Language is the (frayed, overused) net we cast when writing, in the hope of catching some of the fishy throbs that resemble reason and art when they emerge flapping and floundering in the slipstream of consciousness.
We credit language with an authority it does not merit because religion and law set it in stone, a case of mistaking the medium for the message that has resulted in slagheaps of injustice and countless deaths by stoning.
Academic writing falls victim to the principles that are intended to lend it authority and ensure “solid” argumentation. The net drips with prolixity but says little of substance. Its forced moderation, feigned humility and layered application of building-related metaphors does not result in the construction (fabrication) of objective veracity. I is a post to which my argument is tethered. Let me unleash it with we, not the we of mad royalty or academic modesty, but the we that is the sludge of the murk of the current of the forces of the times of the moment in which I generate an utterance pertaining to the reasonable use of language.
Legal language is an abomination, a criminal defacement of good paper. It embodies (in a hideously deformed corpus) the illusion – a magic act in fact – of mastery over language. Lawyers parry and thrust, while a terrifyingly random and subjective jury listens in varying states of alertness, while a terrifyingly human judge, partial and prone to irritability and vanity, presides over this solemn performance of human agency at work. Legal language is the elaborate claim that justice is a thing-unto-itself, free of whim and external influence. According to the law, we are de facto sovereign states whose every utterance is a perfectly rounded unit of syntax expressing with the utmost clarity the intentionality of our volitional actions. Legal language was always intended to intimidate, mystify and reinforce power in perpetuity. As the law goes after little sprats for relatively minor offences, however, it leaks whole whales and sharks through the netting.
I recently reread a short story that I wrote about 10 years ago. At the time I was immensely proud of it. A mere decade later I found it so bad that I couldn’t get past the second paragraph. (I would probably feel the same way about this in another 10 years.) The language was clumsy, gushy, overeager; the whole thing was a misaimed stab at writing (a spear into the shallows). My point, if I really have one, is that language can never capture that which it hopes to, be it a point, a feeling, an idea, an abstraction. The more skilfully we weave our nets, the richer will be the residual sludge sticking to the string and loops. I posit that this text has been a largely pointless exercise in filling space and massaging my mortally wounded vanity. As for the version of myself that will read this in 10 years’ time, it was nice not meeting you.