(Language Based Differences)
In the bible we are told that “in the beginning was the word”. Obviously, nobody believes that there were words floating in empty space. The more likely interpretation would be to say that words function as a bridge between idea and manifestation, between words and the combination of tonal qualities that combine to create a specific resonance that serves to express its meaning. This sort of interpretation seeks nothing more than to strip the notion of words of their ethnic, regional and cultural connotations in order to facilitate our approach to considering language based differences among the people of the world from an unencumbered perspective. In this context we are able to approach our understanding of language based differences from different perspectives. Let us consider language based differences from the following two perspectives: 1) The differences based in ethnic, regional and cultural considerations, and; 2) The intended use of language.
(Differences Based on Ethnic, Regional & Cultural Elements)
Approaching our understanding of language in terns of ethnic, regional and cultural differences is the default manner of interpretation for any scientific research venture. Our ability to communicate with one another regardless of such differences depends on a comprehensive mapping of established use and meaning for each distinct language cluster identified. It is on the basis of such a mapping approach that we essentially define the efforts of those that would develop models of human interpretation. In order to assure that we are interpolating between languages in an appropriate manner, we create an infrastructure of language use that can be consistently applied to all languages to provide for consistent interpretations of the languages to be considered. Therefore, the linguistic infrastructure itself provides us with scientific precision and serves to ensure our understanding.
The purpose of our current consideration is to bring to light the fact that this approach can in fact produce appropriate interpretations and understanding but only if it is the case that the use of a given language shares the same worldview. For example, in a favorite Star Trek (TNG) episode captain Picard was transported to a planet along with another captain of a different species, to fight a monster indigenous to the neutral planet. In a joint effort to defeat the monster, the two captains needed to communicate. Picard had his translator on so he heard everything the other captain said in English. Unfortunately, even in English he could not understand what the captain was saying. By the end of the episode, Picard realized that the other captain was speaking in purely metaphorical terms. They were then able to communicate effectively and defeat the monster.
The point of my Star Trek scenario is that language can be used differently. If members of two different languages come from different worldviews, it wouldn’t matter how much you were able to map the other cultures behavior, you would not be able to effectively communicate working exclusively from within your own worldview. This point needed to be clarified so that we could make the point that Hispanic consciousness is based on a different worldview that is capable of incorporating and including everything within the worldview of the status quo of the United States and still operate beyond the capacity of the limited worldview of a scientistic and democratic culture. The bottom line is that Hispanics are perfectly capable of using language differently in any social context they wish.
(Differences Based on Magical Thinking and Fatalism)
Let us begin by considering the words of my unofficial mentor, Nobel laureate, Octavio Paz (The Bow and the Lyre, 1972), when he states that there is a flow of energy that runs through all of existence. I understand this to occur in a manner not totally dissimilar to that described by the Hindu faith as Namaste. In the description given by Paz of indigenous peoples, Paz believes that wisemen and poets are able to access this flow of energy that contains the teachings of our forefathers which has been encoded into our DNA to guide us forward through the expanse. In this context, let us consider once again the notions of fatalism and magical thinking.
The belief in fatalism of indigenous peoples, the ancestors of modern Hispanic people from the Chaco Canyon in New Mexico to Peru’s lost city of Machu Picchu, stems from the charting of the universe and the observations of our own planet, nature’s cycles and nature’s manifest behavior. By living in harmony with nature, as opposed to attempting to control nature to produce goods for the benefit of human kind, indigenous cultures accept the life and death cycle as a positive series of occurrences and in turn, believe that our death in fact enriches the flow of energy that defines our living. It is in this way that fatalism becomes an essential ingredient in the culture of indigenous people.
What exactly is meant by the notion of magical thinking? Even if we said, in a non-scientific manner, that it is the opposite of scientistic thinking, we still wouldn’t know what we are talking about. One way to approach our understanding of magical thinking is to refer to the beginning of this section wherein we state that words function as a bridge between ideas and manifestations, a resonate link between the flow of energy within us all and the words and combinations of tonal qualities that combine to create a specific resonance to express its meaning or manifestation. In this context, magical thinking would be said to be the ability to acquire meaning prior to any specific resonant objectification. Thus, the tribal wisemen or poets are able to access the wisdom of our forefathers as a resonant essence which, in turn, they are able to fulfill for the tribe in its verbal meaning. However, magical thinking is not restricted to wisemen and poets. Poetic consciousness is an inherent part of all contemporary descendents of indigenous people specifically, and human beings in general.
(The Use of Language by Hispanics)
When academic researchers seek to understand the wide variety of Hispanic cultures from the Northern most reaches of the North American continent to the Southern most region of the South American continent, the chosen approach has been to take stock of cultural behavior in relation to expressed ideology and their variations. This type of approach is limited in nature and scope. That is, methodologies based in this type of approach inherently miss the most important aspect of the cultures they seek to understand. Specifically, the manner in which language is used. In this context, the work of Enrico Pupo-Walker is most revealing. In his study of language use, Pupo-Walker states:
“Hoy, esa orientación revolucionaria o iconoclasta frente al lenguaje es rasgo primordial de casi toda la narrativa hispanoamericana. . . . Es una critica que, si a primera vista se dirige al hecho linguistico como tal, a la postre denuncia también los valores caducos o falsos en que se apoya la estructura social y política de muchos países americanos”.
“Today, that revolutionary or iconoclastic orientation to language is a key feature of almost all Hispanic American narrative. . . . It is a criticism that, at first glance is directed to the linguistic fact as such, but ultimately complains of the outdated or false values that underpin the social and political structure of many American countries.”
What is interesting about Pupo-Walker’s view of Hispanic American expression is that, in being iconoclastic, it questions the very value structure of many American countries. I say this because Hispanic American countries have, for the most part, been unsuccessful in their efforts to assimilate into their borrowed Western European socio-political structures. Pupo-Walker goes on to describe contemporary Hispanic American literature as expressing such originality that it is not likely to be offered in other parts of the Occident. In this context, then, in what sense can we say that the Hispanic American mode of expression is unique with respect to the rest of the Occident, and how might this affect our understanding of the Hispanic America’s mode of expression in relation to indigenous beliefs?
Let us begin by considering the linguistic turn which Pupo-Walker mentions, as it is expressed by Carlos Fuentes in his text, La Nueva Novela Hispanoamericana. Fuentes agrees with Octavio Paz that “poems and myths coincide in transmuting time into a special temporal category, a past always future which is always disposed to being present, to presenting itself”. In comparing such a view of contemporary Hispanic American expression with the rest of the Occident, Fuentes seems to agree with Pupo-Walker regarding its uniqueness. He states:
Paradójicamente, la necesidad mítica ha surgido en Occidente sobre las ruinas de la cultura que negó al mito – pero no negó también a su gemelo enemigo, la poesía, maldiciéndola?
Paradoxically, the need for myth has arisen in the West on the ruins of the culture that denied the mythical – but didn’t it also deny its twin enemy, poetry, speaking badly of it?
Fuentes seems to believe that the predominant inability of the Occident to recuperate the mythological in their use of language, and even to deny it, has been the ruin of Occidental cultures in general. That is, without this ability to recuperate the past which is always future and always disposed to being present, to presenting itself, human structures will always necessarily lead to a state of anomie. If Pupo-Walker claims that the contemporary Hispanic American approach to language is not likely to be offered in other parts of the Occident and Fuentes, after characterizing the contemporary Hispanic American approach to language as capable of recuperating the mythological, concludes that the predominant inability of the Occident to do likewise has led to its current state of cultural anomie, what, then, is the basis for such a unique ability on the part of contemporary Hispanic Americans? As Francisco H. Vasquez shows us in his article, “Aztec Epistemology,” there is historical precedence for the primacy of the poetic in language for Aztec (indigenous) culture:
“The tlamatinime (wisemen) compared their metaphysically oriented knowledge with the ideal of true knowledge to the extent that man is able to grasp it, and their doubts about the possibility of finding truth grew. The tlamatinime then presented their theory of metaphysical knowledge in terms of poetry. . . The Aztec epistemological conception was crystallized in a meeting of poets and wisemen. A particular poem was recited which embodies the concept of “flower and song” as the way to find truth”.
What Vasquez refers to as metaphysically oriented knowledge is the Aztec cosmology and spiritual beliefs, whereas the ideal of true knowledge was believed to be based on observation. Aztec epistemology, then, can be expressed in Western terms as a form of dualism. Thus, it was after a comparison between observation (facts) and ideology (beliefs) that the Aztec came to express ideology in terms of poetry (flower and song is a metaphor for poetry). In this view, observation takes on a functional role while ideology is believed to be essential for understanding the human condition and finding the way to truth.
Magical thinking is the ability, consciously or unconsciously, to access the flow of energy that binds all human beings together. Unfortunately, in a worldview that gives emphasis to the way we view human existence to the realm of science, it is not an appropriate way to view or interact with nature. Strict adherence to the principles of science forces upon the citizens of society the need to reject any beliefs based in principles that are not able to be verified empirically.
Consciousness, as expressed by all native Americans and mestizos (Hispanics) from the Northern most regions of the United States to the Southern most regions of the South American continent, invoke their poetic consciousness as an ontological part of their own composition as human beings. Alternatively, Western European consciousness invokes its own scientistic worldview as an ontological part of their own composition as human beings. The former lives in harmony with the cycles of nature and is able to access the mythological while the latter seeks to control nature to produce goods for the benefit of human beings in a static worldview devoid of God, the mythical and all ideology not based in science.
Western Europeans and their ideological antecedents had a couple of experiences in common that served to bind them all together. Specifically, they all lived under one form of tyranny or another and they all found war to be a consistent social reality. Alternatively, even the allegedly savage Aztecs, as a warrior tribe that conquered others in their expanse northward, incorporated the conquered tribes into their own worldview to eventually become citizens of the Aztec Empire. In this context, looking from within the empire itself, war could be seen as a young man’s burden dedicated to the expanse of the empire. The majority of Aztec citizens, however, were able to live under the protection of the empire in a manner that Aztec families could enjoy their lives among their fellow citizens. Although the rules of the king were harsh, they did apply to everyone equally and required an offense to be invoked. This was possible because, as previously stated, their poetic consciousness was first and foremost a language based on the realization that we are all human beings sharing our interactions with each other and with nature. This, then, is the inherent knowledge base of poetic consciousness.