Hi, I'm Hetu.

Writer. Tech Enthusiast. Traveler. Photographer. Thinker. Story Teller. Student of life.






Interstellar shaming via language

19 March 2015


Recently, I have been watching old episodes of the Youtube channel Vsauce. Today I saw this one - Lonely. Like every other Vsauce video, it’s a great one. In it Michael mentions Golden Record, something I have known since long but never knew it in great detail. My curiosity peaked after watching the video and there was a link in its description. I dived right down the rabbit hole.

Contents of the Voyager - The Interstellar Mission:

A golden phonograph record was attached to each of the Voyager spacecraft that were launched almost 25 years ago. One of the purposes was to send a message to extraterrestrials who might find the spacecraft as the spacecraft journeyed through interstellar space. In addition to pictures and music and sounds from earth, greetings in 55 languages were included.

I perused through the various songs, pictures, sounds, and music that were sent into space. All great choices, trying to be as encompassing as possible, trying to give as small a gist of human life on Earth as possible.

Then I read the greetings in 55 languages.

I was disappointed. Ashamed. A lot.

9 out of the 55 languages were Indian regional languages. The messages in those languages are shown below. Read them and see if you can feel the same disappointment and shamefulness.

Bengali:

Hello! Let there be peace everywhere.

Gujarati:

Greetings from a human being of the Earth. Please contact.

Hindi:

Greetings from the inhabitants of this world.

Kannada:

Greetings. On behalf of Kannada-speaking people, ‘good wishes.

Marathi:

Greetings. The people of the Earth send their good wishes.

Oriya:

Greetings to the inhabitants of the universe from the third planet Earth of the star Sun.

Punjabi:

Welcome home. It is a pleasure to receive you.

Rajasthani:

Hello to everyone. We are happy here and you be happy there.

Telugu:

Greetings. Best wishes from Telugu-speaking people.

Did you find anything awry in the greetings from couple of languages?
Ok. I will give you a hint. They are Kannada and Telugu.

That’s right. Those languages have

on behalf of Kannada-speaking people

from Telugu-speaking people

in their greetings.

They are the only two languages in the entire list of greetings in 55 languages that have those words.

Let that sink in. Have a ponder. Mull over it.

That is the height of self-isolating, self-pride or whatever the psychologists call it.

There are two possible ways I imagine this could have happened:

And the committee, like I am right now and possibly an alien some long time in the future, would have shook their head in disappointment as yet another chunk of faith in humanity was eroded.

  1. I am not saying all the Kannada and Telugu people feel the same way about their culture but this is how the leaders of the culture represent them. How that is a wrong generalisation and imposition of extreme conservatism on to the masses is a whole other issue of debate and possibly a topic for another article. 


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