Success is Failure by Another Name
by Mike Meyer ~ Honolulu ~ February 25, 2021
Destroying your language for short-term political advantage is sawing off the branch on which you are sitting. Unlike cartoon images of this in which it is obvious, e.g., I’m sitting here, the trunk is there, and I’m sawing away between myself and the trunk; therefore, I’m an idiot who will soon be on the ground, destroying language is weakening the entire tree of culture.
The last four years in America have illustrated this clearly enough that new examples appearing in our disintegrating world of politics and culture are tough to take. As the US's second national party is bustling, recommitting itself to lies, conspiracies, white supremacy, and willful ignorance, they are increasingly the volume and frequency of lies. This is an effort to find another big lie to tie themselves to in hopes of survival.
We are very familiar with the Big Lie. It must be outrageous and so breathtakingly wrong that its absurdity stumps people, and the logical deduction that the person doing this is batshit crazy and beyond the reach of fact and communication. We instinctively pull back to not waste time and effort with someone who is hopeless and may be dangerous.
That is the key, not to success, for those chasing the Big Lie but for retaining their hold on the minority that will believe anything they are told from their minimized group of allowed news sources. As with all cults, group isolation is essential, particularly as the membership falls and criminal charges begin.
This desperate process is ramping up as the former guy attempts to claim death grip on the old Republican Party. At the same time, second and third-tier lackeys struggle to hold onto their credentials or distance themselves from the ship of fools. Ironically, this credential process further isolates these people from the majority, who now refuse to listen.
The examples of this are obvious, with the Congresspeople pending indictment for sedition reaching for ever-higher levels of absurdity in lies as a distraction. We now have panic among the top-level pundits as the middle ground has completely disappeared. Either you are on the ship of fools, or you are condemned to death. The problem is the crazies are rampant among the fools, and they are armed to the teeth so that the death threat may be real.
Flip-flopping will increase until the Republican Party splits in the coming weeks. The sure signs of that are the announcement that the party is united behind the former guy. In the process, Meghan McCain seems to have panicked at being identified as fully crazy enough for the ship of fools and working overtime to launch absurd rants.
Attacking Dr. Fauci, already historical in his defense of science and reason in a time of idiotic ignorance because she hasn’t gotten a vaccination yet, is so totally irrelevant that it is a textbook case. She is obviously intelligent enough to know what she needs to do to get back on board the ship of fools.
But this issue here is not the usual suspects in the dysfunctional wreckage of American politics but the effects on language in everyday culture. The disease is not limited to the media, social or traditional. We are all suffering from the collapse of meaning in our language.
A center of this, I think, is the redefining of the words success and failure across all American bureaucracies. Note how many times a failure is now presented as a success even though everyone knows it was a failure? The word success is so devalued that it is used to paint anything short of a volcanic eruption as a success.
We are immune to this as somehow inevitable now. The great squabble between Facebook and Australia over payments for posting local news postings to save regional and local journalism was a defeat for Facebook was a success for both. Despite it being almost completely a failure for Facebook, which was sabotaged in their effort to stonewall this by Google.
What does this do to the English-speaking population and other languages heavily influenced by English domination? What does success mean? What does failure mean?
The first no longer means success in achieving desired objectives but simply a refusal to admit failure. In the American collapse, the former guy still refuses to admit defeat and plans to launch a full-scale campaign on Sunday to extend that denial into the future.
Failure is now strictly an accusation and never a condition. Accusations are, now, by default, lies. Both words now describe an ambiguous condition of success and failure, something like Schrödinger’s cat.
There are still successes, but those are limited to sporting events and mechanical operations. The NASA Perseverance rover was successful in landing on Mars. But we know that somewhere are people busy claiming this is a lie and, somehow, a failure. We can’t help it because there is little confidence in the word success.
But I came to wonder about this because of a more insidious problem. The bureaucracies we work in are also affected. Other politicians who are usually lying, few people publically claim success. It’s too dangerous.
No one admits failure because that word is an accusation and not a condition. The result is often silence. Decisions are not made because they could be called failures, and successes are failures by another name. This is solved by silence to kick the can down the road. I didn’t identify anything; therefore, it cannot be a failure.
The inevitable reluctance in bureaucratic organizations to make decisions unless forced to do so is becoming a reluctance to admit to any plan or action.
There is a considerable price to pay for the destruction of language.