Monday, April 18, 2005

old terms with new meanings

Language and the art of communication is perhaps the most valuable of human attributes. Arguably, without verbal acumen the species would not have reached the level of civilization that is enjoyed today. No doubt, the most eloquent among us seem to be more successful than those of us with limited skills. Even the most revolutionary ideas are worthless without the ability to convey the particulars.

For those of us that were born in the last half of the twentieth century, “political correctness” is all too familiar. PC is, in essence, the renaming of various human endeavors, habits, handicaps, shortcomings, et al. Such is asinine to be sure, but it’s not the target of this particular rant. That which is the cause of my ire at present is another form of verbal mutilation. Not knowing its actual name, I’ll call it: regressive etymology.

One glaring example is the misuse of the term justice. Justice has long been a hallmark of this country’s legal system. Historically, justice has been seen as blind, in the sense that all people, without respect for status or station, will be treated equally and fairly under to the law. As Neal Boortz is wont to say: “justice is getting exactly what you deserve”, which is, in a word: pithy. The new meaning of justice refers to one receiving that which is unearned because of perceived need. This done, purportedly to correct supposed inequality, with the use of government force.

Another misused word is responsibility. As a ‘l’ibertarian, I understand responsibility to be the other half of freedom. That is, the consequences of my free actions are the responsibility of myself alone…both positive and negative. However, the new usage of responsibility is the polar opposite. Now, it seems that one is “responsible” for one's neighbor (with tax dollars), but not responsible for oneself. Society (the government) is tasked with parenting it's adult children. The greatest achievements (or most atrocious pieces of legislation) of this mentality are The New Deal and The Great Society.

Since the previous two have been examples of “progressives” (Socialists), how about one from the other side of the fence? Lately “Christian Conservatives” have been the recipients of much ink and air-time. While they are less likely to redefine terms, there is one noticeable instance. The word heritage refers to inherited traditions or customs. Lately this term has been used to reinterpret the Constitution. It is often said that, since many of the Founders were Christians and Deists, then this nation's charter must therefore be religious. In fact, the First Amendment to the US Constitution precludes the possibility of such a “heritage”. I would suggest that one research the Inquisition(s) of the Middle Ages to recognize the potential dangers of advocating quasi theocracy.

The last but not least is one that's of particular interest to me. The usurpation of the word liberal, by the Left, is especially tragic. Eric has a blistering post that elucidates the principles of real liberals. Since Eric has articulated my exact sentiments on this one, I will refer you to his tirade. Enjoy.