Pinter on Language

I am not much of a theater goer, as I tend to prefer film, and have no doubt that I miss out on a good deal of thought provoking writing as a result. While I am not making a simplistic value judgment on the relative quality of the minds of those who devote their lives to the theater, as opposed to those who choose film, it is interesting to note the sharp contrast in both the depth and standard of political commentary which emanates from the former and the latter. A good illustrative example is the recent speech given by playwright Harold Pinter in Sweden.

Winner of the 2005 Nobel Prize for literature, Pinter seized the opportunity to give a scathing speech in which he denounced both American and British politicians for (among other things) their roles in the Iraq war. While arguably a bit over the top, the speech is well worth reading in its entirety. Here's an excerpt:

I put to you that the United States is without doubt the greatest show on the road. Brutal, indifferent, scornful and ruthless it may be but it is also very clever. As a salesman it is out on its own and its most saleable commodity is self love. It's a winner. Listen to all American presidents on television say the words, 'the American people', as in the sentence, 'I say to the American people it is time to pray and to defend the rights of the American people and I ask the American people to trust their president in the action he is about to take on behalf of the American people.'

It's a scintillating stratagem. Language is actually employed to keep thought at bay. The words 'the American people' provide a truly voluptuous cushion of reassurance. You don't need to think. Just lie back on the cushion. The cushion may be suffocating your intelligence and your critical faculties but it's very comfortable. This does not apply of course to the 40 million people living below the poverty line and the 2 million men and women imprisoned in the vast gulag of prisons, which extends across the US.

The United States no longer bothers about low intensity conflict. It no longer sees any point in being reticent or even devious. It puts its cards on the table without fear or favour. It quite simply doesn't give a damn about the United Nations, international law or critical dissent, which it regards as impotent and irrelevant. It also has its own bleating little lamb tagging behind it on a lead, the pathetic and supine Great Britain.

The full transcript of Pinter's speech can be found here.





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