Sunday, August 28, 2005

Language and the Truth

Years ago, people with mobility problems were called crippled. Over the years, this term has been dropped in favour of handicapped, or disabled, or physically challenged, or differently-abled.

When I was growing up there was a severely mentally handicapped girl living next door. No one I knew made fun of her. In fact many of us often took extra care to be nice and help her. When I referred to her in conversation, I referred to the retarded girl. Not in a mean way. There was no intent to offend. To me, at that time, many years ago, it was simply what she was. I was a child and to me it was a matter of fact.

In today’s society the words “crippled” and "retarded" resonate almost like a slap in the face. Maybe because they are direct, unambiguous terms that invoke strong, direct images and a powerful emotional reaction. At some point, someone, somewhere was sufficiently offended to start a campaign to erase the words from our vocabulary. They told us the words were bad and we vowed never to use them again.

Today, we use the same terminology – differently-abled - to describe people with many different kinds of challenges, including people who cannot walk and people who suffer from mental deficiencies. One size fits all. No potentially offense words, but no recognition of individuality or differences either. And no truth.

Those who actively promote these linguistic changes usually do so because they believe that it will create a more caring society – one where no one is ever excluded or offended. I’m sure that many of them actually have good intentions. However, I never forget what the road to hell is paved with.

People in positions of influence and authority - especially bureaucrats, politicians, businessmen and priests - have long understood the power of the spoken and printed word. Control language and you not only control people’s thoughts and emotional responses; you diminish their ability to act and think as individuals. In essence, through language, they can collectivize and control us, body and soul.

Bill Clinton said he acted ‘inappropriately’ with Monica Lewinski. It’s inappropriate to serve white wine with beef. What he did was much worse than that. Our ability to think and see the world clearly is being challenged every day by people in positions of power who never use clear direct language. And the less clear the language, the more difficult it becomes to discern the truth.

In his old stand-up routine, George Carlin provided another good example of how our language is being engineered to shield us from the truth. Years ago, soldiers used to suffer from "shell shock". Two syllables. A blunt, effective term that conjured up negative images. And that will never do. So it was replaced with a kinder, gentler (and longer) alternative - “battle fatigue”. Four syllables with the true meaning of the words almost obscured, but not totally. So they came up with “post traumatic stress disorder" - a virtually meaningless, ploddingly long, eight syllable monstrosity that effectively obscured any meaning whatsoever. Mission accomplished. No offensive language. No negative imagery. No truth.

There are thousands of other examples of how our language has been softened to the point where many words and terms mean absolutely nothing and invoke no emotional response whatsoever. People don’t lie anymore, they are imprudent or make unfortunate errors in judgment. No one is raped, but many are sexually assaulted. You can’t buy a used car but there are many previously enjoyed ones. Men are no longer impotent, but they do have erectile dysfunction. CEOs don’t steal, they misappropriate. People don't die in Hospitals, there are just the occasional negative patient outcomes. Governments don't tax us, they simply engage in income redistribution. They don't have a department of war, they have a department of defense. And they have no soldiers, just peacekeepers. Employees don't get fired, they seek employment opportunities elsewhere. And Companies don't fire people, rather, they undergo an internal reallocation of resources or downsize (Oh, sorry, "down" is so negative. Now they call it rightsizing.) In some cities cab drivers are called Urban Transportation Specialists. Honest! People don't move, they relocate. Children aren’t rambunctious, they suffer from attention deficit disorder. Draft dodgers are called contientious objectors. And there are no old people anymore, just seniors or elderly folks. Notice that, in all cases, short, clear, powerfully visual words have been replaced by longer, ambiguous ones that provide false comfort, trick our perceptions, and hide the true meaning of what is going on.

Is it any wonder that people in our society are growing more and more detached, disaffected and indifferent. After all, years ago I felt sad and sympathetic when someone told me about a cripple - maybe because I knew what a cripple was. But I feel very little of anything today when someone uses the term differently-abled - maybe because I have absolutely no idea what differently-abled means. I guess those who forced this language change on us didn’t foresee that little wrinkle.

Maybe I shouldn’t let mere words influence my emotional reactions. But I do. We all do. I think it’s sad that we are losing so many words that have clear meanings, which invoke clear, strong, visceral responses - and replacing them with limp ambiguous drivel. Sure, there are fewer words for people to take offense at these days, but if it diminishes our ability to think clearly, communicate accurately, and act compassionately and confidently as individuals, is it really worth it?

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

We Come In Peace (To Save Canada)

In my dream, benevolent extra terrestrials descended to Canada and took over the federal government. They then issued the following proclamation:

“We have been studying your society for a considerable time and can stand by no longer while you fritter away all that has made you successful. We have watched your deceitful, corrupt, self-serving Liberal government slowly kill your democracy and strip your nation of its priceless traditions and values. You have become a weak, complacent, unprincipled people. You do not deserve to be saved. But we pity you. And we can no longer stand back and allow this atrocity, this cultural genocide, to continue in Canada. It is a crime against humanity. Therefore, we have assumed control. Effective immediately, for your own benefit, the following adjustments will be made to your laws and public policies:

PARLIAMENTARY PROCEDURE: Your politicians behave like baboons. To remedy this, no noise or vocal outbursts will be permitted on the floor while the house is in session except by those asking and answering questions. Penalties for violating decorum will range from fines to expulsion from the house by the Speaker. The Speaker will be a non partisan judge appointed by a Committee made up of Provincial Premiers. The Speaker will operate Parliament like a court of law in that he/she will have the authority to force government to provide direct answers to all questions or hold it in contempt. There will be a two term limit on all elected MPs and a one term limit on the Prime Minister.

ELECTIONS: Only citizens will be eligible to vote. Elections will be held on a fixed date every 4.5 years, rotating between the spring and autumn so Canadians do not get bored. (You do have such short attention spans.) No polls will be published within 30 days of an election. Electronic, web based, or mechanical voting of any kind will be outlawed. Many Canadians barely understand a pencil and paper. In addition, data is much more easily corrupted and manipulated than physical paper ballots.

CHARTER OF RIGHTS AND FREEDOMS: The Charter is hereby suspended. Past decisions will be upheld. No future court challenges based on the Charter will be entertained by our court system. No longer will the destiny of Canadians be determined by unelected elitist Supreme court judges based on their flawed, biased interpretation of this vague and ambivilent document. There are sufficient protections under law to maintain fairness and equity in Canadian society. Let government write the laws and the courts interpret them. And let this dichotomy be unbreachable.

SUPREME COURT: Judges will be appointed by the PM for a 7 year term on a rotating schedule. To assure a smooth transition, new appointees will sit in as observers on trials and deliberations for one year before taking over from their predecessor. An all-party Committee will conduct public hearings on the appointments, question prospective judges and have the ability to veto the PM’s decision.

IMMIGRATION: The number of immigrants will be reduced. Canadian culture is undergoing radical change at a rate too fast to be managed effectively and for the sole purpose of sustaining the corrupt ruling party’s hold on power. Furthermore, Canada will accept only one immigrant over age 45 for every 200 immigrants under age 45, unless they put up a $100,000 bond. There are already too many old people in Canada to care for.
- - Illegal refugees arriving unannounced on Canadian soil will have no rights to a lawyer. They will be detained until their cases can be heard. All decisions will be final. There will be no appeal. Rejected claimants will be deported immediately. Unemployed refugee lawyers will be reassigned as Wal Mart greeters across Canada.
- - All immigrants and refugees whose applications are accepted will be assigned to communities throughout the nation so as to facilitate integration and avoid the continued proliferation of today’s harmful culture of exclusionary mono-cultural tribalism and Liberal vote buying.

CRIMINAL JUSTICE: The parole system will be eliminated. Criminals will be required to serve their entire sentences. Parole will be replaced by an effective program to rehabilitate and integrate criminals back into society. A life sentence will mean life. Concurrent sentencing will be outlawed. There will be no plea bargaining except to reward someone who testifies against another criminal. Importing hard drugs or dealing in large quantities of same will bring a life sentence in jail. Considerable jail time will be given for carrying or using handguns in crime. Paedophiles will be jailed for life after their second conviction. The Youth Criminal justice Act will be scrapped in favour of a new regime focused primarily on restitution and public shame. Shame is a powerful deterrent.

GOVERNMENT GRANTS AND SUBSIDIES: no further grants or government funding will be given to any political or social activist group. Groups with a worthy cause will be able to rally support among the public and obtain private funding. The public should not be expected to pay for their ideologically driven leftist escapades and social engineering missions. Likewise all corporate welfare including grants and tax breaks to profitable corporations will be eliminated.

MULTICULTURALISM: This divisive program will be eliminated. Canadians should celebrate their similarities as human beings, not focus on their differences. Newcomers should adopt the values and respect the traditions of Canada. Those who would ignore Canadian values and traditions, chosing instead to wallow in their own foreign culture, should do Canada a favour and go back to where they came from.

GUN REGISTRY – This program will be eliminated. It is a hideously expensive, useless travesty of Liberal malfiescence and incompetence.

BILINGUALISM – This program will be eliminated. It is deeply biased and is the mechanism through which Canada’s Francophone minority has seized control of the nation to dominate virtually all areas of Canada’s government and bureaucracy. Even today, Quebec is allowed to be unilingual French while the rest of Canada is forced to be bilingual. In the interest of fairness to the Anglophone people, this mechanism of French oppression must be dismantled.

NATIONAL CHILDCARE – This program will be eliminated. If the government has no business in the bedrooms of the nation, it has no business in the nurseries or the rest of the house either.

EMPLOYMENT EQUITY – This program will be eliminated. White men have been punished enough.

CBC – This travesty of unbalanced journalism and covert right arm of Liberalism will be eliminated. Airfare to Cuba and North Korea will be generously provided to any employees who wish to seek refuge in a place where their ideology will be embraced.

SENATE – This government body will be eliminated. If our senators have any use at all, except for producing reports that Parliament ignores or exercising blind partisan loyalty, they have not demonstrated it lately.

GOVERNOR GENERAL – This position will be eliminated. There is no other choice, really. With no CBC, there will be no one qualified to become GG.

ARMS LENGTH FOUNDATIONS – These institutions will be eliminated. The very fact that the Canadian government formed secretive mafia-inspired foundations to handle $billions of tax dollars and then made it illegal for the Auditor general to check their books says it all.

MILITARY: Some surplus plus funding from the eliminated programs will be diverted to increase the Canadian army to 250,000 bodies. Additional ships, submarines, and aircraft will be purchased and deployed. If necessary, mandatory participation will be invoked as is the case in Switzerland. Disabled vets will be well taken care of. Canada must be able to defend itself in this world of villains and tyrants. Let this be the first few steps toward attaining this crucial goal.

ETHICS COMMISSIONER: The EC will be appointed by the official opposition and report directly to Parliament.

HEALTH CARE: there will be a carefully structured and regulated implementation of some private services for essential treatments and surgeries using the health care systems of enlightened European nations such as Sweden and Finland as models. This will be expanded as necessary. The number of doctors, nurses, facilities and equipment will be increased until everyone has a family doctor and access to timely care.

FISHERIES: An increased Navy presence will conduct comprehensive, continuous patrols of Canadian waters, impounding foreign fishing boats in violation of our limits. All violators will be subject to criminal proceedings in Canada.

KYOTO: Canada will immediately rescind all Kyoto commitments and leave the radical left-wing environmental junk-science to the nations gullible enough to believe it. Protesters will be entered in a draw to win a Hummer.

OIL: Significant effort will be expended to develop policy that will allow Canada to become self sufficient in gas in 10 years, never to rely on the middle east again.

CRTC: The CRTC will lose all disciplinary powers. Anyone who feels offended at something written or said can take action through the courts. Freedom of speech and truth in the media will take precedence over protecting Canadian’s overly fragile sensibilities.

RCMP – The head of the RCMP will not be appointed by the Prime Minister, but rather by a non partisan committee. This will free our politicized national police force to conduct thorough, competent investigations of our government when corruption arises, for a change.

EMPLOYMENT INSURANCE: Canadians who contribute continuously for 10 years will be eligible for one year’s coverage at 100% of their pay if they lose their jobs through no fault of their own. Canadians who accrue 20 years of contributions will be permitted to cease contributing altogether until they collect from the system.

CANADIAN HUMAN RIGHTS TRIBUNAL: The Tribunal will be disbanded immediately. There are already sufficient remedies under law to punish those who discriminate and harm others. Canadians do not need another partisan appointed, unaccountable bureaucracy to promote the agenda of the nanny state and circumvent the individual rights of Canadians.

NATIVE AFFAIRS: Even we, as all knowing benevolent extra terrestrials, with the wisdom of the ages to draw upon, have no idea what to do about this. We are not Gods. Sorry, but you’re on your own with this one.

As our noble benefactors finished their speech, Canadians everywhere rejoiced. Then I woke up. But, oh, what a dream it was.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Driving Tips For Ignoramuses

“Ignoramus”. I like that word. It’s got a certain ring to it don’t you think? My mother, rest her soul, used to use it when she was perturbed with someone. So, in loving memory of her, I’d like to dedicate this column to the ignoramuses of the world. You know who you are.

On second thought, there are just too many ignoramuses out there for me to cover in a single measly column. So, I’m going to have to drill down, peel away the layers, deconstruct the paradigm, cut to the crux of the issue. (Geeez, with verbal diareah like that spewing from my keyboard, I could be a high priced consultant.) Anyway, after careful consideration, I’ve decided that if there is one type of ignoramus more widespread and worthy of our attention than any other, it is the ignoramus driver. Oh yes. You know who you are.

Maybe you’re one of the drivers who got their license from a cereal box. Maybe you think the world revolves around you and are just too self absorbed to be courteous. Maybe you’re just too stupid to care. Whatever the case, here’s a few tips. Please take them to heart.

First, turn signal etiquette:

- - When you are at the end of a driveway or parking lot waiting to enter traffic, put on your turn signal. This way everyone else knows which way you plan on turning. It’ll make everyone’s life easier, trust me.
- - Signal when you are changing lanes, especially at high speed. If you don’t, you’re not just an ignoramus, you’re a dangerous idiot.
- - In fact, signal anytime you’re making a turn or changing lanes. And turn the darn thing off when you’re done. No one likes driving for miles behind someone whose blinker is going non-stop.

Next, some general driving tips for ignoramuses:

- - First off, turn the cRAP music down. Nobody wants to hear that brainless, monotonous unmusical garbage blasting out with its vile, repulsive lyrics. Most cRAP is an affront to every civilized person in this society. (No hate mail please. If I wan your ‘pinion, you ho, I’ll axe for it. What up wit dat? No wad I’m sayin’?)
- - When you are approaching a red light and it’s possible to move to the left, please do so. That way anyone coming up behind who wants to make a right turn can get past you and won’t have to wait for the light to turn green. It’s called consideration.
- - When you are first in line to make a left turn after the light turns green, for heavens sake, move well out into the intersection. Don’t just sit there over the crosswalk. There are other people behind you who would appreciate getting through the light this time ‘round. They’ll like you better if you let them.
- - If you’re going to drive under the speed limit stay in the right lane. Better still, sell your car and take the bus. You’ll lower national stress levels by at least a couple of points.
- - If you are not going to drive over the speed limit stay the heck out of the left lane. This too will lower stress levels all ‘round.
- - If you need to apply make-up while driving you are apparently too ugly to be out in public. Go home immediately, draw the blinds and get stinking drunk. Then get some cosmetic surgery.
- - If you drive alone in the car pool lane (or what is referred to here in Toronto as the “diamond lane”) give yourself a pat on the back. Your gas tax pays for the pavement. In other words, you pay more tax than public transit riders. Punishing people who pay more tax makes no sense. And, ironically, the fine you’ll receive is also a tax. If a cop tickets you, ask them how it feels to be a tax collector. I bet they’ll be plenty peeved. On second thought, never mind.
- - When someone lets you merge in front of them, give them a wave and a smile in appreciation. If you don’t, they’ll think you’re a jerk. And they’ll be right.
- - If you change lanes on the highway more than twice a minute, continuously, to get ahead of the cars in front of you, you are an impatient twit.
- - If you speed past a car only to have it slowly pull up beside you at the next light you should feel like a fool. If you don’t, I recommend some serious self-reflection.
- - If you drive with kids in the car who are not appropriately buckled in you should go immediately to Canadian Tire, buy a hammer and proceed to hit yourself in the head with it until you knock some sense into yourself. And, with every blow, repeat this out loud “I am a mega-ignoramus.”
- - Ditto, if you smoke in the car with children present. Only, instead of a hammer, make it a baseball bat.
- - Finally, for the dyslexic among you, that red octagonal sign at intersections does not say “POTS”. It is not a reminder to go home and start supper. Nor is it an invitation to slowly roll through the intersection without stopping so you can get home faster.

The preceding has been a privately funded, public service announcement. Your welcome.