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Living in the world with language.

Oh dear:

We’ve seen a lot of this stuff lately. She’s probably already in #karensgoingwild.

It’s fascinating to watch someone go on like this. It’s like watching a train wreck as the cars go off the tracks one by one, tumble over one another and land in some field a twisted mess. You can’t look away.

I’ve been trying to figure out what has happened to these people to make them talk and act this way. Their sentences have no subject and predicate, cause and effect. They’re just a bunch of trigger words glued together by raw emotion, anger and fear.

She might have a mental illness but I’ve seen people like her at board of Ed meetings, shrieking that the schools should be closed because of a few cases of head lice, tossing plastic bags of shriven hair at the board members. Or libertarians show up to wreck havoc on a referendum, freaking out about taxes when the alternative was just going to cost them more in the end.

What is it like to go through the world like that woman? Would Therapy help her? Would she even agree to it? And who are we to say that she isn’t entitled her political point of view even as something clearly has taken over the machinery of her thought processes.

I’m always trying to figure out why this happens to people and I think I might have part of the answer. I was listening to a repeat episode of In Our Time. The topic was Hannah Arendt, the philosopher and journalist who covered the Adolf Eichmann trial in Israel in the 60’s. She’s the one who coined the phrase “the banality of evil”, which has been taken out of context and misapplied like “survival of the fittest” was high jacked by the Jack Welch aficionados.

(Yes, I realize that learning this shit makes me undateable. 🙄)

Anyway, the guests were trying to explain Arendt’s philosophy and it kind of made sense to me. Basically, who you are and how you operate in the world depends on your relationship with language. When you think of something, you are putting a word to it. The better you are at thinking through language, the better you are at representing yourself to the world and understanding it. You can articulate what you observe in language.

Arendt wrote that this was capability was truncated in Nazis. About Eichmann’s thoughtlessness the guests sum up Arendt’s impressions like this:

He spoke in cliches. He couldn’t follow a train of thought, he couldn’t understand another point of view. He was sort of vulgar. He has an inability to think. She says he’s hedged around by these linguistic cliches, his refusal to question, his lack of the sense of the past makes him thoughtless… Eichmann is unable to talk to himself about what he is doing, unable to question or think it through.

It’s as if their facility with articulating with themselves has been substituted with a shorter, more targeted vocabulary.

If you have been a long time reader here, you’ll probably remember my past screeds on buzz words. I hate it when the left side uses words like “neoliberal” and “corporatist”. The negative connotation and emotional reflexivity is there but the user can’t define the words. It’s just anything they don’t like. Soon, we’re all using those words and we dig ourselves into holes with them. In the past few years it’s been Medicare 4 All. Sure that’s a reasonable proposal but there are alternatives. Can we discuss before we jump on the bandwagon? Same with “defund the police”. I’ve heard that this doesn’t literally mean get rid of the police department but the confusion and ability of the right to exploit that confusion is the result of imprecision and emotional button pushing. I’m not saying we don’t have a problem to fix. We definitely do. But Defund the Police is an effort to circumvent hard problems and thinking things through. In general, I’m against that.

It happens on the right and left, this desire to simplify our political and cultural worldview but it seems to happen more on the right. That’s why we’re seeing these videos of the Karens having what seems to be a word salad meltdown. They sound like they have become unable to articulate their thoughts and their fear is taking over. The only way the can express themselves is through this sequence of words that have some vague meaning and that causes them to affiliate with similarly thought bound people.

It’s not a matter of intelligence. I’ve known smart people who read Dostoyevsky for fun who have become like this. There is some evidence that right and left political ideologies are related to brain physiology. But some of this IS in our control.

I recently reread my Credo. It’s in one of the tabs above ☝🏻. There isn’t much about that credo that I would change. It is consistent with my internal monologue and the way I relate to the world. I can articulate it in simple, Easy to follow sentences with clear vocabulary. It’s not a manifesto or a magnum opus and it’s not the entirety of my philosophy of the universe (everyone should have one of those, right?) It might not be the right answer to everything but anyone who reads it and disagrees with it knows where to begin the discussion.

That’s not something you can do with a Karen like the one shown above and the lady a few days ago that went on and on about her freedom. I mean, where do you even begin to have a discussion where you can have understanding? The way is shut. They are not even talking to themselves. They are repeating what they hear and what they’ve been conditioned to respond to. Whether that’s caused by physiology, lack of training or laziness is something we need to figure out so it doesn’t happen again.