own economic interests" (33).

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