by Mike Meyer ~ Honolulu ~ April 26, 2020
A primary failure in the birth of our SARS CoV-2 reality is with words and language. The conflict is over, allowing communication to change to reflect the new reality. Battles over words is not a new problem as our evolving style grows to empower people and describe relationships in emerging realities.
New realities require new words and adjustments in grammatical structure. These linguistic adaptions are the combined psychological and sociological equivalent of biological evolution. While we incorrectly think of evolution as an incredibly slow process over millennia, that tends to be long periods of stability punctuated by rapid change.
While genetic change is long term, short term inheritable epigenetic changes happen in one generation. Epigenetic modification occurs through the expression of gene information triggered by the environment rather than structural DNA change.
At the level of human language, results from a changing environment and facilitates those changes. New realities cause the rise of new words and language changes. The classic model of this in intellectual history is Thomas Kuhn’s The Structure of Scientific Revolutions that gave us the term, paradigm shift.
Science and technology have been the primary drivers of language and social change in the modern world. This process is not simplistic but sophisticated operating on many levels of human thought and understanding. Win the grips of massive paradigmatic shift over the last fifty or more years. It is both a constant process of adaption due to broader and broader realms of communication and punctuated by significant events.
We just hit a massive event that has triggered a fundamental change in our planetary society with this shift producing irreversible changes in our economic, social, and political systems. Different governmental units, or nations, are experiencing this at diverse levels dependent on their internal rate of change and their ability for stable adaption.
Those locked into rigid, unadaptable forms, are struggling to survive at all levels. An unadaptable state crumbles in the face of sudden fundamental economic and scientific change. The language of the ruling system tends to be rigid and significant changes in meaning threatens authoritarian control. The population supporting this political system tends to be reactionary or even violently reactionary to any change in language or definition because they are taught to reject all but the language that reinforces the power of the ruling elite.
We are familiar with this from the totalitarian disasters of the 20th century. George Orwell illustrated this perfectly in 1984 as only the words approved by the controlling elite, and those words could only change the meaning at the order of the rulers. This control of language removes evolutionary change from the system by attempting to lockin one reality.
Despite Orwell’s dystopian novel, we know from the remainder of the 20th century that attempting to prevent language evolution to control political authority ultimately fails. Our species’ primary tool is language, and just as epigenetic or genetic development cannot be stopped, language evolution continues continuously. This language evolution is the unstoppable route of democratic influence in any such state. New words, idioms, satire, and jokes evolve and spread mocking and sapping the strength of the controlling language and replacing it.
While the pandemic event has focused people on the practical reality of a collapsing economy and failed political systems greatly exacerbating the economic disaster, the underlying revolutionary change is in our languages. In failed states, such as the US, the grammar of power is suddenly powerless as the pandemic event reveals the incompetence of the ruling regime.
In narrowly-defined authoritarian states, predatory capitalism in the US, there is no other justification of power. The pandemic requires collaborative and social support for everyone for controlling the epidemic and assuring the survival of the population. Radical economic oppression and domination based on the denial of common assets are so totally wrong only the most completely programmed supporters of the regime can maintain the language. In the new reality, deprivation, oppression, and greed mean death. But that language is all that remains of their hoped windfall from fascist authoritarianism.
Before the new reality, the war against language change was ‘weaponized’ words or ideas in an attempt to block reform. The instinctive reaction of those intimidated by change has long been a refusal to learn new words or even new definitions for old words. I’ve written about this in the past, but we now have this kind of assault on language directly threatening the people’s survival.
Over the last, thirty or forty years as the society in the US stagnated economically. They became increasingly reactionary, targeting identity and the century-long movements to eliminate bigotry, misogyny, and xenophobia under the human rights clauses of the Constitution.
It only takes looking at a popular movie or magazine from forty years ago to be shocked by racism and bigotry. We have come along way, but this is not a process with a start and finish. It is the creation of a new language that allows us to see, describe, and be disgusted by attitudes that are no longer acceptable. But we cannot change the past. We can only change the future.
In times of significant paradigmatic change, the last thirty years have seen the transformation of our view of our societies and the universe around us; the language must change radically to handle the new reality. That is disruptive and acts as a feedback mechanism to define morality and to address new threats to our specie’s survival.
There is natural stress to these evolutionary changes. These conflicts become entangled in human efforts to capture words and deny their meaning or convert them into weapons against people struggling to define more inclusive human societies. Propaganda tools, developed in the dark age of the 20th century by Nazi and Soviet totalitarian systems, started by consciously claiming words that described their policy but were generally negative and using those against any opposition to their goals.
At the most simple level, this is the process of accusation by using words that describe the authoritarian examples of the past against anyone critical of identical intent. Authoritarians use old definitions of authoritarianism to denounce those defending democracy and socially open policies that have brought the planet to the highest level of wellbeing in history.
These battles become wars as paradigmatic change accelerates in response to population, environmental, and social changes. When these things force fundamental changes in the conditions of human society, language changes, new words appear, and old words lose their meaning and become obscure historical referents.
In political units under the control of conservative groups, this process becomes explosive. Language begins to bifurcate as society works to describe and understand the changes that are happening. We are familiar with this previously only through the geographic isolation of groups producing dialects, including unique social forms and, ultimately, new languages within a linguistic family.
This process, itself, has evolved on a rapidly urbanizing and populace planet moving from geographic isolation to social group self-definition. We no longer have the luxury of geographic isolation to relieve the pressure of paradigmatic change. Historically times of rapid change or population movement end and new, stable social forms with a universal language incorporating things that once were disruptive. We will not see that for many years or decades.
We triggered massive planetary and population changes driven by stunning technology that is altogether redefining human society. Unfortunately, the problems that we have created are almost beyond our ability to comprehend. That ‘almost’ means that there is now a significant minority that cannot understand the changes we are experiencing. In contrast, in the US, a bare majority does understand these well enough to trust the professional minority that is building the knowledge to understand what is needed.
These disparities would typically work itself out over a generation, but we do not have the luxury of time. Good education facilitates this by presenting historical attitudes and a range of ideas that allow individuals to observe and work out their views.
Youth, of course, inherently seeks change and incorporates new ideas and language as standard. The older population is inherently more reluctant to accept change and denounce everything. These are broad patterns and entirely at the mercy of education, knowledge, and personal characteristics.
When the increasing population and environmental threats produce the need for broad, collective, social action in a society with an extreme individuality and competitive economic tradition, we have the extreme polarization and breakdown of meaning and communication that marks the US, and several select related cultures today.
Violent attacks on language, as it represents segments of the population, are destructive as older forms of warfare. The breakdown of communication is inherently violent and produces the type of social insanity that leads to genocide and devastation of entire cultures.
This process is not discussion or debate but war often following sociopathic leaders who sense the opportunity for manipulation and personal gain. The failure to identify the severity, violence and planetary threat of this now risks our species survival. It can also descend into planet-destroying violence.
The last four weeks have suddenly destroyed the economic structure inherited from the 20th century. The dominant American based civilization was in evident decline over the previous forty years. The majority of the population has been struggling with steadily growing confusion in the face of structural dysfunction, but the memory of old stability made any radical change too frightening.
COVID-19 from the SARS CoV-2 virus has galvanized the vast majority of the population while triggering mass insanity in those programmed as a cult of an insane leader. The last decades of confusion of the majority unwilling to give up on the structure of society have suddenly become confusion among the reactionary denying change. The extremes displayed by this group, the justification of mass death to protect a collapsing economic system and its owners, cannot be seen as anything but dangerously irrational.
The full collapse of the US federal government under the control of this irrational group is tragic at a level that is difficult to accept but undeniable. That these people, under their cult leader, are not yet ready to commit suicide but are committed to the death of their defined ‘others’ as acceptable to their retention of power.
This monstrous intent can still be solved for the US, although time is running out, by removing the insanity from the halls of authority. Psychiatry and psychology have long identified this form of malignant narcissism as the cause of social insanity. Still, the removal of the individuals causing this allows rapid recovery from that pathology.
My concern here is the identification of people exhibiting symptoms of this disease. While many are only mildly affected, showing only standard diversity in political opinions complete denial of the need for a new language common to our new reality is a dangerous symptom.
In this complex matrix of radical change, the US and individual other nations face the complication of social and political pathology. This common illness must be controlled and cured before we can all begin to face the massive disruption of redesigning a sustainable planetary economic and political structure.
The removal of this social and political pathology in the US and select other nation-states must happen before we can begin the serious fight for our survival.