Sunday, August 18, 2013

Getting back to civility with Ambrose Bierce

Political Debate in this country has always been at the mud-slinging level, some would even say, the poo-flinging level. This is something I have definitely been guilty of. It's so tempting to refer to opponents as neanderthal, bat-shit crazy, insane douche bags, when they obviously deserve the monickers, and it's a cheap shot that gets a few chuckles from like-minded bystanders, and that really leads to instant gratification.

But my use of the term Douche Bag was called in to question recently, and after talking about it, I came to a revelation, and was forced to return to one of my favorite American writers, Ambrose Bierce, who I think that all Americans need to be more familiar with. I used to be a walking, talking Ambrose Bierce dictionary, but in recent years, let myself go, and well, politics have gotten so ugly lately, that it's easy to get lost. Hopefully, I've found my way.

So this revelation of mine went sort of like this:

In a recent discussion, I used the term "Conservative Douche Bag" to describe my thoughts about those God-fearing, conservative, Patriotic Americans who often demonize liberals, use racially divisive politics, and who frequently invoke religion and faith in defense of their views.

Then a participant suggested that by using the word "Douche bag", I was defaming actual Douche bags, which are actually a nice, handy and cleanliness-promoting product, and not at all what the people were like whom I was referring to.

I then had a revelation. Instead of using such disparaging terminology, and being perceived as name-calling bullies, we liberals should truly rise above the nonsense, and make it a point to refer to our adversaries only by the words they use to describe themselves to us and to each other.

Just use their own words, such as Conservatives, Godly, Faith, Moral, family-values, Patriotic, REAL-Americans.

We have our own understanding of these words, already. We already disparage terms like "Conservative". We need not explain it in different terms, because we understand it for what it is, and we don't like it. We also do not value family values, faith, and godliness in quite the same ways that conservatives do. We know this -- we have no need of using more colorful language, which our adversaries will perceive as mean-spirited bullying. In fact, it is an awesome thing indeed when you can disparage someone by calling them exactly what they refer to themselves as. Nobody can accuse you of being the bad guy!

If you have read Ambrose Bierce's book, The Devil's Dictionary", you will know exactly what I mean. Bierce's definitions of the above words hit the nail on the head, and are actually very powerful, even almost 180 years after he wrote them. You need not insult people with nasty words, and get them all angered and emotional, as long as you keep your own understanding of the words different from how they use them.

Here is another link to the Devil's Dictionary.

So to give you an idea of what I mean, here are a few of Bierce's definitions for the words that we should use when talking politics.

  • CONSERVATIVE, n. A statesman who is enamored of existing evils, as distinguished from the Liberal, who wishes to replace them with others.
  • CHRISTIAN, n. One who believes that the New Testament is a divinely inspired book admirably suited to the spiritual needs of his neighbor. One who follows the teachings of Christ in so far as they are not inconsistent with a life of sin.
  • PATRIOTISM, n. Combustible rubbish read to the torch of any one ambitious to illuminate his name. In Dr. Johnson's famous dictionary patriotism is defined as the last resort of a scoundrel. With all due respect to an enlightened but inferior lexicographer I beg to submit that it is the first.
  • RELIGION, n. A daughter of Hope and Fear, explaining to Ignorance the nature of the Unknowable.
  • FAITH, n. Belief without evidence in what is told by one who speaks without knowledge, of things without parallel
  • FLAG, n. A colored rag borne above troops and hoisted on forts and ships. It appears to serve the same purpose as certain signs that one sees and vacant lots in London — "Rubbish may be shot here."
  • IMMORAL, adj. Inexpedient. Whatever in the long run and with regard to the greater number of instances men find to be generally inexpedient comes to be considered wrong, wicked, immoral. If man's notions of right and wrong have any other basis than this of expediency; if they originated, or could have originated, in any other way; if actions have in themselves a moral character apart from, and nowise dependent on, their consequences — then all philosophy is a lie and reason a disorder of the mind
  • MORAL, adj. Conforming to a local and mutable standard of right. Having the quality of general expediency.
  • FREEDOM, n. Exemption from the stress of authority in a beggarly half dozen of restraint's infinite multitude of methods. A political condition that every nation supposes itself to enjoy in virtual monopoly. Liberty. The distinction between freedom and liberty is not accurately known; naturalists have never been able to find a living specimen of either.
  • LIBERTY, n. One of Imagination's most precious possessions.
  • MARRIAGE, n. The state or condition of a community consisting of a master, a mistress and two slaves, making in all, two.


Morrison said...

You are still a loser, Dave.

Morrison said...

By the way; I regret to report that the greatest Troll who ever lived passed away in a hospital in Kansas City, Mo. last week.

The late great Emanuel Goldstein...a name well known to atheists everywhere...has gone to his reward.

Just thought you should know.

David W. Irish said...

Thank you kind sir, for blessing me with your... thoughtful and relevant commentary!

David W. Irish said...

Thank you kind sir, for blessing me with your... thoughtful and relevant commentary!