Oxford comma

Another Talk Together participant talks about his experiences so far, and his feelings about comments posted online in response to an article about Talk Together published in the Oxford Mail.

“Who gives a f*** about an Oxford comma? This line from Vampire Weekend was on repeat in my head as I got off the bus and stepped into what has become one of the most bizarre situations I’ve found myself in. That’s saying something, considering I really didn’t know what to expect, and so was anticipating anything.

“In the midst of several hundred Italian, German, French and Japanese students here learning English, a group of United World College students and several other young minds gathered. We were supposed to be joined by groups of students from Tindouf, Morocco and Layounne. The situation in the Western Sahara was supposed to be discussed, the groups from North-West Africa providing a firsthand account from which the rest of us could learn invaluable lessons from. The discussions were going to be aided by the new skills in non-violent communication which we are having workshops in.

“As in life, not everything went exactly to plan.

“The Moroccan, Tindouf and Layounne groups were all unable to come for various reasons, the truth behind we may never fully know. Ironically, this setback has gotten us more media attention that we would have otherwise have been afforded. Everybody loves a drama.

“And while there are many people who support this programme, there are also many who don’t. On one website, under an article about the situation, were several strong criticisms. I can understand cynicism. Perhaps tax-money would be better spent on transport and other infrastructure. But the attitude that programmes such as this are useless are what gets me.

“Why is it useless to bring people together in discussion? Why can young people not have useful ideas? It’s not a realistic attitude, it’s a negative one.

“Nobody claims we’re going to solve the conflict, we’re not going to come anywhere close. What we are doing, and this might be a slightly alternative version of the initial concept, is showing people the reality of the world we live in. Some people will be stopped at airports, some people will fight. Others won’t. I’m sure that when people see what is happening here (everything is being filmed for a documentary) that our being here will be justified.

“The Oxford comma makes a sentence less ambiguous, that’s what I’ve tried to do, and that’s why we care.”

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