John B. Wells, a radio host formerly at Coast to Coast and currently running Caravan to Midnight, has mentioned on a few occasions that we need new instruments. He isn’t simply talking about music, although music might be included in what he’s referring to, which is that we need to come up with new ideas how to live our lives. How to organize society, and so forth. The old models aren’t working anymore. I’m going to focus on one aspect of this in particular, terminology, as I am an official member of the language Nazi party.
People throw words around trying to pin-point the cause of our troubles, and find a solution to them. Capitalism is the problem so we need socialism. No, socialism is the problem so we need capitalism. In Europe the word socialism has a more benign meaning of a society where the weak are taken care of, whereas in America it is equated with the horrors and slaughter of historical communism. And I don’t really care anymore which, if either, definition is the correct one. For some capitalism is the same as crony capitalism, to another person they’re quite different. To one guy Free Trade is an expression of freedom, to another it is another word for corporatism. To an anarchist anarchism means freedom to run your own life and to take responsibility for it, and to most people it means raping and pillaging wantonly. Conversely to an anarchist government is pure violence and oppression, and to a statist it is an instrument of stability and order.
I could find an e-dictionary and copy/paste the definition of each term here and feel proud of myself, but the next time I read an article that uses the word “capitalism” for instance, their definition is bound to differ from the “correct” one. So how about we face the facts and aknowledge that plenty of these smart sounding words don’t work anymore. Words are part of language, and language is supposed to be used to communicate with other people. To convey them some sort of message. These words fail to do so. Instead we use them as magical talismans to make us sound smart and as if we know what we are talking about. Well, I’m sorry, I don’t. There’s so many of these power words that sound important, but their only power is in enthralling us. We feel as if we can combine the right kind of spell with them, it will have a mystical effect which will cause something to happen. Such as: we need to have socialized medicine and capitalist enterprise with limited government to ensure free trade does not develop into a cartel. Who fucking cares?
What I advocate, the new instrument, is trying to express things in our own words. Try to avoid all talismanic words, since they tend to get misunderstood. We have this baggage of history behind us, socially and language-wise, and we don’t want to let go off that stuff. We obsess over form, and forget the function. Everyone with shred of sanity agrees that it is preferable to live in a society where you can live the way you want to live, without having to worry excessively about becoming a victim of violence. It’s just that everyone disagrees how that is to be accomplished. Instead of throwing about these clichéd words we should learn to express our concerns in our own words, not with someone else’s, or we’ll just be living our lives based on how they want things to be.
Talismanic words: socialism, capitalism, communism, democracy, anarchism, libertarianism, invidualism, collectivism, consciousness, terrorism, government, monarchy, religion, talismanic word…
Caravan to Midnight: http://caravantomidnight.com/