Just Words

Language is critical to communication and even thinking. Our language both liberates and restricts our thinking. That’s why we, Americans*, often adopt foreign language words that have subtle differences in meaning and nuance than our own native English. How, for instance, would we express ourselves if we could not say “gung ho,” “kowtow” or “taboo?”

But what if you could control the meaning of words and change them? Could you change  the debate or even the perception of reality? Apparently so because that’s exactly what the Left, meaning socialists and collectivists of every stripe, have been doing for at least a century.

Where to start? Marx wrote about the “class struggle” and we regularly use the term “class” today without ever questioning the underlying concept. What if we had unending conversations about unicorns and how to care for them and feed them and increase or decrease their numbers while never questioning the validity of the concept of a unicorn?

Marx also coined the term “capitalism” as a pejorative for free markets and free exchange, as if being left alone or being free to form contracts with others was some sort of “ism” just like Marxism or communism or fascism is. But freedom is the lack of any “ism” being imposed on us. Freedom is not an “ism” in the same way Marxism is, a prescription for an engineered society and the “Dictatorship of the Proletariat.”

Similarly, the Left constantly refers to our “health care system” and nearly everyone engaged in the debate follows suit. Do we have a “movie watching system” or a “restaurant system” or a “clothing system?” The connotation of the phrase “health care system” is an engineered set of rules imposed on us by central planners. This trick distracts us from debating the notion of central planning itself.  Thus, we are left to debate the details of the coercive rules and not if there should be such an imposition of rules on us at all. Why do we need a “system?” How about just a market, as we have for most everything else?

The labels we use to identify political ideas are subject to abuse also. Socialists call themselves “progressives” as if there could be no debate about that. Of course, the term “progressive” also refers to the notion of an unstoppable Dialectical Materialism that always progresses in the same direction.

“Liberal” used to refer to someone who believed in liberty and limited government. But the collectivists saw a chance to co-opt the word and use it to refer to the complete opposite of liberty. So today, a “liberal” is someone advocating for bigger, unlimited government.

For years we have been indoctrinated to view the political spectrum as going from left to right from pure communism (considered not so bad) to right-wing extreme fascism (considered very, very bad). When it is pointed out that Nazi stood for “National Socialist,” the Leftist does an impressive set of mental gymnastics with an end to proving Nazis were really right-wing because racists are right-wing and not the same, at all, as the socialists on the left who are not racists, except, of course, for those who are.

Then there are all those “politically correct” terms used, mostly, to harass us and to intimidate, silence and establish a moral pecking order with the collectivist on top. Most of the justification for political correctness comes from the application of Marxism and the class struggle. When, during the ’60s and ’70s the “workers of the world” didn’t choose to buy in to the Marxist revolution, the Marxists found other classes they claimed were injured by capitalism and America. Those classes include a variety of, so called,  minorities (racial and other) women, homosexuals, transsexuals and even criminals and, finally, flora, fauna and even the Earth itself, all harmed by the “establishment.”

I recall clearly, after one or more of the many Socialist demonstrations that plagued my college campus so many years ago how the organizers would announce it was time to break into various grievance working groups, the “gays” and blacks etc. These groups all had one thing in common: their sad, sad lot in life was caused by the capitalists. It was amazing to me that so many oppressed people could be students at a private, elite, mid-West, university.

I’m not suggesting that there are not offensive terms for people and groups. But this was different. Language, they decided, was a tool of repression. So “negro” was replaced “colored” and then by “black” and, then, when we became comfortable with that, “African American. ” “Girl” was out and “woman” was in, even for teenagers. ” Good by to “Indian” and hello “native American.” So long to “oriental” and welcome “Asian.” Ditto for “Hispanic,” “Latino” and on and on.  To make sure our consciousness was sufficiently raised we had to have “gender studies” departments in school.

For me, besides the successful attempt to create confusion, intimidation and conflict where there was none, the most infuriating thing about this messing with the language was and is the sheer ignorance of it. The brainiacs who foisted all this on us were supposed to be more sensitive and intellectual than the rest of us. But, they don’t know that “gender” refers to grammar and not people. “Native American” is anyone born here. Maybe they meant “aboriginal Americans” or “original Americans” etc. But that’s not what they defended. In addition, I suspect the these original peoples would have strongly objected to  being lumped into one huge group when they thought of themselves separately as Erie or Cree or Lakota etc. They were as different from each other as the French and Hungarians are.

I don’t know if I should take the time to point out that, very, very often people are labeled as “racists” without regard to the definition of the term and even when no race differences are involved. Arabs, for instance, are not a different race than Caucasian Europeans.

How is “Asian” more polite than “Chinese” or even “oriental?” How is one offensive and the other not? I was once smugly corrected when I used the word “Mexican” and told they were “Hispanics.” But we were, actually, talking about Mexicans. So not only are these holier-than-thou intellectuals ignorant but this sort of thing is proof that their goal is to stir the pot, create division and get over on you.

I won’t even go into all the examples of foreign countries and cities that we must now refer to by their foreign name rather than their, perfectly acceptable, English word. Why should I say Beijing instead of Peking? What’s the difference, except to try and put me down? Nothing, of course.

And that’s the point of this whole essay. The Left, collectivists, socialists, Marxists, Lenninists or whatever the Hell you want to call them, use language as a weapon against you to intimidate you and control the terms of the debate.  I could almost stand that if it was done with some intellegence instead of with all the understanding of culture, history and language posessed by a 10 year old.

*And American is, of course, any resident of North, Central or South America. Canadians and Cubans are Americans. We should, more properly, call ourselves “United Statesians” but that sounds pretty dumb. So we are left with “American” as a short-hand. Oh well.


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