Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Self destructing phrases

Certain phrases are false if they're true and true if they're false.

We know this from the old liar's paradox. I can give it to you in the Cretin version, but I'd rather give you a cretinous version of it: "Everything I say is a lie." You see, if the statement is true, then it's false, but, if it's false, then it's true. These are not, I would argue, paradox at all, because they do not seem to be true.

"Literal reading of the Bible" is a self destructing phrase. No one, no matter how stupid, and I mean that, reads the Bible literally. Any person who took the Bible literally would have to be Roman Catholic, to start with, due to "Take, eat, this is my body given for you," and then he or she would have to be a Catholic from before the 2nd Vatican Council. Additionally, though, such a person would read the Revelation of St. John and expect exactly what it says, a dragon with ten heads, for example, and would never, ever say that that "represents" something like the E.U. Such a person would also think that the builders of the ancient Temple in Jerusalem were incompetent, as Nehemiah said they "built with a sword in one hand and a trowel in the other." That person would also think that David was not a king of Judah and Israel, but, in fact, a sheep, since the Lord was his shepherd.

No one, least of all the people who talk most raucously about how they want a "literal interpretation of the Bible," reads the Bible literally.

"Government spending" is a self-destructing phrase. I was polled recently and asked how much of a voting issue it was for me to "stop government spending."

Government spending? Which government? I presume the U.S. government is intended, but which level of it? Is it important for me that my city stop spending funds? Of course I am supposed to assume that the phrase refers solely and exclusively to the federal government, but if I am "against government spending," I can only make the phrase have meaning by thinking in an analogy to a human being. If I am against my child's spending, it is because I want my child to save for college. Is that what I want, then? I want the U.S. federal government to build up a bank balance?

In reality, I am against spending on the Strategic Defense Initiative. This anti-ballistic missile treaty defying program has sucked out $3,000,000,000,000.00 of our tax money to protect us from the Soviet Union's intercontinental ballistic missiles. It doesn't work. It can't work. It can't work for that, at any rate. No American citizen's health is improved by it, and no American citizen's poverty is relieved, and no American citizen's drug habit is reduced, and no city's infrastructure is bolstered, and no wetlands are protected, and no rail systems are built with it, and no broadband is laid, and no smartgrid is built. It sits there sucking, and no one seems to question it. However, the people "against government spending" will not be up in arms about it. No. They'll be furious about Welfare -- the thing that accounts for less than 0.01 of our domestic spending. They'll be furious about museum funding. The phrase "government spending" is not "government" or "spending," but "domestic spending on the poor and needy and culture and cultural products not your own."

"Taxes" is not self-destructive as much as it is empty political calories. It's a symbolic link, in Internet terminology. When you click on that verbal icon, it redirects you to another concept. Instead of taking you to "taxation," it takes you to "individual income tax." The people out there with signs and turning purple with rage are all about "taxes," but they do not mean taxation: they mean the income tax, and that is the only form of taxation they mean.

"Public health" is a self-destructive phrase. I know that I am more likely to use it than the people I've been railing at, but it's a phrase that takes itself apart. Health is individual, not public, and public is necessarily unhealthy.

Recently, the governor of the state I am in justified continuing banning alcohol sales on Sunday only on the grounds of public health. I watched youngsters try to argue for or against his position. Inevitably, they all argued for his position, but they found themselves, being under twenty-one, arguing his logic rather than his position. They argued that the public is healthier without alcohol than with, and therefore alcohol sales should be prohibited at all times. (In fact, my own view is that the ban on Sunday sales is a bit of left over religious bigotry. I suspect that it was originally aimed at Catholics, not sobriety.) The reason that this governor felt no compunction in making such a weak and stupid argument was because he had "public health" to hide behind. A phrase without meaning, a phrase that disassembles in the mind, is a phrase that can hide an elephant.

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