By now you’ve probably figured out that I tend to be a bit of sticker where language is concerned.
I could argue that I can’t help it. I could tell you that one of my parents has a Master’s Degree in Library Science, and another in English Literature. But the reality is, where my mother instilled in me a love of language, it’s been the potential for misunderstandings that’ve driven my desire for folks around me to deal in lingual precision.
The problem? I’ve learned that Dr Noam Chomsky is far from correct when he assumes there are but two meanings assigned to any significant word (he assumes a sort of “common” meaning, and a political one).
In fact, it’s my contention, that it’s quite normal for different people to have entirely disparate ideas what words mean when queried. And that’s whether or not we’re talking about politics.
Such is the case with words like “left” and “right” and “conservative” and “liberal.”
I did part of my growing up in Australia. The result is, much of my elementary and high school (there was no such thing as middle school where I was raised, at least none in which I found myself), I learned different meanings of words than those commonly taught in the U. S.
I have a friend who, as an adult, has come to be involved in a number of pursuits—one of them being politics—in the Northern Territory of Australia (Darwin, to be specific). That individual uses the word “Liberal” in much the same way, I would tend to use the word, “Conservative” in the United States.
I’m not saying his way of looking at things is exact for the word he’s using as for the one about which I’m speaking, just that there are more similarities between the two, than there appear to be differences.
What this implies to me, is actually relatively obvious. You cannot assume two people in different countries, mean the same thing when they use a particular word or set thereof.
If I told my friend that, say, Barack Obama was considered a Liberal in this country, it might cause him some apprehension that he counts himself in a party with Liberal in the name, were it not for his recognition of the difference in meaning from that country to this.
It may seem like that would not be the case if you chose to test definitions of words inside a single country. The fact is, if you came to that conclusion, you would be mistaken.
The reality is, it appears common for a word to have entirely different connotations from one person to the next; the more meaningful the word, the more true that appears to be. This seems to be the case even if the two live next door to each other.
This is certainly a fair statement in my view, for “conservative” and “liberal” and it appears to be equally so for the words “left” and “right”, where politics is concerned.
By way of example, it’s an acceptable thing in Dr Chomsky’s way of looking at the world, to consider fascism to be a rightist perspective. In my view, nothing could be further from the truth.
When I talk about the ideas that I want conveyed on using the terms left and right, I’m discussing two things diametrically opposed—at opposite ends of a spectrum, as it were.
Rightism to me, on the furthest end of it from Leftism, is something very much akin to anarchy.
Because of the way I understand actual Communism, I count it to be very much rightist. That’s as opposed to what’s typically referred to as Communism, but is commonly actually a “pre-communist” form of Socialism.
On the other end of the line I draw, is leftism. The far end of that side of things, is total control.
As such, very strong Socialism, dictatorships, strong oligarchies, monarchies, despotism and yes, fascism are all on the far left.
Because this is true, I also view Nazism as a far left ideology.
Looking at things the way I do, the fact is, I and a good many people, are neither on the far right nor the far left.
If a person likes the idea of government, and wants the provision of health care to be a matter for which it’s responsible, that person is someone one the left, but not necessarily anywhere near the very edge of that ideology.
On the other hand, if a person believes in a national government with extremely limited abilities, such as the ones I see spelled out in the U. S. Constitution, I consider that person to be what many would term center-right.
In the end though, that more or less makes the use of such terms somewhat untenable. Why? Well the reason is actually quite simple.
There those who would place me in the camp of people on the far right.
Laying out my position, I would say I was a person who desires to see the federal government of the U. S., limited in scope to those things I consider to be mandated in that base document of American government.
If we were to move in that direction, a great many components of the “administrative state” would completely cease to be in my way of thinking.
There would be no USDA, FAA, FCC, Department of Education, DEA, or ATF (whatever it’s currently called) to name just a few.
You might call that radical, or far right, I beg to differ. In my mind, far right is essentially a person who advocates for basically no government at all.
This is not the position I (and I think you’d find many) hold. We just believe that, if government takes up a given cause, it ought not occur at such a vaunted location as the national governmental entity in most cases.
Many of those agencies as currently encountered, probably shouldn’t exist at all. At any level. That said, if they do, for the most part, it ought to be at the lowest possible one.
You say that would make it so different states handled different things in different ways? Perhaps you’re not aware that was an intended consequence of government as defined in the Constitution?
Summing up. I very much doubt the current understanding of a great many terms—particularly in their political application—are anything like universally accepted. In fact, I doubt they could be. This is why one of the things I try to do on a regular basis, is talk about actual positions rather than supposed leanings. Will this issue ever be “fixed?” Based on the fact that things only appear to be getting more indistinct, my current feeling is, that can be answered in a single word, “No.”
Thanks for reading, and may your time be good.