March 12 Wole Soyinka: Lost Tribe

I spoke yesterday how language can grow and change, but it can also influence and dominate. The poet Wole Soyinka is a Nigerian, so English is his second language. His poem seems to imply that his original language is being somewhat lost to him, just as her culture is – but language is culture.

He seems to imply that Western Culture is overwhelming his own, taking it over, emptying out the soul of his people and replacing it with “disposable diapers” and “instant gurus”, everything that is easy to obtain and to get rid of. The language he puts in quotes are empty catch-phrases meant to make a person feel better right away (take two pills and call me in the morning). And everything must be quick, quick, quick – right away! “Talk it over with someone – now, not later!”

Going faster means that everything is bold and more exciting – youthful! Things get done. But what are we losing when we completely devalue the old and the slow? What is language without meaning?

Lost Tribe

by Wole Soyinka

Ants disturbed by every passing tread,
The wandering tribe still scurries round
In search of lost community. Love by rote,
Care by inscription. Incantations without magic.
Straws outstretched to suck at every passing broth,
Incessant tongues pretend to a way of thought –
Where language mints are private franchise,
The coins prove counterfeit on open markets.

Hard-sell pharmacies dispense all social pills:
“Have a nice day now.” “Touch someone.”
There’s a premium on the verb imperative – some
Instant fame psychologist pronounced it on TV –
He’s now forgotten like tomorrow’s guru,
Instant cult, disposable as paper diaper –
Firm commands denote sincerity;
The wish is wishy-washy, lacks “contact
Positive.” The waiter barks: “Enjoy you meal,”
Or crisper still: “Enjoy!” You feel you’d better!
Buses, subway, park seats push the gospel,
Slogans like tickertapes emblazon foreheads –
“Talk it over with someone – now, not later!”
“Take down fences, not mend them.”
“Give a nice smile to someone.” But, a tear-duct
Variant: “Have you hugged your child today?”


About penneloppe

I like to write horror, dark fantasy and crime fiction. Sometimes, I'll write science fiction, but usually I like to write science fact. I also write screenplays and stage plays. My day job is office work. I live in Seattle and I have a cat.
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