Monday, May 4, 2009

When the people start to whisper ... (John 7)

This chapter deals with publicity, and public perceptions. Secret journeys, and open disclosures. The career of the Prophet from Galilee has suffered setbacks. Many of his followers have turned their backs on him, disappointed that he refused to perform tricks on cue, like a trained monkey. His own half-brothers mock him -- "Hey, if you really want publicity, what are you doing here in the boondocks?[1] Take your dog and pony show[2] to Jerusalem."

John then gives us a vivid picture of the simmering curiosity and unrest in Jerusalem at that time:
Joh 7:11 Yahudi yetkililer O'nu bayram sırasında arıyor, "O nerede?" diye soruyorlardı.
Joh 7:12 Kalabalık arasında O'nunla ilgili bir sürü laf fısıldanıyordu. Bazıları, "İyi adamdır", bazıları da, "Hayır, tam tersine, halkı saptırıyor" diyorlardı.
Joh 7:13 Bununla birlikte yetkililerden korktukları için, hiç kimse O'ndan açıkça söz etmiyordu.
Let's look at a few words:
  • yetkililer -- the authorities
  • Kalabalık arasında -- The crowds / among
  • laf -- word, chatter, talk, gossip, etc.
  • fısıltı -- whisper (noun)
  • fısıldamak -- to whisper (verb)
  • yetkililerden korktukları için -- of the authorities / their fear / because of
  • O'ndan açıkça söz etmiyordu-- of Him / openly / word / they did not utter
There's a quiet buzz going on, an ominous undertone to the noise of the festive crowds. As the old movie cliche goes, "the natives are restless tonight." They dare not speak openly,[3] but they are talking about subjects the rulers wish would go away.

The doom of the Soviet Union was sealed in the 1970s when bootleg copies of The Gulag Archipelago found their way back to Moscow. American children remember the story of The Emperor's New Clothes, by Hans Christian Anderson. Until a naive little boy pointed out the emperor's nakedness, everyone pretended to see him clad in gorgeous apparel. The Chinese had the expression, "the mandate of heaven" that explained the right of the emperor to rule. Those who lost the allegiance of the people, their "face," their public crediblilty, no longer had a divine mandate. The greek-derived word tyrant originally meant one who ruled on the basis of brute force, rather than from a divine mandate. A Turkish naval officer once explained to me that, in Anglo-American tradition, armed insurrection was called "an appeal to heaven."

The authorities were worried. They imposed censorship, their version of the "fairness doctrine." Yet they could not silence the original internet, the grapevine.[4]


[1] "Boondocks" is a Tagalog word that has entered the English vernacular. It refers to an area of uncivilized wilderness.

[2] A "dog and pony show" is a contemptuous term that denigrates a public performance that seeks an audience.

[3] Oscar Wilde once wrote about "a love that dares not speak its name." Today, a powerful American lobby makes our ears ring with propaganda for "a love that will not shut up."

[4] "The grapevine" refers to informal channels of communication -- water-cooler gossip,[5] the rumor mill, etc. One of the most famous American rock songs is Marvin Gaye's I Heard it on the Grapevine.

[5] In the America of 50 years ago, corporations provided water coolers for employees. Thirsty people congregated briefly there, exchanging a few words with co-workers. Today, the water-cooler is a metaphor for socializing in the office, on company time.

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