the language of solidarity #keepitintheground

The Guardian has decided, in the last few weeks and months, to be the vigorously campaigning newspaper it’s always sneakily been.

The difference between being just a newspaper and what I would term that campaigning newspaper I mention above, in a world where politics is now peopled directly by those who would replace the public sphere with a private sphere of fascist impulses, lies only in whether you might sit on the fence and adduce objectivity, or not.

All stances are now political, even where we claim even-handedness: precisely because real politics, the truly representative kind, has had its heart and soul brutally hollowed out by the moneymen (oh, and they’re usually men).

The #keepitintheground environmental campaign, which the Guardian is running as a grand valedictory for its current editor Alan Rusbridger, has renewed my belief that those who set up and run newspapers must remember to do so for the right reasons: not just the “whats” of the matter; more importantly, the “whys” too.

And “whys” lead us way beyond the “objectivity” of an even-handed “he said, she said” parroting of opposing spiels – a parroting that only serves to blunderbuss our confusion; hardly ever serving to properly inform our thought.

In truth, the most positive thing about #keepitintheground is that it’s not being framed as an environmental story at all: it’s a matter, above all, of human solidarity.  It’s a question of survival; not of the planet, for that will outgrow us all.  No, much more specifically, of ourselves as a species.

Will we demonstrate we have matured enough to survive the stupidity of our makers and shakers – of those who occupy positions of privilege the rest of us may never have had the opportunity to grant them?  Will democratic action and participation overcome the inertia of this vested and lazy interest?  Can our society prioritise instincts to the common solidarity I allude to – or will it find it just too challenging a task?

Not so much a necessary task as a tiresome chore.

It may actually be that we are fighting a losing battle against our language and vocabulary.  They do after all say the Eskimos have thirty words or so to say snow – thus communicating its importance.

In English, meanwhile, how many words do we have to communicate the concept of “solidarity”?


There’s “solidarity” of course.

And then?


So how about this following comparison?

I speak Spanish a bit – castellano, I mean.  In castellano we have three words and an easy-to-use phrase to communicate the concept of solidarity: “solidaridad” (solidarity), “solidario/solidaria” (the adjective of solidarity, which we don’t have), “solidariamente” (the adverb, which we don’t have) plus the adverbial construction “de manera solidaria” (in a solidarity-like way, which in English – as you can see – is a pretty ugly construction).

At least three times as many ways of communicating the idea in castellano compared to English.  When I was living there, some years ago now I have to admit, both right and left would use the Spanish vocabulary for communicating the concept interchangeably.  How many on the right here in Britain would ever mouth such ideas?

You’re hobbled when you can’t use an adverb; a noun attached via a preposition is such a clumsy beast; and the lack of an adjective means no one can be that thing without first being couched in an awkward double-noun sort of phrase.

So.  If we are looking to bring right and left together, and in the case of #keepitintheground a common ground will be essential to achieve its objectives, we need to realise what we’re up against: left and right cannot talk about the glory of solidarity without this feeling clunky.  And there’s nothing, absolutely nothing, sexy about clunkiness.

Whilst solidarity is cool and manifest in Mediterranean countries, at least at citizen-level, it is not the case here in Anglo-Saxon Britain or the US: both countries rather at the mercy of the poverty of the language under discussion.

Do we need to invent new vocabulary?  No.  Of course not.  The hashtag #keepitintheground itself will do for the socially-networked moment.

But we must remember that when a language itself has turned its back on a basic human instinct, there will be a sense of confusion at first when we are asked to recover our right, as well as (perhaps) our duty, to manifest it.

The 180,000 signatories of the Guardian‘s petition have shown the confusion can be overcome.

Meanwhile, the letters published this weekend in online and paper versions of the newspaper, my own included, bear witness to a growing clarity amongst those who’ve already committed themselves: this isn’t about our environment; this isn’t about saving the planet; what this is really about is a mature, adult commitment to our species’ future.

An honest and straightforward instinct to survive.

Not at all costs.

Out of solidarity.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s