I was intrigued by the news that Dr Linda ManyGuns, the Associate Vice-President of Indigenization and Decolonization at Canada’s Mount Royal University — I’m sorry, I’ll start that again. I was intrigued by the news that dr linda manyguns, the associate vice-president of indigenization and decolonization at mru, has joined something called the movement that does not capitalize. To quote from dr manyguns’ statement:
this is a beginning effort at describing the use of lower case on the website of the office of indigenization and decolonization.
the goal of equity, diversity and inclusion of all people is synonymous with the interests of Indigenous people. we support and expand the goal of equality and inclusion to all forms of life and all people. we join leaders like e. e. cummings, bell hooks, and peter kulchyski, who reject the symbols of hierarchy wherever they are found and do not use capital letters except to acknowledge the Indigenous struggle for recognition.
we resist acknowledging the power structures that oppress and join the movement that does not capitalize.
the movement that does not capitalize? I’ve never heard of it and it doesn’t show up on web searches. Then again an organized movement might be contrary to the spirit of non-hierarchical resistance that dr manyguns values. In any case, the reasoning behind her ‘beginning effort’ is admirably simple: capital letters are a symbol of hierarchy, hierarchy is bad, therefore capital letters are bad.
I assume that the immediate cause of dr manyguns’ stand was her justified anger at the recent discovery of the unmarked graves of hundreds of indigenous children at former residential schools in Canada. There is no doubt that the treatment of these children was abhorrent, separated as they were from their families in a brutal attempt at assimilation. But I wonder what the adoption of lower case type on a single website is intended to achieve, other than to signal the kind of high-status language games that exercise so many right-thinking people in the area of gender pronouns. And though these practices may be high-status, they’re also curiously infantile.
Changing a website’s text as a mark of ‘resistance’ seems a peculiarly feeble, irrelevant gesture, and just the sort of thing a progressive academic would dream up. Only those who are most up-to-date in the latest woke fads will understand it. Common folk will look at the website and assume there’s something wrong, that the university has an illiterate on their staff. It would be laughable were it not for the context, the shameful treatment of those dead children. Besides, capital letters are one of the tools of written language, an aid to clarity communication and meaning. Abandoning them does nothing but strengthen the voices of the obscurantists, the hot-air blowers, and the bullshit merchants.
Incidentally, EE Cummings often used capital letters and when he wrote verse in lower case, it wasn’t in order to ‘reject the symbols of hierarchy’.
[Children’s alphabet image © Learning Printable.]