Words that have escaped
by Mike Meyer
One of the amazing things about technology driven revolutionary change is how steadily it evolves into a new and much clearer way to see the world. But, like the revolutionary process itself, that needs to be carefully unpacked to understand.
Every revolution is a staged process that begins with confusion. That means that each stage works through confusion to new understanding. These stages are components that, themselves, make up a larger revolutionary process. At each level what starts with confusion, an inherently uncomfortable condition for people, becomes revelation. Revelation is one of the most enjoyable conditions for people.
This moves through small to large systems that are experiencing change and provides an accelerating process of confusion and revelation. But the revelations may be either positive or negative. That is a line of developmental change, very much as happens in a scientific experiment. It starts with a confusing situation and attempts to figure out and provide a means of understanding and predicting the process. That line of development may be incorrect with the result disproving an assumption that has been taken from the initial confusion. That too is revelation, e.g. we now know that this is not how this will work.
While science applies to physical realities people experience technologically driven change as a social struggle. At the start of the stage people become uncomfortable because things that are happening don’t seem right or appropriate. Something has caused disruption in a social system. People begin acting in ways that I don’t understand. They are reacting to something in a new way and I don’t understand what has caused that.
This is almost always a functional linguistic change. Words that were once unquestioned in meaning become difficult because the meaning changes. First we need to determine how the meaning has changed and then begin to understand the implications for other words.
The percentage of the population that finds change most difficult usually struggles with this and repeatedly attempts to force the word(s) back to their old meaning. When that fails, and it almost always does, they try to change the meaning further to make it function more like the old meaning.
People who take change more easily, and there are many reasons for this, adopt the new meaning and will often push other words to change meaning to fit as they explore connections related to the new meaning(s). This can lead to a struggle to capture words and deny other people the right to use the new meanings.
In times of accelerating change many words break loose and have different meanings for different groups. This is the polarization of society and the reality of cultural war. The post industrial societies on this planet are in full transition and the languages are in rapid change with great discomfort caused by dynamic changes in meaning. Words are how we see the world we live in and changing those words creates a new world.
In a very basic way the revelation is the individual settling of new meanings and the realization of how the world looks through those words. Major phase change or paradigm shifts are simply very large instances of this with many words changing for many different groups of people. Revelation works for something and then a new change creates new confusion.
We are now experiencing some very basic meaning changes for words that have been stable for up to 200 years or more. As an example the common political debates for the last fifty years have been on the issues of publicly owned versus privately owned property and society's well being as opposed to individual’s well being.
This very complex set of terms encompass words such as capitalism, communism, socialism, welfare, competition, freedom, and others. There are shortcut labels such as ‘right’ and ‘left’ and in America ‘red’ and ‘blue’. These words have been and, for many people, continue to constitute dyads or diametrically opposed meanings. The ‘mainstream media’ (a new term) still almost exclusively maintains these meanings and their opposition. ‘Social media’ (another new term) has more actively moved away from these terms as dyads and may not use them at all.
Until the last twenty years media was where information was acquired. All media was mass media even if the mass was small, that is, a small town newspaper. Now mainstream media is increasingly pejorative because it is controlled by a small class of people made up of governmental and business leaders. These are now seen as basically the same people. In radically capitalist societies such as America the mainstream media is an advertising media designed to lie to people in order to sell things. These issues blur together now that there is something else to learn from, e.g. social media.
Social media has no controls at all although the mainstream media people are working to limit the social media to their language. In China social media is heavily monitored and censored in an effort to control society. In both cases this is the old system struggling to kill the new. Who gets to own the meanings of the words? In societies that are more authoritarian the control fails continuously. In China people know what words are being blocked so quickly adopt new words to replace them. This is a viral process with new words replacing old with understanding from context.
In America we are close to civil war because the changes in meaning are very large. As a result confusion is extensive and many people give up attempting to even talk because they cannot understand what is being said. It is much easier to talk to a limited group because the old meanings still hold.
The tragedy of this is that the change is already completed. Things don’t get to this stage until the majority of the population has converted to the new world and the new meanings. The conflict is vicious because it is a rear guard defense by the losing world view.
This level of change does not become a conflict issue until it is nearly over. Our world is rapidly being rebuilt in the new image. It can be delayed and great suffering can be inflicted by governments committed to the old view as almost all are, but that is all they can do. When words change meanings in people’s minds suddenly things look different. Revelation is that moment of saying, Ahh, now I see, yes, that makes real sense. It is a new set of world relationships that works better than the old.
And this is why the leaders of the old world so often look foolish and ignorant. They are constantly struggling to use words in the old world way that either now mean something different or don’t mean anything at all.
Here are some important examples that have already converted in the general consciousness. It’s also important to note that people may not consciously note a change but grasp that talking about things this way now makes more sense and connects with more people.
Communism no longer means anything. For a great number of our current population that was an historical term and is just not relevant. When most people see a word as meaningless and a minority see a word as a profound threat to a vaguely defined way of life the result is no communication. Many places are now being profoundly changed by this communication failure.
Socialism now means democratic socialism. More specifically this is the type of government for the most advanced nation states on the planet. This does what governments are made to do in providing services, security, healthcare, and well being for their citizens. It is not emotional but administrative in nature. One thing it is not is revolutionary or even political. This is the provisioning of the basic services expected of a government in the 21st century.
Identity is how you define yourself within one or more of your social groupings. This may be very important or not depending on how you define your identity. In the old world identity was broad at the highest level and very narrow at the personal level. You were a nationality, an occupation, a veteran of a war. Narrowly you were married or not, a church or religion and perhaps resident of a neighborhood or small town. Most of these things were fixed and not changeable. If you were a minority racial or ethnic group that was pretty much your identity. Now identity is more diverse and open. Your base identity will include the old things but more likely you are defined by your sexual orientation or preferences and interests.
Politics is in decline because most of the aspects of government that are of interest are administrative. This is directly affected by your country of residence but often is not considered important unless you are oppressed or a refugee. The later group is the largest threat as climate change and economic problems or corruption can make you a refugee. Rather than being defined by a political party in the old nation state model you are more likely defined and act on the basis of your matrix of identities.
Obviously this reality is very frustrating if you are part of or must deal with people still struggling to maintain the old world view. The change to the new comes eventually to everyone or almost everyone. And the process doesn’t stop but it is, as I’ve said, dynamic. When major stages are complete there is a pause before the next technological change forces more words to become new.
We now need to be very conscious of how words are changing around us as we all need to maintain a conscious effort to adjust to new meanings. The people that don’t will isolate themselves and retreat into one of the troublesome bubbles. No, you do not want to do that.