Today, an address is formal, it precedes a job demand, a lawyer’s letter, and a few exceptions here and there: Dear Robert, Kind Emilie… These transcended remnants of the written world, one born in letters, correspondences, bonds born in leaflets, courageously mailed across the world. These letters needed and address too, a different one, one relating to a place where the correspondent could be found. They wear in a way “customized” envelopes and packages. However they do not stop there, if anything, their predecessor was in the spoken realm, apostrophes and verbal marks of respects.
Reading Hitler’s speech contrasting the exhibit of Degenerate art to his curated presentation of “Great German Art” or Huxley’s first few pages of Brave New World, made me question the notion of “address.” What makes an address? Where is its value, and where has it gone? Are their successful, deceitful, exiting, patronizing addresses? Where have addresses gone in the contemporary use of language?
And address is a focused message. Or, more specifically, the focus-ing of a message. With an address, one takes the time to have a moment of intimacy with a given number of interlocutor(s). It is important to understand the concept of scope in an address. Hitler addresses the “German people” of his time, a singular entity, in the excerpt, there is no singular address, only a series of barks, to the flock, to one synchronized mass of neurons and flesh. It raises the question: was that intended? Was the ambiguous balance between creating a personalized message, and making it appeal to every individual, on purpose? Can that still be considered an address? or has it become a deceitful element of Hitler’s (and many others’ rhetoric?)
I sadly realize that an address is indeed a tool. A neutral auxiliary, which enables us to grab our targeted listener’s attention. It seems that in the past century, with the advertising of products and even the self as a product (Facebook?) we (individuals, corporations, designers and others) have become real geniuses at crafting such polyvalent messages which invoke “relatab-ility” in many of us simultaneously. It’s funny, I grew up believing the church was there for that, are we all mini churches on Facebook? Is the idea of a God within us all not a very similar approach to touching the masses?
I would like to return to the Brave New World. In the passage, we, as the reader, are invited to follow discretely, guided by a slightly cynical narrator, a group of future workers at a Fertilization Centre in futuristic London. There, the process of addressing it projected into a prism and diverted into a complex array of nuances: there is the Director of Hatcheries and Conditioning, there are the Alphas, Gammas, Epsilons, there are Bokanovski processes, and there are people with names.
Does the decision to use an address ever consider how it will TRULLY be received by the interlocutor? When one addresses their superior, as D.H.C., is it out of deep respect, and trying to induce a “warm fuzzy feeling,” is it out of fear, fear of being improper? Thus calling upon us the dismays of an all-powerful supervisor? To me, addresses have been wrongly used out of convention, or for manipulative purposes. La Boetie and Montaigne, on the other hand, used addresses out of respect, a respect perhaps arisen from conventions, true, yet a truly immortal bond.
Immortal? Timeless? These terms remind me of Hitler’s speech, or Brave New World’s “COMMUNITY, IDENTITY, STABILITY”. Yet which bond was strongest? The one uniting the German people at the time, the members of Huxley’s dystopia, or two people conversing as equals? And how is that strength reflected in the “mode of address” each one uses?
Is strength always in numbers?