This Dark Age

A manual for life in the modern world.

By Daniel Schwindt

Semantic breakdown

A variety of observers have noted with frustration the natural outcome of these trends, which is a sort of prevailing “semantic breakdown.” What this means is that language is decaying and proper definitions are systematically replaced with sentimental responses. Another way of saying this is that everything becomes slang and slur: certain words which have a valid meaning become impossible to use in their proper sense because they have been “hijacked” by abuse with sufficient frequency as to render the original meaning obsolete. The term “liberal” is an excellent example of this. Having originally been used to signify a specific philosophical bent, emphasizing the freedom of individuals, closely linked to humanism and the Enlightenment, the term “liberal” now means nothing more than one of the two American political parties fighting perpetually for control. It may or may not signify any of the actual doctrines of “liberalism” in the historical and philosophical sense. In fact, it cannot be used in this way because it would then apply to conservatives as well, because the two opponents are in fact two modern branches of the liberal tree, each adhering to the philosophy in a different manner and degree. This means, of course, that conservative also has no objective meaning. Conservative and liberal are not simply relative terms which can only be said to describe two enemy parties whose actual philosophical positions may be here, or there, or nowhere, depending on the year. Thus you will see that you can use such terms if you dare, but you will never be able to use them in their proper sense. The climate of propaganda where you are saturated forbids it, and any attempt to communicate using the intellectual meanings of words will only lead you into frustration and confusion.

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