D.卡尔顿 罗西
D. Carlton Rossi



Dumb-Down Déjà Vu

Dumbed down might be mindlessly reduced to Dumb-Down and then matched with Déjà Vu to become Dumb-Down Déjà Vu. When I write of Dumb-Down Déjà Vu I am not referring to the album called Déjà Vu released by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young in March 1970. While I go back to the album many times because of songs like Woodstock, Teach your Children and Our House I do so because of its brilliance and not because of its banality and brainlessness. Did you notice how the words repeat themselves at the beginning of the song called Déjà Vu? Rather, I am referring to dumb-down déjà vu as the sense of unease I have when I contrast what is taking place in the present and what has taken place before.

My first dumb-down déjà vu experience concerned the Canadian Security Exam offered in Toronto by the Canadian Security Institute. I took the six month course in 1983. It was a required course for every stock broker; although, I took it simply for interest. There was a textbook to read. Another requirement was to complete a ten page essay along with bar graphs which contrasted the operations of the Imperial Oil and Shell integrated operations. The essay was graded by a professional. At the end of six months I travelled from Waterloo to Toronto in order to write the exam at the Farmer's Market in the old distillery area.

There were three parts to the exam. There was the one or two sentence answer, the paragraph answer and finally the longer explanation. All were graded by an examiner. One had to know one's material in order to complete the exam in the alloted time. I remember Morton Shulman who was the millionaire currency expert thinking he could pass the exam without studying. He didn't pass. About 40% of the students didn't pass either.

Twenty-five years later I sat down with someone who had just completed the course. He too had a textbook. He didn't have to travel to Toronto to write the exam as he was sent a form with multiple choice questions. Choose either A, B, C or D. It was graded by a machine. I was rather shocked since even Morton Shulman could have passed that exam had he been given it in 1983. Then I was naive enough to ask "Where is your essay?" The answer was "What essay?" Gee, I'm so stupid to ask.

Now, I am having another déjà vu episode of a dumbed down sort. It's not out of The Matrix where there is a glitch which indicates an error in the program. Rather, it has to do with my re-reading of the novel called Anna Karenina by Tolstoy. I originally read the novel through a course in Russian literature at the U of T. Our instructor was Russian, but the course was taught in English and we used an English translation of the novel. It's a long novel over 800 pages. I read it twice before I wrote a required essay.

When I went to China I didn't waste my spare time in idle pastimes. Rather I re-read all the English classics. It also included all novels by Tolstoy translated into English-including Anna Karenina. I read the same translation differently this time because I was not re-reading other novels at the same time. I devoted myself entirely to that novel before I went on to the next one. This meant that I understood it quite differently and I appreciated it more.

I have begun to read a new translation of the novel by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky. It has won critical acclaim. I am thinking to myself maybe it is a better translation since a man should understand the male point of view and a woman should understand the female point of view. However, I don't understand anything. Am I really reading Anna Karenina? There must be some mistake. This can't be the same novel. Have I forgotten so much about it? Not really. Scenes like the skating rink episode involving Levin and Kitty appear. The thing that makes this translation so different for me is that it is in simple, everyday language of today. It doesn't imitate the Russian of yesterday, but makes it come alive today.

It is probably true that each generation has a different interpretation of the world. This is reflected in translations of the same novel. It also means that those of a different generation reading the novel in the Russian language also experience it in a different way. However, for me, today, this new English translation is very foreign to me. It is like reading Russian which I know nothing about.

The dumb-down déjà vu now becomes "dd dv. DD DV doesn't have to involve taking an educational course. DD DV doesn't have to involve reading a novel. It can involve anything. If you drove an 18 wheeler, 15 gear, double-clutch with air brakes as I have done then you might experience DD DV if you were driven by an autonomous vehicle especially if you were DWI or are DUI. What are your experiences of DD DV, DD DV and DD DV etc?