Tuesday, January 17, 2017

"Word Ripples"

You know, like a pebble tossed in a pond, those concentric circly things emanating from where it went plop.

Some words are intrinsically frightening.   Others are intrinsically not.  “Umbrella”:  Oooh! – Scary. 


For me, words that send the most shattering shudders through my emotional ecosystem come from medical health arena.  I would offer examples but then I would read them and frighten myself, and that is a price I am currently unwilling to pay.  Even for specificity. 

I am thinking today of a third category of word that, in itself, being a word – and “words” cannot break in and wreak devastating havoc upon you and your loved ones, or just damage your property which is considerably less serious although a destroyed six-foot cardboard cutout of Hopalong Cassidy can be terribly difficult to replace – words themselves are intrinsically undangerous.  However, over time and repetition of their negative connotations, these “third category” words have developed an effectively persuasive “scarability.”

One word rising to mind from this category is the word


A brief but relevant side-trip.  Sometimes words convey frightening connotations because we are generically ignorant of what they actually mean.  (Note:  I traditionally make a distinction between “ignorant” and “stupid.”  “Ignorant” means “I don’t know.”  “Stupid” means “I don’t want to know.”  “Ignorant” is curable.  You simply find out.  For example, in the context of this exercise, I Googled the difference between Socialism and Communism.  Truth be told, after reading several entries, I was only minimally enlightened.  Proving ignorance is curable, though not necessarily easily curable.  And also proving that if I don’t wish to be stupid, I am going to have to work harder.)

Socialism – or possibly Communism – or possibly both – has to do with workers owning the means of production and sharing the profits, thereby eliminating class distinctions based on an unequal distribution of wealth.  You do what you can and you get what you need.  Socialism.

We don’t do that, and we don’t want to.  Sparing an examination of the reasons, which may be open to dispute, Socialism has collapsed elsewhere, and before doing so, seems to turn everything in those Socialistic experiments gray.  Still, there are areas, like health care and Social Security that even we, within our capitalist parameters, have adopted.        

My country of origin, Canada, has a legal Socialist party.  (And a legal Communist Party, so, though I do not get it at the moment, there must definitely be a distinction.   The most apparent one being hardly anyone voted for the Communists.  No one was troubled by these parties’ existence.  Like the Mormon evangelists ringing your doorbell you just politely said “No.”)

Despite legal Socialist and Communist parties, Canada’s capitalist economy was not toppled.  In my day, the Socialist New Democratic Party (formerly the CCF party) captured, like, twenty-two percent of the vote and that was that.  As part of a “coalition government”, the NDP promoted and helped pass a Canadian universal health care system so nobody went bankrupt when they got sick, as they do regularly in places where the word “Socialism” prevents a clear-eyed examination of what to do when you are sick and you cannot pay for adequate health care.  Other than succumb.

Being a “middle of the road” kind of a guy, my policy is invariably “pick and choose” – relax on the label and try and determine what’s best.  And if you believe, “What’s ‘best’ in one place may not be what’s best in another place”, remember – sick is sick everywhere.  And other places have embraced alternative solutions to “Tough noogies.”

To defuse its negative connotation, how about offering examples where that vilified word is, in another context, an unqualified positive?

Where, say, in this great country of ours is there a situation in which Socialism is not only not opposed but is instead spectacularly appreciated?

One ready example is an American institution bordering on a religion:

The National Football League.

That’s really American.  Before games, there are jets flying over the field, with, sometimes, red white and blue smoke blowing out of their tailpipes.  What is more “Yankee Doodle” than that!

Maybe you knew this already.  Maybe you didn’t.  Maybe you knew it but it did not register as Socialism.  But it is.  More Socialist, in fact, than anything avowed Socialist Bernie Sanders ever promoted in his Socialisticalest moment.    

Check it out.

There a thirty-two teams in the National Football League.  Each of those teams gets an equal cut of the revenues the league receives, selling NFL broadcasting rights to television. 

Every team receives the same amount of money.  That’s how a team from Green Bay Wisconsin has a chance – and was actually better this year – than a team from New York City.  Lacking any financial imbalance, “large market” and “small market” teams can pursue the same top available talent, producing – at least the possibility of – parity on the gridiron.  

Note:  There is no major league baseball team playing in Green Bay Wisconsin.  Why?  Along with crying, there is no Socialism in baseball. 

Isn’t it great that a small community like Green Bay – population, just north of one hundred thousand people – can participate on the same financial footing as New York City – population, almost eight and-a-half million?  You cannot do that unless you share the dough equally.

And that, sports fans, is Socialism.

A thing is good or bad depending on the example?

Mayhaps, like a kiss is just a kiss,

A word,

It is possible,

Is just a word.

Except for those scary medical ones.


Wendy M. Grossman said...

I think you might have that backwards. I've always thought of stupid as incurable - there's not much someone can do if they lack the mental capacity to learn and struggle with basics - and ignorant as willful. There's a great old Sufi thing:

He who knows, and knows he knows; he is a teacher.
Learn from him.
He who knows, and knows not he knows; he is asleep.
Wake him.
He who knows not, and knows he knows not; he is a student.
Teach him.
He who knows not, and knows not he knows not; he is a fool.
Shun him.

Personally, I think that last one is a little too harsh. It's not just that someone doesn't know and doesn't know they don't know, but that they don't *care* that they don't know that really makes a fool.


Mike T. said...

The difference between NFL socialism and government socialism is that one is by voluntary agreement and the other is by force. Anyone wishing to buy an NFL franchise knows up front that he will have to share revenue with other teams; as one of a select few owners, he can exert a strong influence on future league decisions; and he can easily escape from the league by selling his team if the league ever changes the terms of the contract in a way he dislikes. By contrast, government socialism is imposed on millions of people whether they agree to it or not; most individuals have little influence on the process; and escape from it is not easy, even if--as often happens--the government changes the terms of the contract in ways the individual does not like. NFL socialism is voluntary revenue-sharing. Government socialism is legalized theft, enforced by fines, imprisonment, and ultimately--if one chooses to resist the milder forms of punishment by fleeing from the cops--potential death.

You're right that there's little distinction between socialism and communism; they're both variations of the same theme.

Stephen Marks said...

None of my favorite NFL teams did very well this year:

Maoami Dalphins

Detroit Lenins

Cincinnati Engels

Houston Marxans