In a Word: Land, de Mankh (Walter E. Harris III)

foto credit Maria Draghici

foto credit Maria Draghici

What if we are speaking not in tongues but opposites? And if what we say is commonly agreed upon so we know what’s meant when we say it, yet it’s actually the opposite being said.

George Orwell’s famous quote from “1984” – published in 1949 – explains some of that: “War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength.”

Yet way before that, the actual language got twisted and some words got bad names, so to speak.

The nonsense being deconstructed here is insidious; and by doing this, presumably will come some constructive sense.

Word 1: Villain. Everyone knows that’s the bad guy, the evil-doer, the one to catch by the end of the film, play, novel, opera, right? But the word-root means the opposite; from “villa, ‘village, group of houses’ from weik-sla- from weik- clan.” And by activity, “farmer, peasant, commoner.”

The actual villain aspect could be considered as the elite of empire: “country mansion of the ancient Romans” – sounds like the original gated community, yet that exclusivity was and still is fed off of the back of the farmhands and common folk. So in the modern day sense of the word, the villain is not some individual but the system itself. The original villain was working the land.

Word 2: Heathen. “Old English, hæðen ‘not Christian or Jewish,’ also as a noun, ‘heathen man, one of a race or nation which does not acknowledge the God of the Bible.’”

“Heathen” are of the “heath” which is from “Old English hæð ‘untilled land, tract of wasteland’ and ‘heather, plants and shrubs found on heaths’ and from a root, “kaito: forest, uncultivated land.” “Cultivate” and “colonize” are both from the root “colere.”

Heathen became a slur toward those living the land, those not wanting to be oppressed by the dominant religion and not wanting to be cultivated or colonized.

Word 3: Pagan. “’Person of non-Christian or non-Jewish faith,’ from Late Latin paganus ‘pagan,’ in classical Latin ‘villager, rustic; civilian, non-combatant’ noun use of adjective meaning ‘of the country, of a village,’ from pagus ‘country people; province, rural district,’ originally ‘district limited by markers.’”

And the pattern emerges: the villain, the heathen, the pagan – all have been historically traumatized; all have gotten a bad name by those who opposed their way of living and sought to rule and control them – and too-often have.

Word 4: Civilization. Of the “town, city,” and civilized is typically considered as the opposite of heathen, pagan, “barbarian” and “savage.” But not just the opposite, civilization is considered as superior, as the action of civilizing is, „to bring out of barbarism, introduce order and civil organization among, refine and enlighten,” clearly implying – and the horrors of history back this up – that those not abiding by “the God of the Bible” and those not living in the “mansion” need to be enlightened, in other words, removed from their original culture so as to be the underlings of someone else’s madness.

Word 5: Barbarian. “Foreign, of another nation or culture.” Too-often, wars against “barbarians” so as to “bring [them] out of barbarism,” in other words, deny them their inherent way of being.

Word 6: Savage. “‘Wild, undomesticated, untamed, strange, pagan,’ from silvaticus ‘wild,’ literally ‘of the woods,’ from silva ‘forest, grove.’ Of persons, the meaning ‘reckless, ungovernable’ is attested from c. 1400, earlier in sense ‘indomitable, valiant.’”  “Ungovernable” reads as a definition supplied by governmental control freaks.

Word 7: Land. This one sums up the gist of the above mentioned issues: “Middle Welsh, llan ‘an open space,’ Welsh llan, ‘enclosure, church,’ Breton, lann ‘heath.’

Last time I checked, there’s one Earth . . . so we’re all heathen and we all want open space, yet many have been enclosed, with some, especially Original Peoples, because of the church’s papal bulls and Doctrine of Christian Discovery, Domination and Dehumanization*, which, in the 15th century, deemed that land uninhabited by non-Christians was the church’s for the taking.

An incomplete list of current enforced or semi-enforced enclosures: Native reservations/prisoner-of-war camps; Blacks and Hispanics in ghettos; Palestinians in open-air prisons; apartheid in Africa; the US prison-industrial-complex; and a sort of triumvirate of the path to success of the American Dream: the classroom sans actual experience; the 9 to 5 cubicle; the big-box store.

Sometimes a “spade” is a spade and a “spoon” is a spoon and a “cigar” is just a cigar, yet checking the word-origins can unravel many a conundrum, following the basic premise that, contrary to Dylan’s classic, “Think twice, it’s not alright” because the arbiters of words may be flipping your consciousness without you knowing it. And the flipping is then used as a means of control.


*Original Free Nations
word-origins from Online Etymological Dictionary

Mankh (Walter E. Harris III) is a writer and smaller press publisher, as well as an essayist and resident poet at His forthcoming book is Moving Through The Empty Gate Forest: inside looking out. In addition to his literary pursuits, he travels a holistic mystic Kaballah-rooted pathway staying in touch with Turtle Island. His website