Recently, a Canadian school board banned the word "gun" from any spelling tests in its district. This... odd... decision resulted from the complaints of a single set of parents. These pacifists objected to their seven-year-old daughter being taught this "evil" word. The voodoo-viewpoint of these people apparently equates a word with the actuality of the thing the word represents. (Compare this to the screwy notion prevalent in sexual-harassment circles that a word is the equivalent of a bullet and can "wound" and "hurt" in an identical fashion; that uttering forbidden words is the same as a physical assault.)
To these parents, "gun" is synonymous with "death." (I'm unclear how the word "death" is in-and-of-itself objectionable. Death is sometimes a good thing; depends on what or who is dying and why.) To make matters worse, their delicate flower of a child later returned home with a picture of a gun as an illustration of what the word meant. Horrors!
Sadly, the nonsensical reaction of these parents is no different than the response of various U.S. school officials who expel or lock up children for pointing fingers, saying "bang," drawing pictures of guns or bombs or knives, or playing with actual, physical toy guns.
Within a week, however, the Canadian school board members experienced a spasm of rationality and reinstated the word "gun" into the curriculum. They did, however, make provision for the pacifists' daughter to be exempt from any requirement to spell the objectionable word. (This, of course, is a perfectly legitimate concession given the coercive nature of State schooling.)
Beyond the conceptual corruption of confusing an abstract mental tool like a word or a concept with the reality of the thing being considered, this small tempest is indicative of a broader problem. Statists, collectivists, and irrationalists have a vested interest in controlling the language. They try their best to promote the collective while disparaging the individual; to undercut individual responsibility while advancing the collective variety; to manipulate the terms of the debate in order to blur rather than to enhance understanding of reality, objectivity, and the truth.
Statists excel at focusing on the connotative meaning of concepts (i.e., the subjective emotional associations or reactions people have to various words based on their past experiences) while doing everything they can to obscure the denotative meanings of our concepts (i.e., the objective meaning, i.e., the things/actions/experiences in reality grouped/classified/categorized/organized by our concepts).
"Feel, don't think," they implicitly tell us. Emotions are easy, automatic; rational thought is difficult, effortful, a process each individual must start for himself.
As a service to the public, I have prepared a short "Statists' Dictionary" in which I give the "Actual, Real Meaning (ARM)" of a concept and then the "Statist/Collectivist Meaning (SCM)" which is either what the enemies of freedom would have us accept in dealing with contentious issues of the day or what the SCM actually means.
(A bow of the head and thanks to Ambrose Bierce and his The Devil's Dictionary.)
Reality vs. the Statists' Dictionary
Affirmative Action: ARM: a racist policy; giving preferences to a minority group, even if the group is a majority (e.g., women); setting up quotas that increase discrimination and injustice by favoring one group over another; placing irrelevant traits like sex or skin color above individual qualities such as intelligence, hard work, and accomplishment. SCM: eliminating discrimination and racism; making everyone equal; leveling the playing field; being color-blind; focusing on the individual and his accomplishments; establishing justice. See "Level Playing Field."
Bravery: ARM: acting despite one's fears and in the face of risks to life, limb, or property; standing up to authority and against injustice, often alone and against the majority; stating and acting on one's convictions. SCM: acting in accordance with the majority; acquiescing to authority; resisting selfish impulses; not making judgments.
Compassion: ARM: helping those unfortunates who deserve your assistance, who have suffered through no fault of their own; giving voluntarily to those in need. SCM: helping anyone who claims he needs assistance regardless of how or why he is in trouble; aiding such people involuntarily via your taxes, especially if you dislike those you are forced to be compassionate for. The opposite of compassion.
Competition: ARM: in capitalism, the open and free contest of individuals in providing goods and services to the public; a system in which anyone can offer any good or service at any price and under any conditions mutually satisfactory to the interested parties. Tends to ensure the maximum of goods at the minimum of prices while encouraging innovation in business and positive relationships with customers. SCM: offering goods and services under strict government controls and regulations; preventing certain people or groups from competing with favored groups; stifling new entries into the market; preventing new, innovative products and services from being offered for sale; subsidizing inefficient companies; raising prices for consumers while limiting their choices; encourages businesses to treat their customers with contempt.
Conscription/Draft: ARM: slavery; the State deciding who shall risk losing his life; increases the likelihood of wars and conflicts; a tool of imperialism and intervention. SCM: a valued duty of each male citizen; teaches responsibility and life-lessons; a tool for preserving freedom; the essence of equality.
Constitutional: ARM: only those political actions explicitly permitted by the Constitution; the essence of a republic; a limitation on State power and authority; a limitation on the majority; a demarcation line between the individual lives of citizens; an essential tool for preserving liberty. SCM: having nothing do to with the actual Constitution; a changeable set of words that can be altered whenever a majority so decides; carte blanche for the State; a living document that does not express universal and timeless principles; a mere piece of paper, honored in word and destroyed in deed; a cover for whatever is unconstitutional.
Criminal: ARM: any actions that violate the rights of individuals; initiations of force against peaceful citizens, whether directly, via physical coercion, or indirectly, via fraud. SCM: any actions of peaceful citizens that are not permitted by the State; any refusal to adhere to actions required by the State; any behavior that criticizes the State or its agents; any attempt to assert one's moral autonomy, individualism, or rights as a human being; the desire to live and act according to one's own decisions and judgments; any questioning of the received wisdom.
Democracy: ARM: a tool in a republic for voting on procedural issues within the context of enumerated powers; severely limited in its application; a means of supporting freedom. SCM: more important than freedom; a tool for grabbing power, money, and control; tyranny of the majority; a destroyer of individuals and their rights; a tool for the have-nots to steal from the haves; the be-all-and-end-all of political life; a means for interfering with any and all aspects of citizens' lives.
Diversity: ARM: varied viewpoints and cultures of value that are worthy of support; can aid in enriching life and drawing upon varied experiences for positive decision-making. SCM: supporting only certain groups; banning unpopular viewpoints and cultures that are disfavored by the elite; results in more sameness and less diversity; chills free speech; drives unpopular views underground.
Equality: ARM: same treatment of individuals under the law; the State may not discriminate against one group or in favor of another; everyone has equal rights as human beings. SCM: discriminatory treatment by the State and individuals against certain groups and in favor of others; unequal treatment under the law; unequal rights to be determined by the State; only equality of misery and poverty is acceptable.
Environment: ARM: the natural world that exists and is utilized by people to aid in bettering their lives and existences; resources to be used and enjoyed in accordance with individual property rights. SCM: anything in the world that does not include people; not to be used for human enjoyment; used to override individual property rights and to establish State ownership over everything; wilderness, as long as out-of-bounds to people.
Expensive: ARM: costing an individual more than what he voluntarily wants or is willing to pay; consuming more resources than desired; may require less consumption in other areas. SCM: allowing individuals to keep more of their own money and property; anything that results in cutting State programs and spending; depriving the State of stolen wealth, as in "tax cuts are too expensive"; not costing the State anything; free, as in "cutting taxes."
Fairness: ARM: rewarding and punishing people according to and appropriately with their decisions and actions; treating people equally under the law based upon their individual behavior. SCM: rewarding and punishing people without any correspondence to what they have actually done, good or bad; discriminating in favor of certain groups and against disfavored groups; treating people unequally under the law; punishing creative and productive people and rewarding those who make bad decisions and fail at life.
Free: ARM: voluntarily paid for by someone else, somewhere, somehow; TANSTAAFL: There Ain't No Such Thing As A Free Lunch. SCM: as in "free health care"; very expensive and costly, paid for by unwilling others, usually with prices rising more and more, requiring the implementation of quotas and rationing.
Freedom: ARM: the right of every peaceful citizen to live his life as he chooses as long as he engages only in mutually agreeable and voluntary interactions; the right to make one's own decisions without consulting others or authorities as long as one does not initiate either direct or indirect coercion/force. SCM: doing only what the State permits or requires you to do; everything else is forbidden; following all laws and regulations to the letter, regardless of their validity.
Gun Control: ARM: depriving individual citizens of their right to self-defense; victim-disarmament; criminal-empowerment, e.g., making it easier for rapists, robbers, murderers to face unarmed victims; increasing crime; making "criminals" of peaceful, moral citizens who violate no one else's rights. SCM: making society safer; upholding the rights of states to have National Guards; promoting a group right to self-defense but not the right of the members of that group to self-defense; diminishing crime; usually requires more gun control in a downward spiral; treating objects as morally acting agents; removing individual people from the equation.
Gun Violence: ARM: the false notion that objects commit an action; people commit violence using tools such as guns. SCM: the source of violence; remove the objects and peace will prevail; do not think about all the violence that existed before the invention of guns; that is irrelevant.
Hate Crimes: ARM: creates thought-crimes; punishing people for what they think; the false notion that what one thinks rather than what one does in violation of others' rights determines whether a crime has been committed; increases the number of "criminals." SCM: hating someone you murder is a worse crime than simply murdering them; reduces crime; does not matter if you actually physically harm anyone else or his property; favors certain groups and ignores others; a tool for control and intimidation.
Independence: ARM: acting according to one's own judgment regardless of what others think; asserting oneself in the face of opposition; self-responsibility for one's life; the lack of artificial, external restraints by the State. SCM: an antisocial condition; being supported by the State, e.g., business and personal welfare; having someone else be responsible for what you do; dependence on the State.
Intervention: ARM: inappropriately interfering with the lives of private citizens or in the internal affairs of other nations. SCM: helping those who don't know how to live their own lives or direct their own governments; for "their own good."
Investment: ARM: voluntarily directed personal wealth designed to create and/or promote business activity or personal development; a way to earn more money in the future. SCM: taxes, i.e., wealth stolen from unwilling citizens; spending taxes on programs that waste money, make conditions worse, and leave most people poorer while enriching those with political connections.
Isolationist: ARM: non-interventionist; minding your own business, especially in foreign affairs; not violating others' rights. SCM: one who refuses to be a good citizen by telling others what to do, by refusing to interfere in other nations' affairs; uncaring; unpatriotic.
Justice: ARM: punishment and rewards in proper proportion to one's own decisions and actions; equity. SCM: inequity; arbitrary punishment and rewards. See "Fairness."
Kindness: ARM: voluntarily being nice and helpful to those one values. SCM: forcing strangers to be nice and helpful to other strangers, especially if disliked. See "Compassion."
Level Playing Field: ARM: everyone follows the same rules and laws; when the State dispassionately treats everyone the same under the law. SCM: giving favors to certain groups; treating people differently under the law. See "Affirmative Action" and "Equality."
Liberate: ARM: to set people free from slavery and tyranny. SCM: to subjugate a nation or people to rule by the State by replacing the old State; to dictate what a "liberated" people may or may not do for an unspecified length of time; usually, rule by the military.
Licensing: ARM: an unjust restraint of trade; a violation of freedom of contract and association; a limit on liberty and one's right to conduct one's life according to one's own decision; raises prices for consumers, limits competition, decreases options and quality of work; provides a false sense of safety by limiting consumer incentives to investigate providers. SCM: ensures safety of consumers; promotes competence of practitioners.
Limited Government: ARM: a State whose only goal is to preserve the rights and freedom of its citizens; doing only those things enumerated in the Constitution; few, well-defined powers. SCM: one that has yet to rule on every conceivable aspect of life; limited in someway, somehow, no matter how minute; also, evil, when actually limited.
Money: ARM: a convenient medium of economic exchange, voluntarily and mutually agreed upon; a representation of actually produced goods and services; a medium that retains its value/purchasing power over time; privately issued; gold; a means for limiting the power of the State. SCM: fiat currency; not backed by anything; arbitrary; a tool of inflation for stealing wealth from citizens and impoverishing them and the nation; a way to favor the politically connected; also, gold is evil.
Moral: ARM: judgments and actions that promote human welfare and growth; requires the ability to choose among alternatives using one's autonomous mind and to act upon one's choices; exalting the individual, the rational, reality. SCM: acting according to the dictates and choices of the State; doing what you're told to do under threat of coercion; whatever diminishes the individual and exalts the collective and the State; suppressing one's mind.
Need: ARM: what one requires for existence, to be provided by one's own efforts or the generosity of others. SCM: what people want or desire, however frivolous, to be provide by unwilling others.
New Deal: ARM: the same old deal of statism and protectionism and fascism promoted by FDR. Increased poverty and insecurity, dependence on the State, while eroding the Constitution and freedom. SCM: the most glorious and wondrous and compassionate advance in the history of civilization; the essence of freedom.
Opportunity: ARM: the chance to take actions to advance one's career or life with willing others. SCM: the chance to do what the State lets you do; usually includes stopping opportunities for most people.
Paying for X: ARM: using wealth that one has earned to purchase one what wants or needs. SCM: when used as in paying for "tax-cuts" or "cuts in government programs," actually means increased taxes; using more and more stolen wealth to expand the State.
Pollution: ARM: harmful emissions that actually damage someone else's property or threatens their health or safety. SCM: any activity of human beings that enters the environment (which see); any talk about freedom.
Privacy: ARM: the right to keep secret certain information about one's own life and activities. SCM: increased the more the State knows about us; less important than safety; not applicable when the State wants information about our lives; ensured by national ID cards, surveillance cameras, warrantless searches, random stops and checkpoints, Echelon and Carnivore.
Profit: ARM: wealth above expenses earned when one provides desired goods and services to willing consumers; the measure of one's success and achievement; a desired result; enables growth in business and innovation. SCM: evil; stolen from the workers; anything above expenses is excessive; usually placed above people; a measure of one's immoral activities; any excessive profit should be taken by the State and redistributed to those who did not earn it.
Propaganda: ARM: attempts by the State to sway the populace by relying upon emotional appeals rather than rational evaluation; often used to demonize unpopular domestic or foreign citizens or groups to enhance enmity and war. SCM: what the other guy does; the State merely provides valuable information.
Quotas: ARM: increasing racism, sexism, and collectivism by treating individuals as faceless members of groups; ignoring different interests of subcultures in employment and attitudes. SCM: does not exist; a way to decrease racism and ensure fairness. See "Affirmative Action" and "Fairness."
Reparations: ARM: punishing innocents for the bad deeds of long-dead wrongdoers; violates the essence of justice, i.e., focus on individual choices and actions. SCM: the essence of justice; focuses on long-ago wrongs to correct present problems; just compensation even if you never actually suffered harm yourself.
Reasonable: ARM: what is rational, proportionate, in correspondence to reality. SCM: unreasonable; out of proportion; irrational; also, whatever is decided by groups. See "Democracy."
Responsibility: ARM: accountable only for what you personally do. SCM: accountable for everyone else but not for yourself, especially if they are strangers; accountable for your evil deeds if you are a member of a disfavored group.
Rights: ARM: what is your due as a peaceable human being; inalienable; always yours even if you are prevented by force from exercising your rights; not requiring you to thank anyone for observing them. SCM: what is yours by permission; given to you by the State; something for which you should be eternally grateful to others; can be increased or taken away or limited whenever the group decides. See "Democracy."
Safety-Net: ARM: personal income invested and saved for rainy days and hard times; one's own responsibility; sometimes provided by voluntary charities. SCM: income stolen by the State from productive others to subsidize those who did not bother to save or plan ahead for their futures; yours by right; charity is demeaning.
Security: ARM: personal protection via weaponry; enhanced via avoidance of confrontation and observing the rule of law and preserving freedom; avoiding foreign entanglements. SCM: enhanced by disarming civilians; increased by preemptive strikes against domestic and foreign offenders; the less privacy one has, the greater one's security. See "Privacy."
Self-Defense: ARM: the right of individuals to safeguard and preserve the foundation of all other rights, i.e., one's own life; best achieved via personal guns and weaponry; a personal right. SCM: a right of the State; if personal, then evil and antisocial.
Slavery: ARM: having one's life and property controlled by the State or by private citizens with the sanction of the State; no personal autonomy, decisions, wealth; dependent upon our masters. SCM: freedom.
Stakeholders: ARM: busybodies who have no investment or responsibility dictating to businesses how to run their enterprises; blackmailing businesses for favors. SCM: those who engage in responsible management of a common, national resource; anyone who is affected in anyway by anyone else.
Sustainable: ARM: what is economically profitable and viable according to individual judgments and the decisions of the marketplace; maximizes utilization of resources. SCM: as in development, deciding for individuals and businesses what they may build, where they may build, and how they may build. Increases pollution, congestion, prices, and decreases housing opportunities.
Tax-cut: ARM: letting people keep more of their own money; the State steals less money from those who have earned it. SCM: stealing from the State; giving the rich more money they don't need; robbing from the poor; hurting the country.
Terrorism: ARM: violent acts committed by individuals who target innocents and noncombatants in order to get what they want; often practiced by the State against its own citizens. SCM: an abstract idea; the people who commit acts of terrorism are unimportant.
Unabridged: ARM: rights not subject to limitation; a prohibition on the State not to pass any laws that infringe or limit rights; exercised without permission. SCM: abridging the hell out of rights, especially the right to self-defense.
Undivided: ARM: individuals voluntarily united by common values such as freedom and justice. SCM: forced to associate with others whether you want to or not; suppressing opposition to the State; no right to secession, forced to unite.
Virtue: ARM: practicing values such as independence, productivity, and rationality that promote successful human lives; acting in accordance with one's one judgments. SCM: doing what the State tells you to do or not to do.
War: ARM: conflict with foreign nations that represent immediate, clear and present dangers to our citizens; an action of last resort to be ended as quickly as possible with the fewest deaths of noncombatants possible. To be terminated once the danger is ended. SCM: the action of first resort; a way to distract citizens from leaders' political problems or a bad economy; a way to achieve national pride; good for citizens; promotes national unity; increases State power and control; makes citizens more compliant; creates conditions leading to the next war.
War on X: Poverty, Drugs, Terrorism: ARM: focusing on abstract concepts rather than the individuals involved; usually entails situations none of the State's business; often violates rights and makes worse the problems addressed. SCM: the State protecting people from themselves; enforcing morality.
Welfare Clause: ARM: a clause in the Constitution limited by Congress's enumerated powers; only actions that treat all citizens equally while preserving their liberty. SCM: carte blanche to provide everything to everyone as long as someone somewhere gets some benefit from the action; a way to increase the power and control of the State.
X-American (African, Italian, Irish, etc.) : ARM: focusing on groups rather than individuals; racist. SCM: empowering individuals by treating them first as members of groups; honoring diversity.
Zero Tolerance: ARM: irrational, anal-retentive; a way for authorities to avoid individual accountability and decision-making; ignoring context; treating every undesired action the same regardless of differences in degree; creating crimes where none exists. SCM: just, evenhanded; increases safety and mutual respect.
|See Russ Madden's articles, short stories, novel excerpts, and items of interest to Objectivists, libertarians, and sci-fi fans at http://home.earthlink.net/~rdmadden/webdocs/.|
PCism in America
13 mar 2003