Monday, August 5, 2013

ADD is the new thing?

   There are too many people around me, my age and younger, who I notice, cannot, or will not read anything that does not stick to twenglish. Correction: will not do anything that requires any form of long term involvement. And we have a fashionable term for it. ADD.
    For a long time, when friends said "I can't focus, I think I have ADD", I used to think that is a concern. That s/he realises it's a problem (ADD stands for Attention Deficit Disorder. See? Disorder. It is now called ADHD too) and wants to correct it, just like I do. My attention span has dwindled and reading any article that is more than 60 lines is peppered with browsing and checking the phone. Sure, everyone's has, but that does not make it okay. It's like saying because everyone around me has a skin disease that spreads easily, I should be fine with it.
     So I make an effort because it bothers me and cannot, for the life of me, imagine a situation where I can complacently  declare, "I can't process information if it comes to me in a string of more than 10 words at a time. God help me if there's a comma involved somewhere."
    I wonder how this happened. I understand young kids brought up on FB and Twitter say that, but those born in the 80s (and before, at least in India) were not even trained on sms language. Most of us got our first cell phones only after we were grown up teens, so what is the excuse?
    Hang on, I know of one. Texting was costly when I first got my cellphone so I used to squeeze in as much information into one message as I could. But was that enough to catch on so badly that  we simply forgot normal writing? Seriously, how many nanoseconds does it save you when you annoyingly type "lyf" instead of "life"?
    And if this be true, why are youngsters now taking to that kind of language? Texting is mostly free now, or at least not a quarter as costly.
    Or do we really believe we can "simplify" language that way and honestly do not see the difference between simplification and dumbing down?
    Noble as that thought is, I think it's better we just accept that most of us just don't have the calibre to do that. Change the course of language for the better, I mean. Things like that are best left to the experts. Same reason as why we won't ever go and perform surgery on a man just because we know how to use a pair of scissors or wield the scalpel on a dead roach.
    We are too ignorant, and please, it took the likes of Johnson and Shakespeare and Premchand and Tagore to modernize their languages. If it were everyone's cup of tea, Everyman would be pundits. But we are not.  Plus, it took almost 30 years for them to put together the Oxford English Dictionary, and our problem seems to be a lack of time, patience and concentration.
    Shouldn't then we take a step back from our uber inane arguments of "I can say what I like because I have a mouth"?
    Really, for all of us who have had more than 12 years of formal education, I would think it's a little shameful.    
    I keep getting reminded by Sir: all animals have mouths. We are different because god gave us a head with brains inside that allows us to think and process.  And they say that is one thing that actually grows with use.
    I try it in my limited capacities, feels great.  So I would volunteer help to fellow sufferers, or share what works for me: "try to take time out to read, it helps concentrate," or, "read your news, don't just listen to it. NYT's OPed is really good" and so on.
    But over repeated conversations, I now realize that it is not concern that makes people talk about their, let's call it "situation". Many are proud of it. I've been trying to understand just how that works inside their heads:
    "I can't process anything that goes beyond junior school english (or any language), yeay!"
    "I will not even read the news anymore, though I used to/could do so when I was a child because I can't sit still and read anything that forces me to think. And I won't do anything about it. Because ADD is cool!"
    Here's the thing. It is not cool. It is, if anything, embarrassing. So maybe, just maybe, instead of being complacent about this disease or worse, pulling others down to our ranks,  we should start taking steps to correct it.
    And no, I will NOT change my style to write five word sentences.
    Because, none of the world's best movies or literature has come out of Twitter. Yet. And that is why, reading Meg Cabot is a little different from reading Hardy. And watching James Bond rough up cars and women on screen  is a little different from, say, watching Wild Strawberries. Take your pick, there are many examples across the world for both kinds.
    Of course there is a need for both, I for one can watch Pierce Brosnan chasing villains over and over again. And yes, I do think he's the best Bond, Connery notwithstanding. Come on, what is Bond without Brosnan's blue eyed glint?
   Oh and here's the other thing. Even if we, with our small capacities and bloated egos refuse to accept the truth in what I said just because we cannot accept it, how about this: don't plain facts tell you which is the better kind of book or movie that we should invest more time in? Unless we have decided we will make a concerted effort to only like trash, that is.
    How is it that all the bests and greats of the world tried to keep things simple, sure, but were not trying to play to the gallery too much by dumbing themselves down?
    And let's not get into the "oh they have to sell their trade" argument. Shakespeare had to sell his plays as well and he did include scenes which would entertain the stalls (some of which can make you go very crimson. Crassness is not something he was a stranger to). But he did not make his plays all about crass humour and short sentences. He was not writing for the stalls.
    More importantly, we don't remember his plays for the slapstick bits that don't make us think, his most famous plays and lines are ones that contain deep philosophy.  So would SRK gain more respect or less if he chose to give the "lungi dance " a pass? Really, someone should talk to the man, he makes me see red these days.
    And we, as audience/ readers: why do we consistently want to be part of the stalls and why will be ridicule anyone who says s/he does not choose that?
    Bullet points are for power point presentations and CVs. But then, the world can't keep communicating though PPTs. I know the few people who love talking to me and spend time with me don't do that because I talk in PPT language. I don't. In fact, I often ramble. I had a friend say this to me today itself. He decided he'd rather spend time chatting with me than go out and spend time with people who can't talk about much else than work, money or shopping, so I'm not making this up.
So, if you cannot process simple but long-ish sentences, it is your problem. Fix it.
Meanwhile, if you want to check out the other extreme, try  this. I found this on Twitter, by the way. :)
http://writing-program.uchicago.edu/toys/randomsentence/write-sentence.htm

4 comments:

calvy said...

To be lost in the unfathomable depth of sentence, letting ourselves engulfed by it's sheer poetry. Blip missing and blurb enticing, sentences in their longevity are here to stay and I yearn for them the same way as I do for lost envelopes, postcards and ink spots which the digital have lately taken-away.

Nivedita Bhattacharjee said...

Thanks for commenting. Though, I'd say there's always the chance of coming across people who forget there's a need for the "fullstop" too. No?

amaltaas said...

You've trolled everyone who dared to read this by writing such a long one.
"Cryn lyk nethin"
:P

Nivedita Bhattacharjee said...

"trolled"?

where the mind is without fear and the head is held high..

where the mind is without fear and the head is held high..