Words Matter

Today, “truth” has become relative. Values rather than being “received” are “self-actualised.” “Guilt” is no longer a motivation for change in lifestyle or behaviour, it is the feeling of guilt itself which is unhealthy and repressive.

It’s all about words. Words are important, they shape the ideas expressed. In 1984 Orwell explained, “Don’t you see that the whole aim of Newspeak is to narrow the range of thought? In the end we shall make thought crime literally impossible because there will be no words in which to express it.”

Winston Smith, learned something about his world, and ours: When words are eliminated or have their meanings changed and the common vocabulary is adjusted then the thinking of the common people becomes adjusted.

The Italian communist Antonio Gramsci was shocked when the Bolshevik Revolution  in Russia failed to inspire the oppressed workers throughout Europe to rise up in violent rebellion. He came to the conclusion that the heart of the problem was Judeo-Christian values and rather than immediately launch a violent revolution these values had be destroyed before any revolution was possible. Thus began what he termed “the long march through the institutions.”

Gramsci called for a methodical approach to infiltrate, capture, and reform every formative cultural force; education, the press, the cinema, theatre, the government, and the church. The key to the battle lay within the cultural hegemony, change that ideologically, change the way in which people thought, and the political and economic battles would be won.

Georg Lukacs, a Hungarian socialist and one of the most brilliant Marxist theorists of the 20th Century, went further when he noted that all the successful revolutions were engineered by a small cadre of intellectuals. In 1922, he met with a number of fellow intellectuals  for a week in Ilmenau, Germany. A year later, the Frankfurt School was conceived as a think tank that trained agents of cultural change.

Foundational words were rebranded. “Individualism,” “personal industry,” and “self reliance” became were regarded as oppressive because the world was divided into two types of people, either “oppressors” or “victims.” Thus “fatherhood” instead of being seen as protective and providing, was seen as tyrannical and domineering, giving rise to the feminism of the 70’s. It was religion, however, which was seen as the greatest oppressive force of all – a blind superstition that led to intolerance and war.

In 1965, Herbert Marcuse, probably the most influential alumni of the Frankfort School, turned language 180 degrees when he justified intolerance on the grounds of tolerance, In Repressive Tolerance he wrote: “The conclusion reached is that the realization of the objective of tolerance would call for intolerance toward prevailing policies, attitudes, opinions, and the extension of tolerance to policies, attitudes, and opinions which are outlawed or suppressed.”

Thus he, and his progressive acolytes, were able to preach intolerance towards all that was commonly held to be worthwhile and tolerance towards all that which was rejected, and do all this in the name of tolerance.

Political engagement is important, far more important is cultural engagement. This is about more than the Daily Mail ranting about “political correctness gone mad”. Those who hold to the importance of words because of the importance of the Word have no option but to resist the destruction of language and proclaim that there is such a thing as the truth, and that the Truth has come to show us the Way.

I shall be down in Yorkshire for the next week and shall be posting again in ten days time.


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