For lovers of words there has been a long suffering concern over the steady decline of the quality of our language. Today’s college graduate would struggle to achieve the style and elegance of “unschooled” farmers and laborers writing home from the battlefields of the Civil War. Language has always been fluid, dynamic and evolving, but if we were to do a side by side comparison of the common discourse of 100 years ago and the pixelated promulgation of today, an historian of the future might be tempted to think some apocalypse had befallen the people and culture of our civilization.
“Lovers” of words? We might find a case study in the abuse of the word, “love” alone. The creative force of the universe, the spiritual essence of the Almighty, and the inspiration for the sonnets of Shakespeare has been stretched to cover every needful impulse and desire. The same word that describes agape and the powerful, mystical union of a mother and child is also used to recount our relationship with our favorite candy bar, and so much less.
With the development of the internet and advancing communications technology, words began to experience inflationary pressure. Everyone was connected; everyone had an opinion and everyone needed to be heard. The world needs to know the contents of every dinner plate and every stream of consciousness, so it had to be shared, all of it. There were so many words that, like so many fiat dollars, they rapidly diminished in value. And then the corporate media, ah, yes, the media. When every event is imminent, revolutionary, and unprecedented, it’s hard to discern which ones really are. (Which is how wars go on for 20 years unnoticed by the general population.)
A few years ago I stumbled across a name in a police report that was making the rounds via the Associated Press, and it gave me pause to consider that perhaps we had reached some kind of turning point in the devolution of our respect for words. A fellow by the name of Bezow Doo Doo Zopittybop-bop-bop had appeared before a Wisconsin judge to answer a misdemeanor charge.
I kid you not. You can look it up for yourself. In fact, the name was interesting enough to catch the attention of the Wisconsin State Journal, which conducted an interview with Mr. Zopittybop-bop-bop. When he was queried about the meaning of his name he replied that his first name, “Bezow,” represented “the explosion of awareness of the interconnectedness of the infinite love in the universe.”
Doo-doo “is the struggle of our daily lives with that awareness that with love comes chaos.”
Zopittybop-bop-bop “is the outcome of that struggle, which is often ironic, especially because all life ends in death.”
Well, it’s not Byron, but it does indicate a certain thoughtfulness.
Alas, the creative individualism of Mr. Zopittybop-bop-bop did not foretell a reinvigoration of the English language. We all began texting about that time, and where previous generations were capable of comprehending detailed expressions in complex paragraphs, many students (and their parents) today are challenged when there is more data to compile than that which is usually contained in a text or a tweet.
Then it got worse. Among a thin slice of elites positioned in academia, media and politics, a small segment of the population who did, in fact, understand the power of words, there occurred a weaponization of language designed to manipulate, enrage and divide.
Enter the “pronoun wars,” promoted by a segment of the population which was primarily younger but not exclusively so; a minority, but uncomfortably large enough with the goading and amplification by corporate media – a culture with little understanding of or regard for grammar, yet obsessed with pronouns.
Couldn’t get much worse than that? Well hold on to your hat. This year the CDC, an organization tasked with the prevention of communicable disease, paused in the middle of a pandemic to issue a proclamation on “Health Equity Guiding Principles for Inclusive Communication.”
That just doesn’t make me hopeful for the future of our language. A prisoner is a “person who is incarcerated.” The uninsured are persons who are “medically underserved.” A drug addict is a “person who uses drugs.”
I don’t look for a new Shakespeare to emerge fully woke from a culture swelling the ranks of persons burdened with a self-image of fragility and victimization by forcing Orwellian mutations on the free exchange of ideas and opinions. It is a tale told by a person who is mentally underserved, full of sound and fury. No more Faulkners, Steinbecks, or Lewis Grizzards. No more comedy, and we’ll even have to cancel Mister Rogers in such frigid climate because for thirty years he sang, “Boys are boys from the beginning. Girls are girls right from the start.”
Ironically, the principle of inclusion beats at the heart of Christianity and the Judaeo-Christian heritage of western civilization, which the rise of socialism attempts to undermine. From the King James Bible and in the language of Shakespeare it says elegantly and succinctly, “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.”
Sadly, there is no guiding spiritual principle behind attempts at using language to destroy a robust culture of free thought and free enterprise and replace it with one more submissive to the coercive power of the corporate nanny state. We’re well past Bezow, and from this point on it looks like there is Doo Doo to be negotiated no matter which direction we turn. And it’s getting harder to find the higher ground.