I Say Potato, You Say Pomme De Terre.
Definitions and semantics have become a tool to manipulate and influence.
I’m going to type a few words, I’d like you to acknowledge and reflect on how these words make you feel.
How did these words make you feel? I’d wager that the first five made you feel good inside. A little warm and fuzzy; you might have taken a deep breath and sat up a little straighter, you might have got a tiny endorphin spike, you might have thought back to some time in your life when you felt threatened and stood up for yourself, you might have fondly recalled a story your grandfather told you about how in his day all it took was hard and honest work to meet your needs.
I chose these words because they have helped me get a better grip on who I am as a person, and how I interact with the world around me.
I love freedom, I think. Do we really know what freedom is? Is it the ability to do whatever I want, whenever I want, however and with whomever and all that? Well, I don’t think so, because I don’t want to go to work six days a week for ten to fourteen hours a day. I do want to eat food without paying for it, I don’t always want to wear clothes, sometimes I’d like to drive in the middle of the road rather than in that tiny little lane with the potholes and the cyclists who seem to not care what’s behind them. I love the idea of freedom, or at least what I think I mean when I say and hear that word. But, I think it means something a little different to everybody, and I really think it’s and ideal that we don’t fully understand and will never truly attain.
I like living in a society, even though I spend the vast majority of my time being critical of that society. I disagree with many of the things people do without even thinking, but I do like the internet and movies and prepared food and skateboarding, among many other things, and I know that I couldn’t get any of that on my own, so I am willing to sacrifice the ability to walk around naked all day in order to obtain the comforts I have grown dependent on.
These words all make me feel a certain way. I have my own biases and I think of a certain type of individual when I hear these words. I imagine that the people I think of envision beautiful bald eagles soaring across a pristine blue sky above golden fields of wheat butting up against glorious snow capped mountains, screeching out across the expanse in vainglorious defiance when they hear those words. Or at least the first two.
What about when I say Liberal? It’s very similar to Liberty, it shares the same root and harkens to the same philosophical ideal, but the connotations are very, very different. What about Social Justice? I can’t make any assertions, but I’m reasonably confident that people who like the words Liberty and Justice don’t care much for Liberal and Social Justice.
Faith. Whew, I’m not going to go down that road right now, let’s just agree that it has many uses and can be very divisive in certain situations. It is important, however you use the word Faith, to believe in and care about something bigger than yourself, be that religion or the cosmos or simply society. Nobody is self sufficient in today’s world, and nobody should ever think they are, unless they really, truly want to give up all the gains of society and live in a bush.
Honor. What does honor mean? I used to get in fights fairly often as a kid because I thought it was the honorable thing to do. Somebody looked at me funny? Fight. Somebody disrespected me? Fight. Somebody held different beliefs? Fight. That’s not really honor though. I now think of the word Honor as interchangeable with integrity, simply doing the right thing, doing what we know is the right thing, regardless of the personal cost. Do we do that? I don’t think so, I hear people say “Good enough,” or something to that effect, all too often. Complacency, especially complacency in service of convenience, surely is the furthest from honorable one can get.
Entitlement? I’m sure a lot of you think of impoverished folks, waiting in long lines inside poorly appointed government buildings with pastels and plastic furniture, people with silly-sounding names and a general lack of motivation and personal hygiene. I happen to think of older people, past their prime and past their relevance to the larger society, sitting on their lawn chairs in Florida or Scottsdale, admonishing young people for their foolish clothing and loud music, sitting and waiting for the social security checks to come in. I’m not trying to hurt anybody’s feelings, I’m just illuminating my own biases. I know that I have certain prejudices, and the right thing, the honorable thing to do, is acknowledge them and do whatever I can do not to let those implicit biases color my opinions and my beliefs and my actions.
The vast majority of us agree on what is good, we just often disagree on what to call these things. The ability for every single person to have all of their needs met, without any outside agency or organization being able to come in and take it away, is good, it’s what most of us want. The ability to say and do things that make you happy, as long as they don’t negatively affect somebody else. The ability to do something meaningful, the ability to walk down your street or go to school or church or the library or the park without being in danger, the ability to know joy and love and community and compassion. We all agree on these things, but we get caught up in what to call them and wind up doing horrendous things to one another over simple misunderstandings.
I have my own beliefs, and I think they’re pretty good ones, but I have always been reluctant to proselytize because I think that the things I believe in are evident and can be come to through critical thinking. All too often we go along with a group because they say something that sounds good to us at the time. We get carried away with that group and start deluding ourselves and apologizing for its misdeeds rather than accepting the truth and coming together with our neighbors and communities to work for what is actually good.
I have become a better person through honest self-reflection. By calling myself out on my own BS, rather than justifying or excusing my actions, I have been able to become something closer to what I truly want to be. A lot of the shitty things we do to each other are done out of insecurity. Fear and desperation and that nagging feeling when you know you’re being dishonest but you’re trying your damnedest to keep it even from yourself, those feelings are what fuel the hate rallies and the pitchfork mobs and the online vitriol. We’re really pretty cool, all of us, humans that is. Don’t believe the shit you hear about everything falling apart, we’re still capable of great things, we all just need to hold ourselves accountable, we all just need to stop and think and be honest, and do what we know is right.
Thanks for stopping in folks, I appreciate your time and attention. I hope that all of you are able to be honest with yourself and be objective about the situations you face in life, it really does make everything easier and better and more enjoyable. Have a good one!
Go out and be the best version of yourself that you can be!
Originally published at http://threebillionbeats.com on June 28, 2019.