While away visiting family and friends, I was not away from the horror of the terror that enveloped Paris. I may have been some 5,600 + miles from Paris, but I could be in the same zone of interest, despite the difference in time zones. I could converse via email with a cousin in Paris, and watch cable news and read analyses on my ipad, and post my sympathies.
Our extraordinary abilities to communicate through fiber optics, cables and signals anywhere, anytime, has transformed civilization in terms of immediate access, but what makes our civilization civilized is our capacity for consideration and compassion. Our advancement in technologies have allowed for an unprecedented flow of communication and movement, which has enabled expressions of hope as well as of hate .
Lately, the pathologies that have distorted and infected our lives with hate have manifested in abuse and violence in carefully orchestrated attacks upon innocents. The hostage takers at the kosher market in Paris spoke fluent French, yet did not speak the same language as their French hostages. The terrorists’ nihilism and dehumanization, was uttered using the same vocalized sounds and words that other French nationals would be familiar with, but there was no connection.
Some have argued that while there is absolutely no justification for violence or abuse, there must be social causes for such disaffection that would enable so many to seek a dangerous and violent path and wage war against Western Civilization. In essence, these people are looking for the pathologies in modern democratic societies that might explain the pathology of terrorism. Freedom, and lately our free speech, whether in the form of a silly comedy movie, or political cartoons, has been threatened with silencing. This is speech pathology!
Often, in cases of medical speech disorders, there is an auditory component. In order to learn language and speak effectively, one must have clear and accurate perception, as well as the structures and strength to create clearly understood speech. Too often, when toddlers are not articulating adequately, there is a hearing deficit. The relationship between being able to hear and speak is inextricable. Even without hearing, there is a capacity for language and communication. Sign language is every bit as expressive, and depends upon perception.
Those who don’t want to hear are seeking to silence the rest of us.This cultural speech pathology has affected those whose perception has them seek to destroy rather than to construct. The speech pathology that we have been witnessing has been so painful because our capacity for communication is so closely intertwined with our humanity and our culture. The pathology of repression and hate, expressed through abuse and violence must always be countered. There is certainly a deficit of hearing and a surfeit of misperception when such pathologies of repression and hate cause those to silence speech and fear freedom.
As I was en route to the airport to head home yesterday, I saw a sign for the “Museum of Tolerance”. I was struck by the idea of exhibiting tolerance. The thought that tolerance as a relic–something housed in a museum– was disturbing. Of course, using historical events as examples of tolerance (and intolerance) are powerful displays of human capacities (and pathologies). Then again, exhibiting tolerance is what we need to do in our daily lives. It’s a sort of speech therapy for the speech and hearing pathologies that have been so threatening.