Oh, Esperanto, and we had such high hopes for you . . . | Street Jazz

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Oh, Esperanto, and we had such high hopes for you . . .

Posted By on Wed, Aug 24, 2011 at 11:50 AM

Tracy wasn’t overly impressed lately when I showed her a clip on YouTube of Incubus, the William Shatner horror film made back in the 1960s. Now, Shatner has made more than a few horror films, but what sets Incubus apart is that the entire movie is filmed with the actors all speaking the international language of Esperanto.

You know, Esperanto. Don’t act like you’re stupid; I mean, it’s the international language, uniting us all.

Well, that was the dream, anyway, once upon a time. It still is the dream for many people, actually. Anyway, We would all learn to speak Esperanto (created in the 19th Century) made-up of many languages, and live in peace and harmony. As far as I know, it worked, too.

Okay, so Esperanto didn’t quite live up to expectations, but it managed to fill the hopes of quite a few people that a common language might unite us all. Looking back, it does all seem sort of hokey, but hey, I’ll take hopeful hokiness over bitterness and cynicism any day.

The translation of Esperanto is “one who hopes,” which is pretty good in any language.

So in 1965, while a sixth grader at Croughton Air Force Base in England, our teacher Miss Finney took it upon herself to teach us Esperanto.

Miss Finney (the tall, blonde Miss Finney was the first crush I ever had on a teacher) had already embarked upon an ambitious project to educate the young barbarians in her care. Every day we learned a new word. Phenomenon was the first word we learned that year - I have no idea what any of the others where.

For several months we were Esperanting every chance we got, throwing ourselves into the new language like crazy people. We were pretty cool.

After a few months though, our Esperanto lessons abruptly turned into Spanish lessons. Was the principal upset that Miss Finney was teaching us a language that seemed better suited to a science fiction move? If so, did he not realize that an entire movie had been released (with the future T.J. Hooker) in Esperanto?

To this day, however, I can not recall a single word of Esperanto, which is probably just as well anyway. I remember only a little of the German I took, hardly enough to have a decent conversation. When it comes to speaking with folks from other countries, I usually adopt what has always worked best, whether the person speaks English, German, Mandarin or Klingon - I just assume a look of utter helplessness.

Despite my total failure to master Esperanto, there are several million speakers on the planet today, and a number of organizations have adopted its use.

So there.

******

The darker side of Miss Finney?

In addition to teaching us the language of the future, Miss Finney would also make sure that we were up on world events. Being military brats, it was sort of expected of us that we would know more about the world than our civilian counterparts, but of course this wasn’t always the case.

We did our best, but we were in sixth grade, for crying out loud.

In the 1960s came a man by the name of Ian Smith.

Smith led Rhodesia when it declared independence from Britain in 1965, after the British insisted on the government handing over power to African nationalists. In other words, majority rule.

In 1965 there was no such thing as CNN, and British television news at the time was, well, pretty dull.

So we might have been forgiven for believing tall, blonde, lovely Miss Finney when she informed us that Ian Smith was the “George Washington of Rhodesia.”

In recent years I look back on all of that and think of tall, blonde, beautiful, Aryan-like Miss Finney and think, okay, we were just sixth graders, but you had to be aware of what the situation was in Rhodesia, and what he stood for.

*****

For some, books will always be a real danger

A few years ago Mel Gibson wanted to remake the classic science fiction film, Fahrenheit 451, only with more action and humor. No, I'm not kidding.

As we march bravely into the 21st Century, we find ourselves surrounded by virtual (and not-so-virtual) book burners - maybe not actually consigning books to flames, but boycotting them, and trying to have them removed from libraries.

We're not so far removed from the world of Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451, in which "firemen" actually burn books. This should be on the must read list for everybody.

****

Quote of the Day

North Americans communicate through buttons, T-shirts and bumper stickers the way some cultures use drums. - Tim McCarthy

rsdrake@cox.net

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