From Iceland — Two Thousand Krónur´s Worth Of Freedom

Two Thousand Krónur´s Worth Of Freedom

Published June 10, 2009

Your language is somebody else’s property. Not only does it get dealt with in grammar books, by officials making official rules for how things can and cannot be – but everytime anybody gets a good idea for a phrasing, a metaphor, a pun or a pickup line sooner than later someone is going to use that piece of (your?) language to sell you something – deodorant, cars, bras, müsli, politics, sneakers.
    In the early seventies, Gil Scott-Heron told us that the revolution would not be televised – meaning that it will belong to the masses and not the mass media. It will not be watched, you can’t subscribe to it – everyone will participate. In the nineties, hip-hop artist and self-proclaimed radical KRS One rephrased it for Nike – The revolution is basketball, and basketball is the truth and thus the revolution was televised.
    In Iceland the name for cellphone credit is “frelsi”. Freedom. You literally enter a store and ask for “Two thousand krónur’s worth of freedom”. This is the fruit of a successful marketing campaign. In the UK, people ‘hoover’ their carpets – Hoover being a manufacturer of the machines that suck carpets. All over the world people ‘xerox’ documents – Xerox being a manufacturer of those document-copier thingies.
    Of course people buying cellphone credit know they are not getting actual freedom for their money. For one thing the people have long ago been told they already are free, and they do not believe themselves to be encaged. And yet they keep saying it, sneaking it past the gates of their subconscious – two thousand krónur’s worth of freedom – repeating the advertisement to themselves, to the clerks, to the people behind them, to their friends and family until everybody’s saying it. And you realise you’re running out of freedom and need to go get some more.
    Language is not where we perform our thought. Language is merely the tool we use to categorise it and “control” it. Gaining control over language is the closest anyone can come to actually controlling thought. Think of prayer. Think of slogans. Think repetitive pop lyrics (If you seek Amy). Think of all the banal sentences you hear and say every day for all of your life – meaning close to nothing. Think of your predetermined route through grammatical structures – the paths you take to form your thought.
    This is where poetry comes in. If it has any role in the world, any function that I’d allow myself to describe as holy, it’s to regain language, to strike down banal structures with furious anger, to reveal the thievery that’s taken place – to steal back what I feel belongs to me (or, in your case, you). To not gain control over language, but to relinquish control and liberate language. Sometimes that means making it weird. Making it difficult. Making it damn near illegible.
    The point is simply to squirm and dance, kick and struggle, hug and cuddle – the more righter it feels the more gooder it is.

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