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Lies My English Class Told Me Printer friendly page Print This
By Mankh (Walter E. Harris III), Axis of Logic
Axis of Logic
Tuesday, Jun 7, 2016

“Your mind for a hair dryer”
~ John Trudell

One of the first books i read when starting to get a deeper sense of the unspoken hypocrisies was James Loewen’s “Lies My Teacher Told Me,” first published in 1995. The first few chapters deal with Columbus, “The Truth about the First Thanksgiving”... and on to the harsh mistreatment of Blacks/African Americans, etc. One of the things that also struck me is the mention of the industry of publishers promoting a warped view of America; big book sales, of course, with all the schools.
Gore Vidal used the phrase, United States of Amnesia, and Loewen’s books help people remember, “Lies Across America” being another one. When i travel and see signs that a town was “Settled in 1643” i now realize that, from the Native Peoples' perspective, it was Unsettled. A “Lies” series could become as popular as the “_____ for Dummies” books in the land of Exceptionalistan (as journalist/author Pepe Escobar dubs it) where the prevailing story-line is of American superiority at the expense of the violent horrors the Empire has wrought and continues to, both at home and abroad.
Yet it is more than Amnesia; it is too often deliberate omissions which lead to mass ignorance; and it is also choice, as in people becoming aware of some facts yet refusing to let go of the American exceptionalist mindset – and so the lies persist.
As with Settled/Unsettled, oftentimes we learn the opposite of what is true. For example, in English class, “inanimate objects” which supposedly are “not endowed with life or spirit; lacking consciousness.” Science tells us that all matter is made of energy, a bunch of molecules moving around yet appearing as if they are not. My view and experience, and that of many others, is that there is no such thing as an inanimate object. First off, “object” depersonalizes. The oak desk which is literally helping to support the writing of this essay was once part of a tree, thus the desk still has oak-ness and if it were not ‘alive’ wouldn’t it simply collapse in front of me? As to its having a spirit, i can’t prove that but just the fact of its being, its existence tells me there is some level of consciousness, part of the oak tree still oak-ing – as similarly the photo of a loved one long gone, the photo a so-called “inanimate object” yet filled with memory, emotion, and alive-ness.

Add to that the energy put into the making of something, even something so lowly as a piece of styrofoam made into a heart-shape. While styrofoam is a “brand of closed-cell extruded polystyrene foam … owned and manufactured by The Dow Chemical Company”[1] (wait, maybe there are inanimate objects!), the shape becomes a symbol that carries a spirited message.
Sentence structure. Ooops that wasn’t a sentence but as a writer-poet i don’t give a damn. That the backbone of English writing is sentence structure makes this writer-poet nervous. Think “prison sentence,” and the word meaning, “judgment rendered by God, or by one in authority; a verdict, decision in court.” Yet, looking deeper, “sentence” is from “sense” - “Latin sensus "perception, feeling" from sentire "perceive, feel, know" ... "to find one's way," or "to go mentally".”[2] Thus “sense structure” is to find one's way intuitively and/or by thinking for one's self, not by forcing one's words to fit a preconceived structural format upon which grades, diplomas, and awards are routinely and mind-fuckedly doled out. Ooops that's not a word in the dictionary aka the author-ity go-figurehead of words.

Granted, sentence structure is useful at times, especially for conveying information and ideas, connecting one to the next with logical specificity, yet do we actually think in sentences? Are not poetry and stream of consciousness and thought-feeling processes more the way the mind actually works? ... 'nice sunny sunday time to clean the patio where's the broom what's that smell oatmeal's burning wish i could remember last night's dream blue-jay screeching gotta feed the birds...'
A subject is, a “person under control or dominion of another,” from the roots “jet” “to throw” and “sub” “under.” If the phrase “throw someone under the bus” came to mind, that’s a perfect metaphor for American or any other form of superiority or exceptionalism because for anyone to have dominion someone else must be thus thrown, metaphorically and too often virtually literally. The “subject” of a proper sentence is the head honcho, the head cheese whose goal is to act upon an object which is perceived as a lifeless thing: Honcho goes to store. (Sentence structure so simple a caveman could get an A-minus.)

So why would we be taught to think and write and speak in this fashion? Because it perpetuates domination. Each little “subject” is given power but it’s a deceptive power because that subject is subjected to a system ruled by superiors and dominions. The king in his castle was one i heard when learning about the American Dream as the goal or object of life, with a house as the place where that can happen. Thus, little “subjects” a la “Little Eichmanns” subjected to a big system of ownership and objectification, plus a feudal mortgage and tax system.

Maybe this all sounds like some English language conspiracy theory but it's worth looking at how languages aka Mother tongues shape the way we think. Grammar is how, in English, we are taught that there is a subject and an object. Perhaps that’s why the culture is so fixated on material objects, as the goal of nearly every sentence is an object; the purported goal of everyday life to acquire more objects. Perhaps that's why there are rulers and those ruled, head honchos and subservient obsequious boot-licking lackeys. And in the realm of sexual identity, women are often justifiably complaining about being objectified.
Oftentimes a sentence's subject is “I” aka first person, the unspoken superior of second and third person. The opposite can be found with many Native/Aboriginal Peoples' languages where, for example in Lakota there is no word for I or Me as a distinct entity separate from others, and where they may en masse refer to themselves as First Peoples or in so-called Canada, First Nations – emphasis on the community or nation and not the ego-centric individual.

From the Mohawk Peoples i learned that they would not say, a woman’s dress is the color “green,” rather a specific type of green, for example, a light green but worded as “the color of the grass in springtime.” Now THAT'S living poetry, at least by English literature standards. There's a powerful documentary called “Standing Silent Nation” about the efforts of the Lakota to grow industrial hemp on the Pine Ridge Reservation. The title is what the Lakota call “the grass” (as in what Americans incessantly mow while the children are at school on a FIELD trip). To combine the translated languages … that dress is the color of the standing silent nation in springtime. A simple description yet highly evocative and animated.

All that said, i am grateful for being born a privileged American which has afforded me the ability, like Jonah, to learn from within the belly of the English language beast (no offense to whales). And i am grateful to my English classes for opening my mind to a variety of literary works and like a good child sharing their building blocks with which to play. Yet the times we live in cry out for thinking outside those blocks, because the global corporate-owned government media Propagandastan mindset stakes are high, as the following serious playbook quote attests:
“If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State.”
~ Joseph Goebbels, German politician
and Reich Minister of Propaganda,
Nazi Germany - 1933 to 1945.


Mankh (Walter E. Harris III) is an essayist and resident poet on Axis of Logic. In addition to his work as a writer, he is a small press publisher and Turtle Islander. His recent books are “Drive-thru Theofascism & The Hero's Journey” and “Dear_______, poem-letters to friends and enemies.” He is working on a new book of poetic-nonfiction, “Musings With The Golden Sparrow.” You can contact him via his literary website.

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