Words have meaning. That meaning can change either over time or by deliberate interference in the language by internal or external forces. Words that change meaning, or appear and disappear over time aren’t really a problem. That’s a fairly organic process. But when the change is introduced on purpose, that’s when we run into trouble. Does it matter when words change meaning? Does it matter if activists or the powers that be determine that certain words are no longer accepted for use in polite society? I’m not talking about derogatory words or slurs, but rather ordinary words. Words like riot or protest or insurrection…Continue reading “The Meaning of Words”
It’s become fashionable, and is even seen as moral, to label people who use “Chinese virus” or “WuFlu” as racists. The (less than logical) argument is that by identifying an illness by its point of origin, one is implying that the people of that country are to blame, or are all carriers of, that illness. The pretzel shape of that argument is amazing. What all the screaming misses is that the names are aimed at the government of China, not the Chinese people. Yes, yes. I know that there are the usual morons physically and verbally attacking Asians. Trust me, those people would be attacking others regardless of what the illness is called. Those attackers are what we call “criminals.” People who commit crimes, like for instance, attacking elderly people because those elderly are a different race.Continue reading “Governments, People, and Labels”
The other day, I started a blog post about rhetoric that wound up all rambly and somewhat incoherent. I had been thinking about the endless discussion in the press about the “incursion” into the Capitol building on January 6. Or the “riot” that had taken place that day. Or the “insurrection” that had occurred. All these words mean different things and conjure up vastly different images than does “protest”. And of course, the media would have us believe that the burning and looting that occurred in numerous cities this past summer was nothing more than “mostly peaceful protests.” Because only a “riot” would include looting and burning and riots are bad. So, if you’re on the side of the rioters, you need them to be only protesting. Those guys riot, we’re just protesting.Continue reading “Projection”
Yes, Twitter is censoring the President of the United States. Yes, Apple, Google, and Amazon are censoring and engaging in monopolistic business practices against Parler. This is what’s happening. If you said “Yay! Twitter banned Trump!” you are a proponent of censorship and an opponent of free speech. Yes, you are, no matter how fast you spin in circles to justify it.Continue reading “Censorship”
Political philosopher Hannah Arendt coined the term “totalitarian” to denote those political systems which were created to control not only the political life of a state, but the cultural, social, and even personal life of its citizens. George Orwell in 1984 described a state where the government decided everything for its citizens and changed the language in order to fit the circumstances it wished to portray. Both authors, one in fiction and one in non-fiction were describing and predicting the consequences of what was coming to pass in the then-new Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, particularly under the rule of Josef Stalin.
Control of language is of utmost importance to a state. With that control the state (and those running the state) is able to force citizens to accept its view of issues, policies, and ideas. One consequence of such control is the public shaming of those who do not use the accepted terms either out of principled refusal or simple ignorance. Public shaming is very effective in silencing dissenting voices in the public square. It is also very effective in silencing any discussion or debate around any issue or policy. Disagreement with state conventions, policies, and issues is viewed and described as traitorous and those guilty of such treason must be silenced at all costs. The state and those in control cannot afford to have any of their positions questioned as that will bring to light the contradictions and hypocrisies that exist in the interior of those positions.
These contradictions and the very loud and very strong attempts to bury them is becoming clear in the rising debates around transgender athletes. Weightlifting has had the most public controversies. A transgender woman in New Zealand competed in and won a gold medal in the Australian International in 2017. Another transgender woman had her record expunged from the Raw Powerlifting Federation female records. Both of these women were and are biological men who have taken hormone treatments, but have not had surgery. Under pressure from international advocacy groups, the international sport governing federations have changed their requirements for testosterone levels in female athletes. Testosterone usage has long been an issue in the Olympics dating back to the days of East German female competitors. Testosterone boosts strength in those who take it or have higher amounts of it in their systems. Like men do. Biological men are competing against women and winning. Quelle suprise,
Be aware, none of the controversy revolves around anybody’s right to identify themselves however they wish. What is does revolve around is whether self-identification creates reality. A transgender person is not a biological male or female. Here’s where language comes into it. The word “sex” is used by biologists to denote the physiological differences within a species that allow for that species to reproduce. Without those differences appearing at some point, the species will die. Only amoebas are able to reproduce via self-separation (and even there separation is involved). Higher order fauna (e.g. not plants) must have two sexes in order to continue the species.
The word “gender” was first used as a synonym for “sex” as it was considered less racy. (I’m not kidding. I’m so old, I can remember being told to use “gender” when explaining biological processes.) Now, however, gender is used to describe the outward appearance and self-identification. That’s fine. However, changing the language or insisting that biological sex and self-created gender are one and the same is naive at best and totalitarian at worst.
The insistence that gender and sex be viewed as the same brings up a whole host of other issues. Many of these can be filed as resulting from the “Law of Unintended Consequences”. For instance, if gender and sex are indeed the same, then there is no longer any need for sex/gender segregated sports or organizations. No need for “grrl pwr” or giving girls an extra leg up in science or any other endeavor. If there’s no difference, then all kids and adults can compete for all things without regard to any differences. Language usage will tell us there is no difference. If you see a difference you are guilty of treason and wrongthink.
This is a long and involved topic. I’ll be posting more in the next few days as I continue to mull over the implications and arguments. But, hey! It’s Monday so let’s start the week with some complex, higher-order thinking!