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Letting leftists write our dictionary and reinvent our grammar
By Bruce Walker
Leftism has largely won the battle of language. The campaign was long waged by old communists like Marx, Lenin and Stalin. George Orwell grasped that crucial fact. His masterpiece, 1984, in which "War is peace. Freedom is Slavery. Ignorance is Strength" and in his allegorical tale, Animal Farm, in which "All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others."
Orwell understood that abolishing words, inventing words and inverting the meaning of words rendered people incapable of thinking clearly. He also understood that confusion and nonsense was precisely what Leftists wanted. How have purely Marxist terms affected our thought?
Consider the word "capitalism." What is it supposed to mean? The term "capitalism" itself assumes that capital governs economic activities, leaving thoughtful and moral people to choose between supporting rule by the wealthy or rule by the poor. This is simply the deliberate incorporation of Marxist mythology into popular thought.
The powerful control society, but power may be based upon religious or cultural suasion, upon gangsters and invaders, ideological jihads or upon government bureaucracy. What is called "capitalism" is simply an economic system free, or relatively free, of state coercion. Although terms like "free enterprise" and "market economies" ameliorates the harm somewhat, in other ways it makes the problem of muddy thinking worse.
Both "free enterprise" and "market economies" presume that man is homo economus, a creature driven by money and by material comforts. This is patent nonsense, but nonsense which many nominal libertarians and advocates of human liberty often miss.
The exchange of goods and services is a tiny fraction of human existence. The most important things in life have no economic value at all, and it is a reflection of how little wealth matters that cause juries to award incomprehensible verdicts for wrongful death or serious physical injury.
How much would a parent pay for his child? How much would a husband or wife pay for a beloved spouse? How much would grateful children pay for dead parents? Relationships of family, friends, coreligionists, countrymen and fellow artists (in those thousands of areas of human endeavor which are called, or should be called, art) - these are the very stuff of life itself.
So those who favor "free enterprise," because of mangled and constricted words and phrases, do not argue on the vast expanse of human life, but rather than a tiny niche of economic activity. What makes this even more surreal is the overabundance of material wealth in modern society.
Why do we dream that modern man is homo economus when the biggest health problem that the poor face today is obesity? Why have food banks and other incarnations of the Nazi "Winterhilfen" charities, when people are chubby coach potatoes?
Why do we imagine that more resources are needed for education, when children and adults spend substantial fractions of their conscious lives drooling like idiots in front of some form of video screen? Public libraries provide an ocean of learning, wisdom and ideas far beyond what any structured system of education could provide.
If our subliminal digestion of homo economus is bad, another Marxist lie rendered down to a single word is worse. This word ties directly to the current mask of Leftism ("liberal" discredited by its association with actual policies and the uncomfortable connection between that word and its root word.) So what do we call Leftists these days? What do they call themselves?
Progressives! Yes, human progress, that inevitable march of mankind toward heaven on earth. What a seductive concept! What an infantile deception! Why do we imagine that mankind is getting better? Which century in recorded history was as vile as the 20th Century? What good reason do we have for believing that the best is yet to come?
The notion of progress is at the heart of Marxism. It allows people to tromp around breaking eggs, smashing eggs by the carton, pushing railroad cars full of eggs into place like Karaganda, Aleppo and Dachau - all for the sake of "progress" and the "future."
This Marxist corruption entices us with the pathetic sentiment that we are better than the people who came before us. This is a macabre vanity. Men and women five hundred years ago, one thousand years ago, and two thousand years ago routinely endured hardships which we would consider unendurable.
Ancient and medieval peoples demonstrated incredible capacities for thought, art and intuition. They buried most of their children before the offspring reached maturity, and still they carried on. They constructed cathedrals and pyramids, dedicating their lives to things greater than the current nighttime soap opera or sitcom. What childish arrogance to think that we are better than they! Marx, like us, had only one advantage over people of the prior centuries - they could not answer their accusers and slanderers.
Then consider Marx's ideas on equality, which poison almost everything in modern life. Equality is a good value. It implies justice. When "progressives" talk about "equality," however, what they really mean is equivalence, not equality.
Equality means a balancing of values and a personal choice about which values count most. Mothers who stayed at home rather than work came up not only money, but also control over how the money was spent. They valued the chance to raise children and stay at home more than the workplace and the right to earn money.
When Marxists like Betty Friedan started their baseless arguments, the complaint was not only that women were "compelled" to stay at home (Really? By whom?) but that it was somehow unjust - it was some odd version of inequality - that the coal miner or truck driver who earns the money to support the family be allowed to dictate the use of that money.
Leftists have moved beyond old Marxism. Orwell, again, predicted that words which drew distinctions would be abolished. Leftists reflexively call all the failed Leftist misologies which they no longer wish to be associated with as "fascist." Fascism was an awful misology, and it was a Leftist misology, but it is a useless term to describe the large population of disastrous Leftist misologies.
Few Leftists, and thanks to them, few ordinary people understood what Fascism represented, who it favored, who it opposed, how it began and how it ended. Details, to Leftists, are always irrelevant. People are eggs, and Leftists love making omelettes. Facts are shadows, and Leftists love shadowy illusions.
Perhaps the most interesting advance in the mental and social illness which is Leftism is how it has contracted ordinary vocabulary. Orwell noted that Oceania would replace words like "excellent," "quite good," "bad" and "dreadful" with words and phrases like "double plus good," "plus good," "ungood." and "double plus ungood."
How do young adults converse today? "Well, dude, you know, it's like, well, really, really like, you know, talking and stuff, that, dude, is really, really important for us to, you know, like to talk and stuff." Contemporary language is endlessly repetitive, which drains meaning, opinion and cognition from correspondence or conversation.
How do professionals write today? They write text filled with long, dull, empty words. They recite mantras which have no real purpose beyond conformity to political correctness. They construct rules, guidelines, laws, interpretations, decisions, and protocols which really say nothing but pretend, by their bulk and by the convoluted sentence structure, to say much.
Have Leftists won? They have been winning, but there is hope. Conservatives and other normal people are responding with words like "Christophobia" and "Womenism" (I began using both terms several years ago.) We have stopped apologizing for clear, plain English in our conversations and writings.
The key, however, is not just fighting back, but understanding that the maimed language of modernity changes how we think, if we let it. So let us stop taking about "free enterprise" as an alternative to "capitalism" but rather recognize that constricting the grand issue of freedom to the narrow area of money is precisely what Leftists want.
Let us begin - individually, and not as part of some communal mind - to explore our very way of thinking to see what tools have been quietly stolen from us. Let us do what George Orwell did and begin to embrace independent and honest language as an absolute and indispensable virtue of human life.
Bruce Walker is a senior writer with Enter Stage Right. He is also a frequent
contributor to The Pragmatist and The Common Conservative.
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