Thoughts on Thinking

"When somebody persuades me that I am wrong, I change my mind. What do you do?" John Maynard Keynes

"If you're unhappy with your life, change your thinking." Charles Fillmore

"The primary cause of unhappiness is never the situation but your thoughts about it." Eckhart Tolle

"People are not disturbed by things, but by the view they take of them." Epictetus

"The unexamined life is not worth living." Socrates

"Consciousness is a terrible thing to waste." PunditGeorge

Sunday, June 21, 2020

Words Mean Things (unless you aren't allowed to use them)

Thoughts That Go Bump in the Night come in many forms.  Who better than a successful author to understand the use and misuse of language and words?  This guest post is by Dan Baldwin from his weekly commentary on the life of a writer.


Writing Tip of the Week

 “God damn you all; I told you so.” H.G. Wells’ suggestion for his epitaph.

    In 1984 Wells wrote of Big Brother’s newspeak, a complete revision of the English language.

   In the novel the ruling party of the nation of Oceana established Ingsoc (English Socialism). To enhance its control over the population the ruling Party created a controlled language of simplified grammar and restricted vocabulary and called it Newspeak. The new vocabulary was designed to limit the freedom of thought—personal identity, self-expression, free will—that threatened the ideology of the régime of Big Brother and the Party. Freedom of expression was criminalised and the concept of thoughtcrime was created to insure adherence to Ingsoc orthodoxy. In other words, you just couldn’t say certain things.

   You know – like “the n-word” or the “b-word” or the “f-word” or the other “f-word” and… and… and….

   Today’s version of Newspeak is Political Correctness – PC.

   People go to ridiculous lengths to adhere to the PC mindset. For example, the last time I worked with a traditional publisher – which will most likely be the actual last time I work with a traditional publisher – the company’s editor objected to a direct quote from a historical source. The quote from Allie Earp (Wyatt’s sister-in-law) was about Wyatt’s abandoned common law wife, Mattie Blaylock. Allie said that Mattie was “… as fine a woman as ever lived. She worked like a nigger.” Neither I nor my co-authors used the ugly word. Allie did. The publisher wouldn’t hear of it because that vague someone-out-there-somewhere might be offended. We again noted that the publisher wouldn’t be using the term. Allie would. No go. We changed it to “she worked (hard).”

   The sneaking evil here is that people and organizations in power will sacrifice history, truth and their own integrity on the altar of political correctness. Writers who buy into this “s-word” have to continually fear crossing a politically correct line. The problem is that the line keeps moving. Banning Huck Finn because of its use of … that word … inevitably leads to banning The Biography of Malcom X for its use of … that word …and then the movie Malcolm X and The Autobiography of Malcom X  for the use of … that word… followed by banning then Denzell Washington, Richard Pryor, Jamie Foxx and Quintin Tarantino movies and then…. Where does it stop?

   It doesn’t.

   Make no mistake about it. Political Correctness is censorship. It is the suppression of freedom of speech. Regardless of any well-intentioned motivation, the use of political correctness is an assault on freedom of expression. Period. End of discussion. That’s all, folks.

   As one of Orwell’s characters said in 1984, “Don’t you see that the whole aim of Newspeak is to narrow the range of thought? In the end we shall make thoughtcrime literally impossible, because there will be no words in which to express it. Every concept that can ever be needed, will be expressed by exactly one word, with its meaning rigidly defined and all its subsidiary meanings rubbed out and forgotten… Every year fewer and fewer words, and the range of consciousness always a little smaller.”

   Think about it.

   While you can.

Quote of the Week: “The one essential gift for a good writer is a built-in, shockproof, shit detector.”

Recommended Reading: The Autobiography of Malcom X by Alex Haley


For More Dan:   Some of Dan's books are here.   


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