Saturday, March 27, 2010

The Power of Language

Isn’t it funny how we imbue some words with such strength that the world goes apeshit when someone powerful utters one?

I’m not talking about hate speech. That I get. There are a number of psychological studies that show that words like the n-bomb and other fun words like the f-bomb are used to dehumanize people. This was especially true with Jews during our last big anti-Jew hurrah in the 1940s. You know how much easier it is to shoot some dumb kike in the back of the head than it is your neighborhood grocer, Joe? Or how much easier it is to send a six-digit number to a gas chamber than someone’s daughter?

No, I’m talking about the words you CAN’T say on television. I’m talking about the other “f-bomb.”


Fuckity fuck fuck fuck. Fuck your mom, fuck your brother, I love getting fucked, this bill is a huge fucking deal.

Sure, I understand the etiology is such that there are perhaps more eloquent ways to describe any given situation, especially in the work place. I’m pretty fucking educated and have mastered Google searches and Noah Webster’s less refined approach for finding an appropriate word. I’m also pretty awesome at right-clicking and using the Microsoft Word thesaurus. Yes, I am badass.


Healthcare reform is passing. Vice President Joe Biden succinctly put it best when he said, “This is a big fucking deal.”


Let’s take a moment to comment on healthcare reform. There are definite reasons to be on both sides of the debate. For the top 1% of the U.S. population by way of wealth, you can be pissed that your money is going to subsidize the poor individual’s healthcare. You’d be a fucking asshole, but you can be pissed. For anyone who has taken an econ class, though, the reason to be wary of healthcare reform is this: mandating healthcare might have adverse effects on competition. If it lowers prices significantly (which is obviously the end goal if the government is paying), then less revenue will be funneled to doctors and researchers who will thus have less incentive to do expensive studies that could cure cancer, AIDS, super-badass-AIDS, and anything that might burst into appearance going forward (the way viruses are wont to do). Why does it just not matter that portions of Europe and Canada are socialized and doing just fine? It’s because our competitive system exports knowledge to places where they can’t fund this research. Ask India how many of their top doctors studied in the US. Granted, I’m not a psychic: maybe we’ll be able to lower costs of inputs for researchers. Maybe med school will stop costing 300,000USD in 2010 dollars. Maybe. But history has shown us the severe economic deficiencies that occur when we stifle competitive practices.

Then there’s the other end of the debate. There are the infants that were born with super-expensive “pre-existing” conditions. There are the homeless people suffering from schizophrenia who assuredly can’t afford therapy or pills to adjust their neurotransmitters to function socially, whatever that may mean for them. You know, the shit we privileged-folk take for granted every day and chalk up to our personal ability to work hard rather than being born a white, straight, historically-abled, cissexual woman to European immigrants in Connecticut.

Apart from the debate, the horrifically ugly side of life in the US has reared its flamboyant head. Remember that I said there are two very realistic sides to this debate (and I’m sure I didn’t even cover a fraction of the relevant arguments). I honestly don’t have a position one way or another. I do think this:

I hated Bush with the fire of one thousand suns. I thought he watched “Wag the Dog” early in the administration and considered it an informational guide rather than a fictional movie. While I personally loved “Wag the Dog,” I didn’t so much like the real-life version that ended in soldiers raping Iraqi families nor other Bush failures like the whole cluster-fuck that is Gitmo, abstinence-only education (separation-of-church-and-state-say-what?), and pretty much every other fuck up that man made. I’m also pretty sure that moron just met a Haitian earthquake victim and wiped his hands on Clinton’s shirt. You know what I didn’t do, despite being in DC during his entire second term in office?

I definitely did not mail fake-anthrax-laced letters to any representatives, cut any politician’s gas lines, or use the REAL f-bomb and n-bomb against any Senators just because they voted for all of Bush’s bullshit policies.

So, I would like to second Biden. Healthcare reform is a BIG. FUCKING. DEAL. And not just for its intended social effects. Its unintended ramifications are just as big, just as important.
So why is it news that Biden said, “fuck”? Why, Biden is a rich, white guy with the second-whitest collar job in the land. Of course he should hold himself to higher standards! It’s only us lowly-folk who say words like “fuck” that only have punch because we tell everyone else they should.

And why have people already stopped talking about the n-bombs and f-bombs?

I don’t have an answer that I pray isn’t overly pessimistic. Most realistically, it’s because the dominant group in society, white men, have unilaterally decided that we’re collectively post-racial. They’ve decided that while the government’s role is to prevent discrimination, gay people aren’t a protected class, and thus no one cares if they can marry. And poor people? Really, they get what they deserve because they JUST DIDN’T WORK HARD ENOUGH (because obviously, monetary mobility is such a fact of life that most of our lawmakers have been poor at one point, right? …right?), so why should they be entitled to affordable health care?

Fuck is an easier word to tackle. We can chalk it up to Biden being tacky and inappropriate because really, it’s just so fucking common to talk like that. And Biden, he’s a role model. He can’t be common.

And the n-bomb and f-bomb? They mean something else. They can’t be blamed solely on the individual. Know why? Even though it’s up to the individual to choose his or her own language, words only gain oppressive powers in the context of society. You would use "colored" in some countries because it's not the same as calling someone a “Negro” or “colored” here in the US or a “kaffir” in South Africa.

So, CNN, MSNBC, and, well, probably not Fox News: do something. Become relevant. Because THIS is a big fucking deal.