Posts Tagged ‘euphemism’

Overcoming Mediocrity and Alienation with Freedom

June 10, 2017

Trying to fix this world is no easy task. Many people have pondered about what is wrong with it, and some have offered remedies about how to correct the perpetual problem of human activity and its destructive effects on our collective life on this planet.

For instance, about a century and a half ago, a very smart German fellow named Karl Marx theorized that the prosperous owners of the world’s production facilities should be replaced by the working folks who keep all the nuts and bolts turning. If this transition of ownership could be accomplished, the world would eventually be a better place, or so Karl thought.

Vladimir Lenin and his Bolshevik comrades got a hold of that idea, and they enforced the Russian Revolution of 1917. After they deposed the Czar and his Romanov dynasty family, and after the revolutionaries had manhandled power unto the people for purposes of taking control of the “means of production,” the newfound Communists of Russia took a stab at running the country, with their sights sent on the entire world.

There was some confusion in their ranks about exactly what needed to be done; Lenin and his diehards had to push Trotsky and his people out of the picture, but that wasn’t really enough purging to settle all the issues. So later, in the 1930’s, Joe Stalin took it upon himself to purge the revolutionary and bureaucratic ranks of all questionable persons who couldn’t get with the (Stalin’s) program.

Well, that was a sinister and bloody affair. Meanwhile, further down the map in Europe, Hitler and his Nazi goons were making a big bloody mess of Germany and the surrounding countries, and that whole conflagration turned into one hell of a humongous World War, in which we Americans had to go over there and help the Brits and the French, et al, put an end to it.

After the Big War, the Communists were still in control of Russia, and Stalin was still running the show and the gulag, and the working out of the Marx-theorized dictatorship of the proletariat and so forth. Part of the strategy of the International Communist plan to save the world from Capitalist abuse was to spread the revolution into other parts of the world.

After World War II finally skidded to a long-overdue frigging halt, when the dust settled in Europe, the continent was pretty much divided down the middle between the freedom-cultivating Capitalist Allies and the pushy Russian Communists. There was a kind of imaginary dividing between these two entities, which Winston Churchill called the Iron Curtain.

Over here in the West, we were flat-out tired of making war. The Nazi war machine had worn us out, even though we won. And the Russians, although they were certainly tired of fighting the war, were also tired of the whole damned war thing.  Nevertheless, the Ruskies were still quite stubborn in their resolve to save the world from Capitalism.

So they began a new, very big project to impose their Russian version of Communism on the rest of the world– Starting, mainly, in eastern Europe where they were already occupying those post-war-torn Nazi-disaster zone nations, most notably Poland, Czechoslovakia and Hungary.

BrshnvK

Recently I picked up a book, from my precious local library, about people and events in Communist-occupied postwar eastern Europe.

   https://www.amazon.com/Prague-Sprung-Notes-Voices-World/dp/0275945367

David Leviatin’s Prague Sprung  presents a penetrating view into the Communist world of power mongering as it existed from the 1948 takeover until the overthrow of Russian hegemony in 1989.

In his book project, David interviews many Czechs who, as members of the Communist party, performed roles in the development and administration of Czechoslovakia.

During one interview, David Leviatin speaks to Miroslav Jindra about his career as an educator. Jindra’s training as a teacher of English and Czech language began in 1948 when he entered Charles University in Prague. After graduating he taught languages at both elementary and college levels.

During that time Mr. Jindra encountered there, however, a double-minded mindset that tended to complicate everything. It seemed that academic excellence and enquiry were not the first priorities. Rather, he found that behind the surface of the institution was a certain Marxist mindset which was being promulgated by the Communist regime. The politicos in charge of Czech education had an agenda, and it was more about political control than academic enquiry. Consequently, to function in such an academic environment was no simple matter.

“I belonged to the group of people who developed some sort of maneuver, some sort of defending mechanism, because otherwise it was impossible to survive. I learned at the same time to be as inconspicuous as possible. If you were very good, you were conspicuous. Something would happen to you. If you were too lazy, you were also conspicuous. This is what we now call the tendency to mediocrity.”

Jindra goes on to  explain that the Russian takeover of his country in 1948 was followed by a period of radical leftist change, which was imposed methodically by Communist taskmasters. But later, during the 1950’s their doctrinaire extremism began to run out of steam. The demands of economic and political reality required more practical applications of human motivation and activity. By the 1960’s narrow-minded apparatchiks who had imposed Stalinist cruelties had to tone down their rhetoric and their programs as it became apparent that something was wrong.

By 1956, Khrushchev’s admission of Stalinist abuses and crimes initiated a shockwave of reassessment that rumbled across the whole communist world.

As Jindra states it: “They found out something was wrong.” So the Stalinist phase of world communism began to morph into something else.

But Khrushchev’s admission wasn’t the only crack that was then appearing in the Soviet wall of oppression.

Also at that time, in 1956, the partisans of Hungary, next door  to Czechoslovakia, rose up in undisguised anger against their Russian overlords. As a Czech speaking about their 1956 news of the Hungarian uprising, Miroslav Jindra says:

“We were told that the Revolution in Hungary was endangered by some reactionaries, but everybody knew what happened there.”

Which is to say, everybody knew what (really) happened there.

As citizens of eastern Europe found themselves, over the years, mired deeper and deeper in sloughs of Communist Party control,  they were cornered into a new, schizo way of thinking and speaking. Euphemism– saying what is generally known to be true but saying it in a way that would not be objectionable, or even understood by, Communist party officials– became a necessity. Saying what you meant without really saying it become a finely honed, stealthy strategy–even a mindset– of mounting resistance.

Eastern Europe came to be something like a kettle put on low heat; it took a long time to boil. It didn’t actually boil over until 1989.

There were many Soviet oppressions that provoked discontent and bitterness among the people of eastern Europe.

Here’s one bitter bi-product of Soviet oppression in  particular, that Miroslav Jindra’s narrative brings to this reader’s attention. But it was not an obvious one. Rather, it is subtle thing, and it slithers into the fearful comrade’s mind like a serpent: alienation.

Think about it this way. Have you ever been in a job where you wanted to do good work, but could not, because your micro-managing boss or co-workers were obsessed with unimportant details instead of actually accomplishing good work?

That’s what was going on in the world of Soviet political correction.

From page 66 of David Leviatan’s Prague Sprung, educator Miroslav Jindra speaks of the doublethink that was required to function as faculty member at Charles University, in Prague:

“In 1976, I was invited to come back to the faculty since two people had retired and they needed some help. There were some very good people in the faculty. If you had some contacts with them, you were quite safe. On the other hand, there were some very nasty people in the Party, people who were not qualified as experts, as specialists, who were just political figures. Their task was to watch over what we said. If you were careful enough you could evade them. We didn’t have any intellectual freedom at all. We had very limited area to maneuver. If you were clever, you could. I think that quite often I managed to tell the students what I wanted to tell them, but maybe I didn’t tell them directly. I tried to make them find out for themselves.

But it’s a big relief now (circa 1991). I don’t need to think over anything, my next word. This was crazy. It was double-thinking.”

The mindset that requires fearful, constant double-minded euphemism is destructive. When truth cannot be plainly spoken, a kind of collective schizophrenia takes hold of a society. This is what the history of communism has revealed about human nature. In State-controlled regimes, Party-appointed–or even self-appointed– micro-managers who are obsessed with political correctness and petty rules dominate everything that is allowed to happen. The end results bring mediocrity, which is the opposite of excellence. For serious teachers, students or workers who want to discover truth and strive for productivity, alienation plagues them and drags them into sloughs of discouragement and despair.

By the late 1980’s, the peoples of eastern Europe–and even the Russians– were sick of the double-minded burdens that the communist State had been demanding of them, so they overthrew it. The revolution began with bold people like Vaclav Havel in the Czech lands, Imre Nagy in Hungary, Lech Walesa in Poland.

Eventually leaders such as Yeltsin and Gorbachev got a hold of it. The rest is history. Gorbachev took Reagan’s advice; he tore down a wall. That certainly to helped to get the ball of liberty rolling.

Much to the doctrinaire Communists’ surprise, the people of Germany turned out to be more than willing to help in tearing down that Berlin wall–piece by piece. Freedom is irresistible when you get a whiff of it.

But freedom is not easy to attain. In America, we are fortunate to have prospered in the liberty that was attained, at great sacrifice, for us long ago. That liberty has since been assured and secured by men and women who are willing to defend it. We defend it, not only militarily, but also politically, academically, and economically.

Let’s keep it that way. Freedom is a way of life that we don’t want to lose. Let us not squander it.

King of Soul

The Ambiguous Shirking Syndrome

December 20, 2015

It started with like.

“I was like, watching this show, and this guy was trying to, like, jump on a trampoline, but it wasn’t a trampoline; it was, like, a stack of foam rubber cushions with whipped cream all over it and there were these other people standing around trying to, like, keeping him from falling, to keep him from. . .”

In the above example, we see that the incredible versatility of the the like filler-phoneme phenomenon has rendered that little word weary and wornout from overuse, and so a linguatic trainer was sent  in to give, like, a break; they sent in two second-stringers to replace him. Like was, like, the only filler word ever, who it took two other words to replace him–he was that famous–and so the trainer sent in you know. . .

“and these other people standing around are trying to, you know, trying to keep him from falling off the stack of foam rubber pads. They were supposed to keep his feet from touching the ground because if his feet touched the ground then he would be, you know, eliminated and they would vote him off the show or, you know, something like that. It was so funny–how he was trying to keep his feet up on the pads so his feet wouldn’t touch the ground. But some of the people that were supposed to help him started licking the whipped cream off of him just for, you know, a joke or something and so finally while this one weird guy was like getting into the whipped cream thing and he wasn’t paying attention and so the guy’s feet touched the ground and the facilitator blew the whistle and everything stopped and all  the people were laughing except for him because he was, you know, out of the game and he could never come back. It was sad in a way but it was, you know. . .”

Now the meteoric rise of another Celebrity utteral excloratory filler has, within our lifetime, added yet another star-quality persona to the filler-phoneme phenom:

“. . .kinda funny. It was sad in a way, but it was kinda funny.”

This slangified stripped-down contraction of the classic “kind of”  adjectivo-preppisitionative filler has really taken over. I mean, it went viral a couple years ago, gettin’ a thousand hits a minute because its like, you know, well who wants to go to all that trouble and say “kind of” when you can just blurt out kinda whatever you’re feeling at the time or whatever floats your boat, or maybe you can’t think of the right word because, well, you know. . .

whatever. That’s another one: whatever.  Absolute epitome of the ambiguous shirking syndrome. Perfect example of an ASS.

But I digress. . . You can call it whatever you want. Fuhgedaboudit. I mean, it’s all over the map with this stuff. But it IS, you know, a class thing. I mean . . . you won’t hear the elite saying it. No way Hozay. Their philler-phoneme of choice is:

sort of

This euphemistic philler-phoneme is a highly favored linguatic device among journalists and talking heads who don’t have all their ducks in row, which is to say, they, sort of don’t have all their facts.  Or else maybe they just don’t want to appear to, sort of make value judgements that aren’t politically correct or something like that. An example from a recent talking heads discussion could be:

“These extremists were posting their gruesome executions online and the videos would immediately go viral, and people didn’t know what to make of it because it was, like, unprecedented.  I  mean, nothing like this has ever happened before. People in the West were getting sort of freaked about it.”

They might even be worse than them fundamentalist right-to-lifers who are so OCD about preventing infanticide. Or maybe they’re like them wild-eyed IRA guys in Belfast back to their old tricks, or the new IRA guys who want to value of their IRAs and 401-Ks.

Actually, history is full of this kind of thing. It’s called the depravity of Man. The difference just now is that this video-promoted beheading practice–in all it’s full-blown barbarism–has gone viral online. And this development is . . . sort of, a bad sign of what may be coming. There could be, like, trouble or something.

Some of the talking heads were recently talking about this viral video beheading phenomenon, and the fatal terrorist shootups in Paris and San Bernadino, and wherever else this type of jihadic atrocity is about to happen. The journalists were trying to decide among themselves what the correct nomenclature would be, whether the shooters and head-choppers should be called terrorists, or political extremists or jihdists or. . .and these people all claim to be . . . sort of, Islamic, but that doesn’t, of course, make them Islamic terrorists. So you can see what the problem is here.

What to call them.  And our dedicated, professional infomatic journalistic commentators are addressing the problem. For more about this, tune into News at 11.

 In signing off from this edition of the Linguatic Report, I’ll leave you with our Definition of the Week. This week’s word is:

um

Um is a filler-phoneme word that sharpens and clarifies the classically hesitant, filler adverb, uh, which has for many decades been in common use. Found most frequently among academics and well-informed opinionators such as Noam Chomsky or Barak Obama, this very concise, procrastinative filler excloratory is solidly packed with a well-understood but unspoken message, the content of which is:

I’m not finished with my very weighty proclamation yet, so you other members of the panel and you students and so forth who are hanging on my every word please don’t interrupt me until I’m done speaking this important next word, which is, um. . . this never should have been what is has become.

Be that as it may, and that said. . .  that’s the history of the world for you. Never should have been what is has become. Nevertheless there it is . . . whatever you call it. If it was a snake, the damn would have bit you already. Ask Churchill or Eisenhower about it.

But they’re not answering the phone.

Smoke