Saturday, April 03, 2010

Failure to communicate

I think I see what the problem is.

If you can't spell "socialism," you can't look it up and find out what it means. Then you might very well confuse it with Barack Obama's strenuous efforts to preserve capitalist systems like medicine-for-profit. He just added 32 million customers to the insurance industry. No wonder Wall Street had an orgasm. Even the incompetents at A.I.G. should be able to make money from this.

English spelling is a bear. It wasn't regularized until the eighteenth century, when the first reference books (like Johnson's Dictionary) were published. There are more exceptions than rules, and the only way to learn spelling -- apart from reading a lot -- is to memorize lists of words. Only English has spelling competitions, because all the other languages (well, maybe not Irish) make sense. So I'm not unsympathetic. I also understand that the right's effort to crush public education has borne lush fruit; an ignorant populace is a frightened, superstitious, hate-prone populace. So many people without a chance.

It will only get worse if the Texas schoolbook commissars can force their will on publishers of history texts. Among other things, they want to erase the entire presidency of Thomas Jefferson because he supported the separation of church and state. (As did Barry Goldwater, but he's a footnote.) This is beyond dumb; it's scary. A few years ago there was a book of photographs from the Soviet Union showing the original picture beside the retouched one, with some hapless comrade airbrushed out after his liquidation, leaving only empty air between, say, Stalin and Beria. "Unperson" is the term, popoularized in 1984 -- this is what Winston Smith did all day at the Ministry of Truth. Of course, it's happened here before, just not on this scale. This is a two-term president, the first Secretary of State, the author of the Declaration of Independence, among other things. It's a lot bigger than dropping Paul Robeson from the 1919 All-America football team. And that's just the beginning of the wholesale falsification of history demanded by "conservatives." As George Orwell observed, it all begins with the devaluation of language (see above).

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Blogger john_burke100 said...

The book about Stalinist iconography is "The Commissar Vanishes," by David King. Last time I checked it was out of print, which makes me glad I didn't give away my last copy--it's one of the things I press on guests, along with "The Stuffed Owl" and "The Indispensable Enemy" and "On the Rails," and then they disappear and I have to hunt down a second-hand copy, sometimes very expensive, through Bookfinder.

Is there, do you suppose, some non-zero likelihood of your ever getting to San Francisco? If so, Peggy Gannon

and I would like to invite you to dinner, chez nous or at our favorite local joint:

It's at its best in the Summer, when San Francisco weather is either delightful or chilly and damp, whereas New York weather is uninterruptedly horrible.

3:17 PM  

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