Words

    “I don’t know what you mean by ‘glory,’ ” Alice said.
    Humpty Dumpty smiled contemptuously. “Of course you don’t—till I tell you. I meant ‘there’s a nice knock-down argument for you!’ ”
    “But ‘glory’ doesn’t mean ‘a nice knock-down argument’,” Alice objected.
    “When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.”
    “The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.”
    “The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master—that’s all.”

It’s interesting, to say the least, how folks bandy words about, making them mean what they want them to mean — not unlike Humpty Dumpty who pays them extra when they work overtime.

Take the word conservative, for example, which ought to include such things as environmentalists who are regarded by many so-called conservatives as liberal “tree-huggers.” Environmentalists are dedicated to conserving our world. But those conservative critics are really dollar conservatives who care only about the bottom line, the profits that are frequently the result of attacks on the environment. There are also intellectual conservatives who are dedicated to preserving those ideas that have helped to create a better world. I number myself among such types. And then there are those liberals usually identified as democrats who advocate human freedom and number among themselves the bleeding heart liberals who react in a programmed manner to all types of human pain and misery — real and supposed. They leave their minds on the shelf and lead with their gut. Endorsing political correctness, they also head the attack against the Canon in the universities and all books written by “dead, white European males.” The pain and misery resulting from this attack, in the form of uninformed and confused students with shrunken minds, is ignored in the name of “social justice” — which can be loosely translated as “what I want to be the case.”

Oddly, it is quite possible for someone to embrace a number of these positions simultaneously and without inconsistency. One can be, for example, a democratic socialist who seeks greater social equality through democratic means.

Socialism, according to Karl Marx, is the economic system that arises upon the death of capitalism, an economic system that feeds on the rotting carcasses of exploited workers — speaking of human pain and misery. Karl Marx was convinced that the state would commandeer the means of production and socialism would result. But eventually the workers would themselves own the means of production and all would share equally — an economic system, called Communism.  Many an intellectual in the early part of the last century embraced the ideals of Communism until, like George Orwell, they discovered that so many of those who said they were promoting Communism were actually fostering totalitarianism and were responsible for the death of millions of their fellow humans — all in the name of “equality,” and “justice.” It is worthy of note that Communism, as embraced by Marx, resembles in important ways the Christianity preached in the Gospels.

And speaking of Christians, there are those who claim to be Christians and who are quite happy with their own prejudices and even preach hatred against all of those they regard as different from themselves. These should be called nominal Christians, as they are Christian in name only. The real Christians, who are rare, are those who do the right thing because it is the right thing and try hard to love their fellow humans, as was preached by the original (and some might say the only) true Christian. There are some who seek to do the right thing, as our beloved blogger Jill Dennison tells us each week, pointing out those who truly deserve our respect and admiration. And, I dare say, many of those people are not even nominal Christians! So it goes.

In any event, words do have relatively fixed meanings, as our dictionaries attest. But, in the spirit of Humpty Dumpty, many of us think that meaning, like truth itself, is something we make up and which dances to the tunes we play. This leads us, as we are becoming increasingly aware, toward a relativism of the meanest sort, a relativism in which hate comes to mean the same thing as love and truth is a fabrication of those in power whose private agenda centers around themselves and their ugly urges toward more and more power. It pays us to beware and to tread carefully, to make sure we know whereof we speak and insist that those claims that we are told are true have the force of evidence and argument to support them. And we should make sure folks say what they mean even though they seldom seem to mean what they say. Otherwise our minds will become prisoners of those who delight in making others a means toward their own ends.

 

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The Master Negotiator

A recent article, parts of which I will attach below, tells us all we need to know about what sort of president this man would make — if we didn’t know already. He is beyond ignorant, because he has no idea how ignorant he is.

Donald Trump gave an interview this week [on CNN] all of his potential supporters should watch. In his own words, Trump lays bare the very reasons why he would be such a disastrous choice for president. . . .

Trump proclaims his familiar boast that he is the best deal-maker ever and the best negotiator ever, and that the Obama administration completely botched the negotiation with Iran. And then Trump graced us with an inside account of how he, as a master deal-maker, would have negotiated the agreement with Iran and obtained a much better outcome for America.

Primarily, Trump would have spared America from having to pay $150 billion to Iran. (I won’t quibble with the dollar amount even though it is likely inaccurate).

As Trump explained, he would have said to the Iranians:

“Fellas, we [as America] owe $19 trillion [in debt]. We’re a country that has no money. We can’t give you the $150 [billion dollars].” The Iranians would have said, “But we want it!” And Trump would have responded, “We can’t give it! We don’t have it! We don’t have it!”

Trump would have stood his ground and absolutely refused to pay the $150 billion. At that point, the meeting would have broken-up with no agreement. But then, two days later, the Iranians would have folded by calling Trump and saying, “Let’s make a deal.” Iran would then have agreed that America would not be required to pay the $150 billion.

Wow. Now there’s a genius negotiator for you. What an amazing display of virtuosity.

Unfortunately, however, there is one little problem with Trump’s entire analysis. And this problem is that the $150 billion was, in fact, readily available. The reason it was readily available is because all of this money actually belonged to Iran, not to America. This was Iran’s own money. This was Iranian money that America had seized and frozen. It was never American money. Not one penny. American money was never at stake. Rather, America was simply returning Iran’s own money that America had seized and was holding in frozen accounts pending the resolution of the sanctions against Iran. [Italics added]

Trump obviously had no clue that this money belonged to Iran. Trump was utterly ignorant about the facts of the deal. Yet this did not prevent Trump from spouting off and denouncing the deal to the American public. This is classic Trump. Even though he may appear to some to be authoritative, the truth is that his demeanor is superficial and he actually has no idea what he is talking about in substance.

One gets the idea that “all of his potential supporters” would agree with him, unfortunately. That’s a huge part of the problem.

In any event, when this man opens his mouth I have the notion that we are all watching a Saturday Night Live sketch. Surely, it’s funny. No? If not it borders on the insane. The man is from Wonderland. He reminds me of Humpty Dumpty except that he isn’t that funny. I fear he is not funny at all and we are not watching a comedic sketch. This is the Trumpet’s reality show. It’s time he took a bow and left the stage. Enough is enough.

Like Humpty Dumpty

I have remarked in previous blogs about the tendency of politicians — and the government generally — to turn perfectly ordinary words like “socialism” and “communism” into scare words. In some cases the military, especially, will actually make up words or put them together in new and startling ways in order to mollify the terrible things they do. They tell us they are going to “take out” the enemy rather than to “destroy” them. And if the enemy happens to be human they are referred to as “soft targets.” They “neutralize” people, they don’t kill them; a planned assassination is referred to as a “target of opportunity” (think about that!); they mention “collateral damage” when they are really talking about the innocent civilians who are killed by such things as drones, which they call “unmanned aircraft.” But my favorite is the fact that they don’t call themselves the “Department of War” any more: they are the “Department of Defense.” Sure, why not? In any event, I Googled the euphemisms they use and came up with pages of them. It’s enough to make you tear your hair out — if you have any left these days. And it puts me in mind of one of my favorite conversations — the one between Alice and Humpty Dumpty after Alice walks through the looking-glass in Lewis Carroll’s classic.

Humpty is rather gruff and downright rude with Alice, as you will recall. He is always correcting her, as are many in the looking-glass world. But after Alice proves to Humpty by writing it down in her notebook that when you take 1 from 365 you get 364 (Humpty seems skeptical), Humpty  says “That’s glory for you!” Alice is puzzled, and the following exchange takes place:

Illustration by John Tenniel

Illustration by John Tenniel

“I don’t know what you mean by ‘glory,'”Alice said.

Humpty Dumpty smiled contemptuously. “Of course you don’t — till I tell you. I mean ‘there’s a nice knock-down argument for you!'”

“But ‘glory’ doesn’t mean ‘a nice knock-down argument,'” Alice objected.

“When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said in a rather scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.”

“The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.”

“The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master — that’s all.”

Alice was too much puzzled to say anything, so after a minute Humpty Dumpty began again. “They’ve a temper, some of them — particularly verbs, they’re the proudest — adjectives you can do anything with, but not verbs — however, I can manage the whole lot of them! Impenetrability! That’s what I say!”

“Would you tell me, please,” said Alice, “what that means.?”

“Now you talk like a reasonable child,” said Humpty Dumpty, looking very much pleased. “I meant by ‘impenetrability’ that we’ve had enough of that subject, and it would be just as well if you’d mention what you mean to do next, as I suppose you don’t mean to stop here the rest of your life.”

“That’s a great deal to make one word mean,” Alice said in a thoughtful tone.

“When I make a word do a lot of work like that,” said Humpty Dumpty, “I always pay it extra.”

“Oh!” said Alice. She was too much puzzled to make any other remark.

“Ah, you should see ’em come round me of a Saturday night,” Humpty Dumpty went on, wagging his head gravely from side to side: “for to get their wages, you know.”

Which helps to explain why the cost of “defense” spending is so high. The words the military make up to convince us they are not doing what we all know they are doing demand compensation and it must cost a great deal — given how many there are.