Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Misfiled

One of the things that I find precedes a change of mind about an issue or topic is a shift in vocabulary. "Anarchist" meant lawlessness to me, and conjured images of warlords or rioting mobs or hill billys at the dead end of such a long muddy road and so self sufficient that government was happy to ignore them operating as a law unto themselves. Then I encounter Dennis Fox's writing and see that anarchy can also mean decentralized govt on a village scale with great local autonomy and THEREFORE greater participation in govt both because it increases each person's stake and because it is possible for individuals to have their voices heard. So now I think differently about anarchism but I want to file the ideas under a less loaded word, something like human-scaled government or decentralism. Now that I have fuller and more varied bindings for the word Anarchy, I discover I have to read a lot of literature I had dismissed as beyond the pale. Its a lot of work but it opens some new horizons and possibilities to me. I will probably just wind up stirring the good bits into my stew of "what's good for us" ideas but I wouldn't even have that option if I just kept dismissing the whole subject.

I would invite everyone, but especially those who are inclined to instruct the public that "Words mean things." [that's the whole sentence, nothing more to quote, no context to fill in], to frequently check the working meanings...as others use them...of their loaded words.

If we don't go to the trouble of finding what words mean to other people, then words actually become much less useful than we think and a lot of good thought just gets misfiled.

2 comments:

Gerry said...
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Gerry said...

Yes, I must admit I'm aware that anarchy (describing the political movement) has a quite liberal meaning, but I too have shied away from informing myself sufficiently about it's fuller meanings in that sense.

As to your comment about the meanings of words generally, I freqeuntly find that I had assumed I knew what the other person meant, or that they understood what I meant, only to find I was wrong. But that realisation generally comes too late. Now I wonder how many times the misunderstandings still go undetected and therefore unresolved.