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The Parable of the Man of Many New Words

The teacher told the crowd a parable. In a village in the old South in the year 1866, there were several men who had owned slaves, and fought for the confederacy, and been forced to free their slaves, all of them unwillingly, some bitterly so. And there was also in that village a man who had repented of slavery and freed his slaves many, many years before, and had fought for the union, and so returned to that village with their authority and commanded the freeing of all the others’ slaves. And there came to that village a man of many new words. And he said to the man who had freed his slaves long before, “You deplorable sinner. You have owned slaves, therefore you are vile, and you have used force upon these others, therefore you are vile, so you must wear sackcloth and ashes and cringe before these others; and though you repent thus all your days, which I shall make as short as I can, yet you will never be cleansed, you will never be forgiven.” (Except that the man of many new words said this with his many new words, not as I have told it to you.) And he said to the other men, “You have been terribly wronged by that deplorable man. You have no power therefore you can do no wrong and he has used power over you – wrongfully, since he in his past has done evil, and I tell you he still does evil this day and every day. Therefore you must hate him with all your heart and all your mind and all your strength.” (Except that this too he said using his many new words, not as I have told it to you.)

Afterwards, the disciples asked the teacher to explain the parable. He told them the men who fought for the confederacy represented the non-European cultures of the world, all of whom had at times been much enslaved and at other times had done much enslaving, and had sold and bought and owned those they themselves enslaved, and also others. The man who fought for the union represented the English-speaking culture that long ago had been much enslaved, and later had themselves bought and sold and owned slaves (more than some, fewer than others), and then had repented of slavery and made it rare in the world. The man of many new words was the attitude that praises all the cultures that were forced to free their slaves, especially those that were most bitterly unwilling to do so, and hates the only one that freed them by choice.

The disciples asked the teacher why he had not spoken this plainly to the crowd. “If I had done that”, he said, “the men of many new words would have interrupted me before my first sentence was done – and if I had then rebuked them roundly, they would have arrested me for hate speech. But because it is their absurdity to see the ex-confederates in that village as like their enemies, not like their proteges, they did not notice my meaning.”

“But”, replied the disciples, “they’re still not noticing – and they’re still inventing new words.”

30 comments to The Parable of the Man of Many New Words

  • Paul Marks

    It is true. For example in some Arabian countries (including Saudi Arabia – but others also) slavery was not abolished till the 1960s (the 19 – 60s). Almost all societies other than modern Western ones have practiced slavery – and no society has abolished slavery without Western pressure (i.e. “Imperialism”).

    The left (the education system, the mainstream media, Hollywood – and so on), de facto, deny all the above. They hold that capitalism (the very thing that destroyed the Confederacy) is to blame for racialism, and for all other bad things.

  • James Strong

    About 18 months ago I was at a dinner where a middle-aged British man was trying to charm a younger woman from the US , but whose parents were from the Indian sub-continent.

    He was in full white guilt virtue-signalling mode and made the claim that Britain had more or less invented slavery and thus we should be ashamed of our past in that respect.

    What can one do when faced with ‘thinking’ like that?

  • Runcie Balspune

    You could bring it up to date with gay marriage instead of slavery, that’ll make a few leftist heads pop.

  • James Strong

    @Runcie Balspune

    Yes, but.. we don’t care who marries who, do we?

    We are not pro-gays, nor anti-gays. We are as indifferent to their practices as we are to those of heteros, aren’t we?

    My view is – the same rights for everyone, with no diminution nor augmentation based on group identity.

  • James (January 25, 2018 at 2:15 pm), I suspect Runcie’s (January 25, 2018 at 1:02 pm) point is merely that, since some SJW rhetoric talks as if it were an evil on a par with slavery to oblige alternative-style couples to use private law contracts, or to call their state-law contract a ‘civil union’ instead of a ‘marriage’ (and a hate speech crime to debate the point), then a similar parable could be told about which culture these same SJWs hate versus which cultures get a pass from them.

    However I agree with what I take to be your point, James. In some ways the very recent and rapid and continuing redefinition of attitudes in the west makes today’s cultural contrast even more marked, but it also greatly complicates telling almost any tale. If you tell it for some minimalist position – not treating gays as criminals, for example – Cathy Newman and friends will call your minimalism ‘homophobia’, whereas if you make it absolutely up-to-date with today’s latest ‘thinking’, it will still be behind the curve tomorrow. On any subject, PC is like an inflating currency: the whole point is that those who issue it get their profit by issuing more and more, and those who accept it get the losses.

  • Mr Ed

    Yes, but.. we don’t care who marries who, do we?

    As Niall said, ought we not care about freedom of contract? The ‘implied and unavoidable terms’ of the marriage contract make it a one-way bet for the wealthier, more industrious spouse and a moral hazard for the prospective thief. And there is also the position that it is not possible for fiat law to redefine customs and traditions, and to seek to do so it totalitarian. By all means let anyone enter into any contract with another, absent fraud or lack of capacity, let the contract be.

    The objection to same sex marriage is in part founded on objection to the pretence that by law, a word can change its meaning. No Act of Parliament would make me say ‘Tajikistan’ for ‘wolverine’, so by the same token, those who object to ‘same-sex marriage’ might say ‘Why should any fiat law’s pretensions be allowed to go unchallenged?’, and then there is the attack on religious (well, Christian) ceremonies as not being ‘inclusive’.

  • Fraser Orr

    @Mr Ed, FWIW, I disagree. Law can change he meaning of a word if it is a legal word. There is, for example, a big debate in the US about what it means to be a “common carrier”, and that is a legal debate about the meaning of a word. In the context used “marriage” is a legal word because it is referring to the rights of one person over another, for example, to make medical decisions, or to inherit or to be qualified to adopt, or to take certain tax benefits. Of course the legal system added another word “civil union” but unless it is defined in law to be identical to marriage then it is by definition discriminatory one way or the other.

    I have seen the argument from libertarian Christians that “the state shouldn’t be involved in marriage”, and I agree with that to some extent (since marriage is always a set of legal rights and obligations in a sense the state is always involved because the state enforces rights and obligations), however, I’d be far more convinced of their convictions and fair dealing with gay people were they to campaign as vigorously for the removal of the state sanction of marriage as they do to prevent gay people of participating in that institution.

  • Mr Ed

    Fraser Orr,

    Permit me to distinguish ‘definition’ from ‘meaning’, nanotechnology was in fact, invented by lawyers centuries ago. 😉

  • bobby b

    “The objection to same sex marriage is in part founded on objection to the pretence that by law, a word can change its meaning.”

    But, Mr. Ed, the word “marriage” has evolved in its meaning steadily over the last several hundred years as social change altered the relationship of the sexes.

    Long ago, “marriage” had more in common with a bill of sale, as the man essentially took control and possession of the woman. Men controlled all, and women followed their orders. Women gave dowries to their husbands to buy into their protection and financial prowess.

    Now, “marriage” at its ideal represents a common joining in equality and sharing – a far cry from what it was.

    Why can’t the steadily evolving relationship between people continue to alter the meaning of “marriage” just as it always has, without legal pronouncement or order? Same-sex marriage is now more accepted across society than empowered wives were accepted a hundred years ago.

  • Mr Ed

    bobby b

    But, Mr. Ed, the word “marriage” has evolved in its meaning steadily over the last several hundred years as social change altered the relationship of the sexes.

    I would put it that the legal consequences of marriage, (or lack of them) and how it may be entered into has changed, but not the meaning of the word.

    It is now a contract which can be broken or repudiated with the possibility of not only no damages for breach, but also compensation for the wrongdoer.

    It is utter madness to enter into such a contract.

  • I have seen the argument from libertarian Christians that “the state shouldn’t be involved in marriage”

    I am an atheist but this is also my position.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Perry: Yep.

    .

    There are only two reasons for The Gov to be involved in marriage,

    and 1 is money,

    and 1 is power,

    but one is “externalities.”

    .

    Externalities allow you to require, or prohibit, anything. It all depends on where your tastes lie (and on how far you can get the rubes to swallow what you’re selling).

    But they are also real, and some of them do seem to require some sort of addressing.

    Which is the worm in the woodpile.

    . . .

    Maybe I can tackle the Words issue tomorrow. There’s a lot to it; but people will go on creating unnecessary confusion, and resentments and even fear as well, until they learn to use words carefully and to think, really think, about whether their words really express what they mean (if, that is, they have the first idea of what they mean), and about whether their words are to be understood in the established meaning.

    (A pox on every discipline that has kidnapped some poor pathetic harmless word out of its home in our language, stripped it of its usual meaning, attached some new and arcane meaning to it, and presented this fool’s-gold to the public as if it were the real, 24-karat, Au thing.)

    . . .

    Niall, I like your writing style in your posting. ;>)

  • Fraser Orr

    @Perry de Havilland (London)
    > I am an atheist but this is also my position.

    It is also mine, but it is also mine that gay people should be able to get married in the same way as straight people. Whether that is as a government sanctioned institution or a civil partnership is fine, though I’d rather the latter. My invocation of “Christian” here was more because such a group is likely to campaign hard against the equalization of marriage. They will oppose vehemently allowing gays to marry in the same way they do under the present system and give barely lip service to the contention that hetero marriage should also no longer be so instituted.

    So one must pick one or the other, and campaign equally diligently for the equalization of marriage either by campaigning to make hetero marriage a civil partnership, or gay marriage a government sanctioned institution.

  • bobby b

    “My invocation of “Christian” here was more because such a group is likely to campaign hard against the equalization of marriage.”

    I’m an atheist too, but let’s be more precise here.

    There are certainly sects of Christianity that remain opposed to gay marriage. There are men who hate chocolate, but we don’t say “men hate chocolate.” We say “some men hate chocolate.”

    I have attended three gay marriages, and have known personally of four more. All took place at Christian churches, officiated over by a Christian minister.

    I have never known of a gay marriage that has taken place in a temple, and certainly don’t look for one in a mosque.

    Several of the larger Christian churches in my area are run by gay/lesbian ministers. They freely perform gay marriages, with the seeming approval of their flocks.

    Christian churches provided a lot of the fight – unsuccessfully, but sincerely – in opposition to Proposition 8 in California, which made gay marriage illegal. Two branches of the Christian church – the Catholics, and the Southern Baptists – did indeed fight for the measure – but religious influence was fairly evenly divided.

    Overall, amongst Christians, the proportions supporting or opposing gay marriage almost exactly reflects society’s overall division – which most stats type would agree means that Christian affiliation is not a strong predictor of approval or disapproval of gay marriage.

  • Runcie Balspune

    As per Niall’s point, I only used gay marriage as an example as it’s a favourite stick used by the “progressive” left to beat the western ultra-conservative and religious community, but, of course, the non-western ultra-conservative and religious community seems to get a free pass, not only are they allowed to freely condemn the practice but are allowed to suggest that there are no suitable candidates left alive to perform it.

    My own view is the same as Perry et al.

  • Alisa

    I have seen the argument from libertarian Christians that “the state shouldn’t be involved in marriage”, and I agree with that to some extent (since marriage is always a set of legal rights and obligations in a sense the state is always involved because the state enforces rights and obligations), however, I’d be far more convinced of their convictions and fair dealing with gay people were they to campaign as vigorously for the removal of the state sanction of marriage as they do to prevent gay people of participating in that institution.

    Without denying Fraser’s experience in any way, mine is sort-of the opposite: I have seen gay libertarians who, when appealed to their libertarian sensibilities, grudgingly concede that ideally marriage in general should be taken entirely out of the purview of the state, but are nevertheless vehement about significantly contributing to the opposing effort by actually expanding that purview from heterosexual couples to homosexual ones.

    These people are not content with merely applying to civil unions all the legal benefits existing for legally married couples, but are instead insisting that gays be included in the legal definition of marriage. This tells me that their effort is not about equal treatment under existing law (a libertarian principle), but rather about expansion of the existing law to cover more people in the name of equality (a statist principle).

  • Julie near Chicago

    Bingo.

  • the other rob

    FWIW, I am a Christian and am supportive of gay marriage to the extent that I support any form of marriage (full disclosure – I’m rather happy with my own boringly traditional one) and my experience is similar to that of bobby b.

    Alisa raises an important point, though. When Obergefell was decided, I sought to reassure my (also Christian, but opposed to gay marriage) neighbors. “You won’t notice the difference,” I said, “it’s not like they’ll be storming your church and demanding that your minister perform the ceremony.”

    Today, with the hard left pushing identity politics and bakers being hauled over the coals, that view looks naively optimistic. Gay marriage, like many other causes, has become little more than cover for an expansionist statist agenda.

    What I find truly bizarre, though is that, while pushing this, the left is simultaneously preparing to throw the gays under the Islamofascist bus. The cognitive dissonance is staggering and some of the former useful idiots appear to be beginning to catch wise.

  • Mr Ed

    One should not lose sight of the distinction between the law and the state. The law should recognise freedom of contract, and the right to set whatever terms and consequences the parties being of capacity wish. With that I would hope we can all agree.

    Whereas the state wishes to rigidly set the terms of the contract on a one-size-fits-all basis and to outlaw (or regard as null and void) marriages or practices of which it disapproves, the statist position.

    And there are those who are enemies of the West, who wish to use the whole issue as another tool in the box of destructionism.

  • NickM

    tor,
    What I find truly bizarre, though is that, while pushing this, the left is simultaneously preparing to throw the gays under the Islamofascist bus.

    Bizarre maybe but not surprising. Given the increasing normalization of homosexuality the gay hand in victomhood poker has diminshed somewhat.

  • My attempt (January 25, 2018 at 3:48 pm) to prevent comments on my post being entirely diverted to the interesting but almost wholly irrelevant topic of homosexual unions having failed, I suppose I should choose to view it as an example of the correctness of libertarian / capitalist theory: elitist attempts to plan outcomes beforehand – or even my attempts to guide outcomes beforeheand 🙂 – will be defeated (and often humorously derailed) by the glorious unpredictability of people. 🙂 Julie near Chicago (January 26, 2018 at 2:48 am), thanks for your closing sentence.

    +1 to Alisa (January 26, 2018 at 10:22 am). At this time, free speech is the first and last and most important thing to protect in this (and many another) matter.

    (Runcie Balspune, January 26, 2018 at 7:54 am) “… not only are [the other cultures] allowed to freely condemn the practice but they are allowed to suggest that there are no suitable candidates left alive to perform it.”

    Runcie’s words reminded me of Ernst Rohm, head of the Nazi stormtroopers, the man who ordered Hitler to join the Nazi Party, and a very loud and prominent member of the German League for Homosexual Rights. In the early 20s, Rohm was called “the machine-gun king of Bavaria. His motto was: be a patriot or be a corpse, and he saw to it that the streets of Munich provided plenty of examples of both.”

    bobby b, (January 26, 2018 at 7:11 am) as regards your “with the seeming approval of their flocks”, if the flocks are growing and/or the minister is chosen by the congregation, this approval may be more than seeming. If the church is hierarchical and the flocks are slowly shrinking, it may merely reflect the congregations’ awareness that there’s no point arguing. Compare someone with many friends in a charity taken over by the PC, aware that the charity still does good to some who need it but now also makes silly public statements.

    Meanwhile, in today’s Telegraph, “Thai police are checking dozens of Bangkok’s mega-brothels to see if they are siphoning off ground water for ‘soapy massages’, amid suspicions that it may be contributing to the city gradually sinking.” In other news, excessively rhythmic activity in San Francisco’s LBGT neighbourhoods is reported to be stimulating the Hayward Fault. The city fathers of Sodom and Gomorrah were unavailable for comment. 🙂

    BTW, I would have put Humour as the first tag, not the last, in my post’s tagline, but AFAICS, they are always arranged alphabetically.

  • Mr Ed

    My attempt (January 25, 2018 at 3:48 pm) to prevent comments on my post being entirely diverted

    Count yourself fortunate that a certain Sage has not yet steered us towards Predestination, The Economist, or Fichte 🙂

  • Paul Marks

    James Strong when one hears radical error, such as the claim that the British invented slavery – rather than the Royal Navy fighting a 100 year war against it around the world, one faces a choice….

    One can be silent – be a nice British person. Or one can, at once, correct the error – even at the risk of losing a friend (and job and so on).

    I choose to do the latter – but I understand why most people choose the first option.

  • bobby b

    “My attempt (January 25, 2018 at 3:48 pm) to prevent comments on my post being entirely diverted to the interesting but almost wholly irrelevant topic of homosexual unions having failed . . . “

    Not failed, Niall. We were merely discussing your interesting parable in new words. Gayer words.

  • bobby b

    “In some ways the very recent and rapid and continuing redefinition of attitudes in the west makes today’s cultural contrast even more marked, but it also greatly complicates telling almost any tale. If you tell it for some minimalist position – not treating gays as criminals, for example – Cathy Newman and friends will call your minimalism ‘homophobia’, whereas if you make it absolutely up-to-date with today’s latest ‘thinking’, it will still be behind the curve tomorrow.”

    It’s always been thus.

    The difference now is simply that the PC crowd thought that they had won the fight, that the fight was over, and that their chosen definitions and labels – their words – were ascendant.

    That’s why the reaction to Trump and to Brexit and to the anti-Merkel forces gaining power and to the Northern Europe tide was so horrified and reactionary. To have a hard-won reward taken from your grasp is worse than thinking you have not yet achieved it. Just as people here in the USA saw Hillary as the ordained and unstoppable next step in the inexorable march to the New Progressive Man, so did people see the EU assimilation and the German social trends. In their minds, all that remained was the slitting of the throats of the few surviving wounded and hateful deplorables left lying out on the battlefields.

    And the fact that they were halted – temporarily or not – is the only reason why the new words didn’t just simply slip into place. They’re still trying to switch language over to further their cause – to establish Newspeak as the official language – but instead of the beginning of a new communication paradigm, they’ve only broken theirs to a point where we no longer even share a common tongue.

    And so now we begin the almost-lost fight to bring our chosen tongue to our people. I believe that language really does determine thought – or at least delimit thought – Chomsky all the way – and so the winner of this contest gets quite the leg up in the culture war.

  • SDN

    “Several of the larger Christian churches in my area are run by gay/lesbian ministers. They freely perform gay marriages, with the seeming approval of their flocks.”

    Well, until you start checking the membership numbers of said churches / denominations. And what those numbers show is that the further away their doctrines move from the actual Bible, the faster their numbers drop.

    Get woke, go broke.

  • Alan Peakall

    The Sapir-Whorf hypothesis rather than Chomsky, I think. /pedant

  • Alisa

    Indeed, Alan.

  • TDK

    Runcie Balspune

    You could bring it up to date with gay marriage instead of slavery, that’ll make a few leftist heads pop.

    Sorry, no!

    The Guardian published an article wherein homophobia amongst the West Indians was blamed upon Whites raping enslaved African men. via David Thompson

  • bobby b

    Alan Peakall
    January 27, 2018 at 7:23 pm

    “The Sapir-Whorf hypothesis rather than Chomsky, I think. /pedant”

    Not too /pedant. I remembered it backwards.