Do You Speak Angrish?: The Looney Left & The Righteous Right


If you happen to spend some time in Southern California, you will eventually hear people talking about the escalating use of what has become known as “Angrish.” It describes the dialect spoken by many groups of immigrants who have incorporated English into their native tongue. If you have sought out customer service at one of the infinite number of call centers in our world, you have encountered Angrish. It’s why, at some point in the conversation, you realize that you have only understood, at best, half of the information given to you. As I pondered the term, it struck me that there is another definition that is spoken almost universally in our country, today. It’s “Angry English.” I cannot remember watching or listening to a politician, media figure, entertainer, or academic expert who does not have an angry edge, blaming someone, other than themselves, for the miserable state that some group or constituency is in.

Having lived through the civil rights movement, the Vietnam War, the resignation of a president, the impeachment of another, the War On Terror and a number of other divisive moments in our history, I am still amazed by the hyperbolic level of hostility, throughout our country. The only explanation that makes sense to me, is that we are stuck, as a culture, in the grieving process. More precisely, we are frozen in the second stage – Anger. Anger is the stage that involves the need to place blame. It is non-rational, purely emotional, and serves to unload the irreversible pain of a profound loss. Someone must be responsible for what has happened to me.

So who is to blame, and what have we lost? The culprit is nothing other than Information. It is the quintessential double-edged sword. It has brought us unparalleled opportunity and staggering levels of change, all of which has been accompanied by the loss of what used to be. Our familiars, in all walks of life, are gone, or on their way out. Above and beyond anything else, it has made it clear to everyone alive, that there is always someone who has more or better than me. On the left this has resulted in the demonization of wealth and success. On the right, it has created the idealization of traditional religion, family structures and classical social and gender roles. For both sides, security, guarantees, and predictability, are gone. As a culture, we are just beginning to absorb the traumatizing reality, that no one outside of ourselves, will take care of and protect us. This is deeply frightening; so much so, that we have deferred to scapegoating, to dilute our fears.

What, then, can we do about this cultural crisis? When I lived in the U.K. I was always impressed by the English tradition of debates. Everyone sponsored debates – cities, schools, non-profits. These were real debates, not screaming matches or gottcha fests. A proposition was set forth, and clearly different sides presented their cases, and then took questions. Unruly people were summarily escorted out. Perhaps this is too late for us. I hope not.

Morrie Shechtman

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