The First Rule of Politics: Getting the Names Right
moral relativism, our society and so also our political environment have rejected the principle of "rectification of names." In fact, the opposite seems to have come about, a "de-rectification" of names is de rigueur.
Dishonest use of words is endemic in our political debate. We live in an age of political euphemisms (words that make things seem better than they are) and dysphemisms (words that make things seem worse than they are), of "political correctness," and of "double speak." From a political standpoint it is not only disconcerting, it is foreboding.
As Josef Pieper wrote in his essay Abuse of Language, Abuse of Power:
"The degradation, too, of man through man, alarmingly evident in the acts of physical violence committed by all tyrannies (concentration camps, torture), has its beginning, certainly much less alarmingly, at the almost imperceptible moment when the word loses its dignity. The dignity of the word, to be sure, consists in this: through the word is accomplished what no other means can accomplish, namely, communication based on reality."
Do not think we have not gotten to the point of tyranny. To some extent, tyranny is in the eye of the beholder. According to the cries of the millions of children murdered in their mother's womb each year (don't think God or those with well-formed consciences don't hear it), tyranny reigns in this country. Naturally, this crime against humanity is shrouded in political euphemisms, and we can even see that phenomenon that Steven Pinker called the "euphemism treadmill."
The "baby" in utero was first depersonalized to its medical term, "fetus" (which means "child" in Latin), and then "product of conception" or even "blob of tissue." By the use of such euphemisms, the truth is covered up.
Advocates of "child slaughter," of course, would resist such a frank name, and so they called themselves "abortion rights" or "women rights" advocates (conveniently neglecting the victim), or even the more attenuated "pro choice" advocates. With each euphemism reality is further disguised.
We see it in other areas as well. Sodomy, which is an unnatural act and used to be a criminal offense, was softened to homosexuality, and then to gay, or, even more innocuously, someone with an alternative sexual orientation. Each of these euphemisms is further and further away from reality.
Murder of the sick was changed to "euthanasia" (Greek for "good-death"), then to "mercy-killing," and now "death with dignity." With each link in the euphemistic chain reality becomes more clouded.
Sometimes it works the other way.
Catholic bishops, who this election year took a particularly courageous stand against abortion and homosexual marriage, used to be referred to as "Most Reverend," or "Very Reverend," but now, in a rather quick de-rectification of names, they have been called "bigots" by such groups as the Rainbow Sash Movement (National LGBT Catholics). I have also seen them called "pedophile pimps." One can trust that such a dyphemisms will soon make it into the mainstream, if they are not there already.
We must unmask such pretensions of the de-rectifiers. Truth demands it, for if we do not resist the trend to call things not as they are, but as we might wish to perceive them, then truth perishes.
As Josef Pieper put it in his essay, when language is unmoored from truth, from reality, communication is impossible. There can be no dialogue. There can only be monologue, only "fine speeches," something at which our pro-abortion and pro-homosexual-"marriage" President, who has unmoored himself from moral truth for the sake of power, seems to have mastered.
So what should Catholics and all other men and women of good will do?
Why, follow the advice Confucius gave to Tsze-lū to his question, "What will consider the first thing to be done?"
"What is necessary is to rectify names."
Andrew M. Greenwell is an attorney licensed to practice law in Texas, practicing in Corpus Christi, Texas. He is married with three children. He maintains a blog entirely devoted to the natural law called Lex Christianorum. You can contact Andrew at email@example.com.
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Pope Benedict XVI's Prayer Intentions for January 2013
General Intention: The Faith of Christians. That in this Year of Faith Christians may deepen their knowledge of the mystery of Christ and witness joyfully to the gift of faith in him.
Missionary Intention: Middle Eastern Christians. That the Christian communities of the Middle East, often discriminated against, may receive from the Holy Spirit the strength of fidelity and perseverance.
Keywords: Zheng ming, Andrew M. Greenwell, truth, language, political discourse, abortion, homosexual marriage, euthanasia
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