Friday, July 26, 2019

To Each Their Own Pronouns

It’s completely insane, Peggy Noonan tells us, to have the night riders of the thought police telling us what we may or may not say. Or to force us to use just the right pronouns and grammatically incorrect locutions.

It reminds her of the French Revolution, a revolution consumed by a will to destroy. Its meaning was violence and destruction, up to and including its apotheosis in the Reign of Terror.

She explains:

For 10 years they simply enjoyed killing each other. They could have done what England was doing—a long nonviolent revolution, a gradual diminution of the power of king and court, an establishment of the rights of the people and their legislators so that the regent ended up a lovely person on a stamp. Instead they chose blood. Scholars like to make a distinction between the Revolution and the Terror that followed, but “the Terror was merely 1789 with a higher body count.” From the Storming of the Bastille onward, “it was apparent that violence was not just an unfortunate side effect. . . . It was the Revolution’s source of collective energy. It was what made the Revolution revolutionary.”

The French Revolutionaries believed in themselves. They believed in their great minds. They were products of the Enlightenment, and don’t you forget it. They were more rational and more moral than others. Thus, they knew what everyone else should think and feel. Anyone who didn’t was to be destroyed.

Noonan explains:

It was a revolution largely run by sociopaths. One, Robespierre, the “messianic schoolmaster,” saw it as an opportunity for the moral instruction of the nation. Everything would be politicized, no part of the citizen’s life left untouched. As man was governed by an “empire of images,” in the words of a Jacobin intellectual, the new régime would provide new images to shape new thoughts. There would be pageants, and new names for things. They would change time itself! The first year of the new Republic was no longer 1792, it was Year One. To detach farmers from their superstitions, their Gregorian calendar and its saints’ days, they would rename the months. The first month would be in the fall, named for the harvest. There would be no more weeks, just three 10-day periods each month.

Tear it up by the roots. They did not just disrespect tradition; they decided to destroy its products and to reorder every aspect of society. And thus, every aspect of the human mind.

While Great Britain was involved in the Industrial Revolution and free enterprise capitalism, the great minds of France decided to show off their power, or their will to power, by showing how much they could destroy. They did not know how to build, so they could only destroy.

One notes that language usage and other customs evolve over time. They are the product of one of the freest or free markets. Language evolves through usage, through the activities of large numbers of speakers. It is not dictated by a powerful group of philosopher kings. It is produced by the people, not the elites. True enough, some speak better than others. Some linguistic turns of phrase designate your status and prestige. And yet, language, like other social customs are not imposed by a group of despots.

And yet, today we naturally believe that they all were. So inured are we to paranoid thinking that we imagine that language usage was forced into everyone’s mind by the dread patriarchy or by the capitalist imperialist colonialists. Once you believe that social customs were imposed by imperial dictate, you can rationalize your will to impose you own customs… willy nilly, regardless.

Noonan compares our current cultural revolution to the French version:

So here is our parallel, our hiccup. I thought of all this this week because I’ve been thinking about the language and behavioral directives that have been coming at us from the social and sexual justice warriors who are renaming things and attempting to control the language in America.

To our social justice warriors, everything is ideologically driven. To imagine that pronominal usage is determined by other than a will to oppress seems not to have crossed their minds. Mind control is the name of the game. If a woman, to take a flagrant example, wears a revealing outfit and a man stares longingly at the quantity of skin she has chosen to expose... why he is an incipient rapist. She has every right to wear what she wants, but he has no right to think what he thinks. 

In one way it’s the nonsense we’ve all grown used to, but it should be said that there’s an aspect of self-infatuation, of arrogance, in telling people they must reorder the common language to suit your ideological preferences. There is something mad in thinking you should control the names of things. Or perhaps I mean surprising/wild.
I see in it a spirit similar to that of the Terror. There is a tone of, “I am your moral teacher. Because you are incapable of sensitivity, I will help you, dumb farmer. I will start with the language you speak.”

Noonan remarks that good grammar renders the world more intelligible. If you are spending your time worrying about each individual’s preferred pronouns, you are not speaking a human language. You are not entering into a meaningful exchange. You are using what I would call passwords, the kinds that gain you entry into a speakeasy. And that show you to be a member in good standing of a political or cultural faction.

This is grammatically incorrect but so what? Correct grammar, and the intelligibility it allows, is a small price to pay for inclusion and equality.

We are being asked to memorize all this, to change hundreds of years of grammar and usage, to accommodate the needs or demands of a group that perceives itself as beleaguered.

Of course, the attendant confusion will be great business for lawyers. Which might tell us who is driving this madness:

And there are the office arguments about bathroom policy, which I gather are reaching some new peak. There can no longer be a men’s room and a women’s room, so we can have one expanded bathroom everyone can use. No, we’ll have three. But there may be a stigma to using the third, so keep two bathrooms but remove all designations. But the women don’t want to put on their makeup with men coming in and out. But the men don’t want women walking in on them—that’s a harassment suit waiting to happen!

It’s all insane. All of it.

But we’re moving forward, renaming the months and the sexes, reordering the language.

You wonder how the people who push all this got so much power. But then, how did Robespierre?

Now, as reported in this blog, we are not even allowed to distinguish singular from plural pronouns. See the title of this post. People who bow down to the gods of political correctness have nothing to lose but their minds. They are selling their minds, not so much to advance a cause, but to avoid the guillotine. No, not the real guillotine, but the social justice crusaders who will do everything in their power to destroy them and their families.


UbuMaccabee said...

I tell people I meet that I self identify as a kangaroo, and that my personal pronouns are “kir” and “kar.” However, while in the water I self identify as a manatee, and my personal pronouns are “mir” and “mar.” No, seriously, I’ve been doing this for almost two years now. Finally, people are catching on. Try it, it really is great fun. Sometimes you have to ask yourself,”what would Alfred Jarry do when faced with such madness?” Answer: double down on madness. You must do it with complete earnestness for it to be most effective.

As for the Jacobins, my advice stands: Krav Maga, strength training, and tactical weapons. Going up the the Blueridge tomorrow with the AR to keep in practice; cappin’ pigs. I’ll name one Marat, who was the lowest of the villains. For native New Yorkers, learning to drive a car would be a big step forward.

Anonymous said...

Points for Alfred Jarry, Ubu Roi.

trigger warning said...

You may have noticed that, in service to the contemporary empire of images, Hollywood claims to know how to tell a story. And Hollywood's aspiring courtiers are atwitter, contending for pride of place in the credit roll.

Walt said...

I revert in defiance to the universal "he." "To each his own" "Every dog has his day." Not "their own (or day)" Not "his or her own" nor will I politely and cringingly pluralize ("All dogs have their days." ) As for made-up pronouns, screw kim, ker or kem.

Anonymous said...

I wonder what the parallels are between China's "Cultural Revolution"
and what's going on today in the West. Just a thought.