EDIT. This was brought on by thoughts of geobonding – the way a language spoken on a land for a long time in some ways becomes a land. I am envious of those who speak a language which has been on the land for a long time, because it has depths of richness and resonates in ways that English, the language that records its colonial history, cannot. There are about 35 at-risk languages in BC alone, and the death of a language is part of the extinction that is genocide.
It is your land – or you belong to it, after a while the distinction blurs – because every syllable of your language matches in magic the staccato calls of birds, the falls of rock, the crashing ocean, the dear familiar taste of this corm or that other, your particular delicacy. Only those friendly voices, who speak as you speak, and understand as you do, can share those nuances with you. This is what your language is. Each time you kill a language, my dear human, you are killing a small but measurable way to look at the world. Do not be an idiot! If a people live on a land for 50 years they forget the poor children (in capitalist terms, and even then it’s charitable) they stole it from. If they live on it ten thousand, twenty thousand, thirty thousand years, ah, then strange things start to happen.
They have sung there for 30,000 years. Their land has felt the resonance of their ir/reverant voices for 30,000 years,. You say it isn’t theirs. Of course it is. They’ve been putting their people in the ground, or elsewhere, for that long, birthed and suffered great wounds and triumphed and been wrong to the point of extinction on that land, and then been kicked off of most of it or transposed entire.
Then they experienced that moment, which you are not allowed to co-opt, you with your fucking lawyers, god damn them all and I say that as an atheist so you hell-coupled miscreants will attend me, when you, with all of your people, have been ground up in the Malthusian sequelae of geopolitics, and weather, and religion, and war, and disease, and alcohol or opium or speed, and all of you are thrown into history like pretty stones into a rock polisher. When you come out, you are bright and shiny and new, for the house organs of capitalism likewise wear you down, and tell you that if you do not look like the rest of the world (however defined, but since humans are racially all one big playground, it’s really the same everywhere – the local rich) you will be Othered until you have the sense to kill yourself or otherwise die young from generations of trauma.
But. Life’s not fair. Your enemies (demonstrably trying to kill you = enemies, pull on your beard as you may) co-opt everything about your people that they think is cool (an ever shrinking target as your blessed elders die), conflate it with sex and race and linguistic ability in a new language, and with skill and speed and a keen eye for the main chance, mock and countersue and vilify and beat and rape and jail and drug and abuse the living shit out of you if you even dare to whimper in the courts, or in any way upend the folkways of racism, Jim Crow and apartheid and the hell-coupled residential schools, so you have to get creative about how to keep fighting, but in the meantime everything you love about your culture you must keep alive (and even some shit you hate, but hey, tradition.) There is no one else.
So please be poor and mount court challenges to systemic discrimination against white people, while being among the last three hundred people who speak English, on Earth, while living in Nigeria with no clean water, before you pour verbal abuse on people who are in exactly the same situation, now, with just.the.names.changed. Your inability to understand with any human feeling or compassion the responsibility placed on the holders of a language in jeopardy transforms you into an enemy, always, until you free your mind. For even if I grant that you have the right to the land, shelter on this challenging planet (which no uncoerced indigenous person ever shall), by killing a language you have committed a crime against humanity, and in spreading the blame and shame of it across an entire country, every colonial government must stand accused.