What’s in a Word

One of mine and my wife’s biggest grievances is the redefinition or misuse of words and phrases.

Whether these redefinitions or misusage is intentional or accidental is aside from the point.  The fact of the matter is that meaning and understanding are not possible when the terms used for meaning and understanding are constantly shifting.

2 + 2 always equals 4, unless you redefine 2 to mean 2.1.  It’s not really that different after all, but 2.1 + 2.1 doesn’t equal 4.  It equals 4.2.  It’s a rounding error really.  Get over it.  Just because words aren’t mathematical absolutes doesn’t alter the process and endgame of all this redefining.

Today I read this:

“Medicare-for-all is civilization. Campaign finance reform is civilization. Funding education is civilization. Progressive taxation is civilization. Dialing back the use of war is civilization”

What is civilization?

According to Merriam-Webster civilization is defined as follows:   a relatively high level of cultural and technological development;   the stage of cultural development at which writing and the keeping of written records is attained   the culture characteristic of a particular time or place

  1. 1a :  a relatively high level of cultural and technological development;specifically :  the stage of cultural development at which writing and the keeping of written records is attainedb :  the culture characteristic of a particular time or place

  2. 2:  the process of becoming civilized

  3. 3a :  refinement of thought, manners, or tasteb :  a situation of urban comfort

Oxford says:

The stage of human social development and organization that is considered most advanced:they equated the railroad with progress and civilization

The process by which a society or place reaches an advanced stage of social development and organization.

The society, culture, and way of life of a particular area:the great books of Western civilization the early civilizations of Mesopotamia and Egypt

The comfort and convenience of modern life, regarded as available only in towns and cities:the fur traders moved further and further from civilization

Writers, philosophers, lawyers, and cultural icons for millenia have used word redefinition to bring about cultural shifts and change opinions.

Redefinition doesn’t change the original meaning of a word or term, it just changes how you use it and how others hear or read it.  Culturally everyone usually is on the same page, but the problem really begins to rear it’s head when cultural schisms happen.

Conservatives believe one thing.  Liberals another.

Urbanites speak one way and countryfolk another.

Everyone speaks the same language, but with diverging philosophies and understandings of the world at large.  Words become very important to maintain a common

When the words we use are redefined or misused, that disconnect becomes increasingly more difficult to bridge because the meanings that both sides of that divide also differ.

Let’s go back to the civilization definition that I read today.  That definition is not what you find in the dictionary, but it is the understanding of the liberal left in America today.  The problem arises in that I, as a libertarian-leaning conservative, do not agree with the statement in whole or in part.

Medicare-for-all is civilization – forcing me to pay for someone else’s poor health decisions throughout life or lack of motivation to find an economically viable job in order to afford their own cost of care is slavery by taxation.  You, via the government, are forcing me to work and use the money I earn from that work to pay for someone else who chooses not to work or chose to destroy their body by smoking, banging, drugging, or drinking their life away.  Simply no.  That isn’t civilization.  That is barbarism, not unlike Vikings raiding prosperous farming communities because they didn’t want to work as hard and could “take” rather than “make.”  

Campaign finance reform is civilization – Really?  Legislating how someone spends their money (and yes, corporations are made up of people) is the opposite of civilization.  It is no different from the King “permitting” someone to petition the king knowing full well that that permission can be withdrawn ex post facto (after the fact) and the subject being fully subservient of the king and his life and speech are not free.

Funding education is civilization – I’ll admit that this one I can at least somewhat understand, but education though takes many forms.  Apprenticeships gave us some of the most brilliant thinkers in the world and many modern conveniences.  Higher education today has brought us runaway student loan debt and educational outcomes that aren’t reliant on the number of dollars spent per student.  Further, the question of where that funding comes from and who controls it is the real crux of this issue?  Is it really the best education if it comes from the top down (Common Core) and all students are to be taught to the exact same standards without deviation for talent in one field or another?  

Progressive taxation is civilization. Is it?  Punishing one group in order to reward the other?  How is this different from feudal lords requiring a percentage of the serfs crops for “protection”?  Using law to punish high wage earners is no different than economic slavery.  Progressive taxation is the exact opposite of due process when you really think about it.  All are not equal in the eyes of the law if progressive taxation is the law of the land because then some are “more” equal than others.  True equality would be a tax burden not divided proportionately, but rather levied as a percentage of income equal regardless of how much you make (the millionaire and the pensioner alike pay 10% of their income – a flat tax).

Dialing back the use of war is civilization.  This summary statement is just too broad to agree or disagree with.  Is war overused?  Yes.  Are some wars necessary?  Yes.  Can there be diplomatic peace between one nation and another that has sworn the destruction of the first?  Not a lasting one because there is no middle ground between the two.   This is no different morally than a woman telling her raper to only rape her halfway so they can go their separate ways.  It’s not going to work that way… it never does.  The only recourse for the “victim” nation or woman is to shoot their attacker in the face – to exert the ultimate deterrent force through the best, most effective, and most economic means at their disposal.  To do any less is to tell the offender that their life or nation is superior to one’s own.

So the statement made completely added to what is known as civilization.  Is civilization not dependent on steadfast standards, definitions, laws, and justice?

Is not the veneer of civilization threatened when the laws are twisted to allow what was once illegal?

Is not the veneer of civilization threatened when justice is denied or unequal based on who you are, what you are worth, or who you know?

You can’t redefine words, because the underlying truths remain unchanged.  Redefining the words alone does not make anything true, rather it denies the truth much like Orwell’s opus 1984 states

War is peace.

Freedom is slavery.

Ignorance is strength.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lead

Sometimes, the best lessons are taught in the shortest phrases.

Greatness lies, not in being strong, but in the right using of strength; and strength is not used rightly when it serves only to carry a man above his fellows for his own solitary glory. He is the greatest whose strength carries up the most hearts by the attraction of his own.

Henry Ward Beecher

Power acquired by violence is only a usurpation, and lasts only as long as the force of him who commands prevails over that of those who obey.

Denis Diderot

Strength under control.  Gentleness cannot exist unless it comes from strength under control.  Christ said that the meek shall inherit the earth.  I do not believe that Christ meant meek as we understand it, which is as a synonym for weak, but rather that he meant that those with strength who control it well will inherit the earth.  A strong man can force his will for a time, but he can be overcome. A virtuous man, with strength at his disposal that he willingly chooses not to exercise, cannot be overcome by any force arrayed against him because that man, with strength under control, has allies in others who wish to follow him, to emulate him, and to be like him.  Isn’t that the model that Christ Himself modeled for us by submitting to death on the cross?  Christ, the commander-in-chief of the armies of heaven itself and the physical manifestation of the living God, the Creator of the universe, held his hand – and look at what happened.  The Roman guard at the cross saw it firsthand – that ultimate power, so controlled.

And when the centurion, who stood there in front of Jesus, saw how he died, he said, “Surely this man was the Son of God!”

Mark 15:39

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