Friday, October 07, 2011

a note on language


I get really annoyed by having to frequently use different terminology to describe the same phenomenon. If you follow my ravings for more than a day or two you'll notice that I often throw around terms like plutocracy, corporatocracy, pseudo-democracy, etc. etc. When I use these terms I'm very aware that they suggest an inconsistency in my analysis and I just wanted to throw this post out to explain why I do so. The reason is to identify the precise dysfunction underlying whatever subject I'm ranting about at the time. I think its useful to put these terms out there so that people can think about them and, if they wish, to explore further what they mean. As far as consistency goes the precise term is somewhat irrelevant. The depth of  the dysfunction that afflicts modern Western society is sufficient to contain a plethora of malignancies that are exhibited in different ways, be it Liam Fox's use of parliamentary office space to accomodate the operation of the sham 'charity' and arch-neocon lobby group Atlantic Bridge or the transparent attempts by the coalition government to push privatisation against public opinion and any conceivable national interest. Each term is appropriate to the specific phenomena to which I apply them but they all imply some sort of fundamental dysfunction. You can use a specific term to accurately describe the sociopathy that is being exhibited or you can use a generic term for the entire phenomenon.

As an aside, "sociopathy" is another favourite of mine. I use it as an umbrella-term for the entire, sordid, shit-storm of dysfunction that is endemic throughout modern Western society.  Wikipedia fails to provide a relevant definition, providing only psycho-babble that equates the term with psychopathy. According to the word's etymological roots, however, "sociopathy" is a pathology of society. I.E. It is some intrinsic aspect of society that is diseased. The intrinsic component of this definition is important because it is far too easy to subconsciously externalise behaviour and actions which are sociopathic. To categorise them as being alien to society, something new and different which isn't part of 'our society'. However, pretty much every sociopathy is not at all new but merely a development of some earlier human dysfunction that modernity has provided with a new way to manifest itself. Its really easy to draw historical parallels between serdom and modern wage-slavery, for example. Other examples are even more obvious: the resort to nationalism and jingo to exhort citizens to accept and embrace their own oppression is a beautiful one and a fundamental component of Tory ideology. The common theme running through all of these sociopathies is that they are human failings. They arise from humanity collectively misplacing trust or being insufficiently focused upon (sometimes purposefully distracted from) the workings of its own society to perceive the dysfunction lurking there. 

The problem with all these big words and my precise definitions is that they might alienate your average reader. Basically, they're radical jargon. The purpose of this post is to admit this and to confess to the crime of using jargon. It is a crime against communication and if there's one thing that radicals need it is to be understood. However, is it necessary to use such particular terminology in order to convince people of the truth of your arguments? Its entirely possible that such terminology might alienate people who are looking for a simple 'hit' of insight, such as Twitter might provide. Insight isn't necessarily compactable into 140 chrs but precise use of language is one way of facilitating it. Sometimes its not only helpful but essential to be precise in your use of terminology.


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. Jargon or not, I love reading your posts.

    Liam Fox has resigned but there's countless other sociopathic bastards still around.

  3. Thanks for the comment, Muhamad. Glad someone else finds my brainfarts rewarding. How goes life in the green & pleasant land? I miss Dartmoor.

  4. Delayed response (better late than never): Dartmoor's good. Enjoyed jumping off Holne Bridge a week ago (in the balls freezing cold). How are things where you are, which bit of NZ are you in?


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