March 3, 2003

Political definitions, political power…

Is it “global warming” or “climate change”? Is it an “inheritance tax” or a “death tax”?

The answers to these questions, and thousands like them, are not trivial. The answers determine the course of policy because politics is a battle of definitions. And the battle is “won” when citizens, journalists, and politicians accept one term over other possible terms as an accurate description of reality (or, rather, experience).

For more on how words shape policy and the political process, check out this article in The New York Times.

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  1. Rebecca 

    This is something that has aggravated me for years. I first noticed that our language was being hijacked by advocacy groups back in the early 90’s when my son was in preschool. The teachers would lead a song that went like this: “I am special, you are special, we are all special” blah blah etc., etc. My initial reaction was that it was no wonder we are becoming a Nation of Idiots if we are teaching our kids that not only do words have no meaning–they have the OPPOSITE meaning. After all, it everyone is special, then NOBODY is special. Only later did I realize that this was part of the “Self Esteem Movement”. Same goes for “gay marriage”. The definition of “marriage” is limited to male/female — at least in my circa l967 Webster’s—but noooooo, gay advocacy groups insist on “gay marriage”–an absolute contradiction of the term. My opinion is that most reasonable people think that committed gays should have at least some of the rights & responsibilities as straights, but as long as they insist that it be “marriage”, I think some will resist. If you advocate such a thing as “gay marriage”, then you might as well throw away the Websters, because a word will mean whatever an advocacy group says it means. Then there is the whole baby/fetus thing. I guess you can’t blame the right for fighting back, but…..I feel a rant coming on…Nurse! Bring me my Prozac drip, STAT!!!!

  2. grytch 

    hm. since when is “marriage” as a concept the sole property of heterosexist defintions? people have been marrying for millenia and then some. marriage as a concept is not simply what one culture decides it is, though judging from your underlying assumptions, it is.

    marriage as defined by your little big book o’ definitions is not the authority of what “marriage” actually is. it is simply the western heterosexist defintion at use at this time.

    but this will change, and is changing as more and more people are being forced to make a stand: either you admit that you are oppressing people from a heterosexist norm that is not inherently superior in either purely moralistic terms or realistic terms and that the constitution for which your country is so famous is more than just a bunch of meaningless and pretty but essentially hypocritical words about as valueable as the parchment they are written on or you continue to exercise what boils down to cultural chauvenism and run the long-term risk of creating inherently unstable social conditions such as invariable occur whenever there is an unecessary oppression of people’s rights to self-determine and choose their own destiny and have hat choice respected within the societal fabric of the country in which they live.

    since there is nothing inherently or naturally wrong with homosexuality and any moral pinnings (or lack thereof) associated with it are simply the conceptualizations of an inherently sexist, racist, heterobiased society that is just now beginning to realize its own lack of moral superiority and “right” to assert its own biases on those who do not fit into its heterobiased norms, things will change for the benefit of homosexual couples.

    language, like culture, is as flexible as human beings choose it to be…there is nothing inherent about human culture other than it is.

  3. tansoushung 

    this is the best of the best journal that i never seem before.

  4. Anonymous 


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