Debate suffers from illusions of words - The Explorer: Voices

Debate suffers from illusions of words

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Posted: Tuesday, June 16, 2009 11:00 pm | Updated: 1:27 pm, Mon Apr 18, 2011.

"Define or be defined" — Thomas Szasz

Words matter. The following cliches and re-inventions are more than just annoying, they cloud intelligent debate. Words sometimes evolve, or we'd all still sound like Chaucer, but they don't suddenly take on new meanings. Nor should they be replaced with those that appear similar.

Two words that are misused in the immigration debate are "alien" and "amnesty."

Alien, which in that context simply means a foreigner, is opposed by the open borders crowd as "too harsh" and been generally replaced in the mainstream media by "entrant," a far less specific word. Immigration hardliners use "amnesty" to define anything short of criminal prosecution, when the word actually means a general forgiveness. The debate suffers from these illusions.

Bandying "socialism" indicates a general ignorance of economic terms. When the national government allows privates ownership but controls the winners and losers as well as the labor unions, the role model isn't Karl Marx, it's Benito Mussolini, although former socialist Benito cribbed much from Marxism. Another general fallacy is that fascism is a philosophy of the right, but take away the nationalism and the uniforms (still present in North Korea) and you don't exactly have the American conservative belief in small government and personal freedom.

Try "world community" for another puzzling definition. "Community" would indicate a common interest. What common interests do we have with most of the autocratic thug states that make up the rest of the world, from the Free and Democratic People's Republic of Dungeon to the Mordida Islands?

Another common misnomer is to label various thugs around the world as "militants." Well, I'm a militant. So are most of the folks who write letters to the editor complaining about my militancy and professing their own. "Militant" means aggressively active. Blowing up perfect strangers is not "militancy," it's terrorism or just plain murder regardless of motivation.

How about "stakeholder?" That should mean somebody who has a share in a common enterprise. But the shareholders are often pre-determined by a governmental entity to enforce the illusion that everyone involved with an issue is represented. It's a replacement for the American system of representative government where you choose your representation with a system that selects it for you.

Even more purposely vague is the expression "a seat at the table." This is spun-off from the current Euro-dominant theory that rights are granted, not inherent, and are doled out to groups, not possessed by individuals. So feel warm and fuzzy about decisions being made for you by people you never heard of because you've been included under one of the seats.

Fellow talk show host Hugh Hewitt was being pressed one day by a caller who objected to his use of the word "gay," claiming it was an appropriation of a word with another meaning. Hugh's response was he let people define for themselves what they wish to be called, bringing us to "Hispanic" and "Latino."

Both terms are arbitrary inventions of those with a political agenda and most of those crammed into them do not use them themselves. Reliable survey data indicates that the most common self-definition includes the specific ethnic group — Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuban-American, etc., while 26 percent consider themselves simply "Americans," a hint to the GOP about where the 32 percent of "Hispanics" who voted McCain may have come from.

Arab Pan-Nationalists like Ghadaffi and others have claimed to speak for all Arabs or all Muslims and too many westerners have actually taken them seriously. Too many self-defined "Hispanic leaders" have done likewise and attempted to grab their personal "seat at the table" by representing people who never selected them and don't even identify with them.

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