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A Collapse of Meaning

There's a strange (well... not really) trend I've been cluing into a bit more recently. Words don't mean the same things to everyone. For a lot of you, I'm sure that triggers a "no shit, Sherlock" reaction, so let me elaborate since the pithy version is neat, but lacking.

So. Here we are. Welcome to the zone of "deconstruction" - a place where language and meaning are either futile or manipulated. Yes, I did pay an exorbitant amount of attention to lectures on Derrida, thank you for noticing! Don't worry, I'm not getting all academic here, but a lot of the thoughts I've been kicking around my brain have precedent.

Which is to say, a malleability of meaning isn't merely modern.

Think of Shakespeare for a second. When he uses a word such as "fardel," we have a much different reaction today than we would've in his time, mostly because the word isn't a part of our modern vocabulary. We are much more inclined to think of flatulence than a bag for carrying things in. This is a breakdown of meaning, a barrier that can't quite be properly crossed without shared knowledge - or at the very least, shared acceptance of its effects.

Let's talk about some words and phrases (concepts, really) that have radically different meanings across our population. "Politically correct." "Alt-right." "Troll." "SJW." "Offended." "Triggered." Oodles more. These examples share a commonality in that many of them are the subject of double flamethrower rage-storms in all corners of the internet. These words - we all know what they mean (maybe), but a lot of them have either mobile definitions depending on who you ask or the feelings they evoke can be polar opposites.

Let's take a look at the word "offended" for a second. Because on one hand we have a substantial group of folks who call to mind people being oversensitive crybabies, while on the other, there's a legitimate grievance against the violent, derogatory, lesser-than-human feeling impact of certain words, actions, objects. I can't use the word "offended" any more because there seems to be no convincing middle ground of meanings and so, because I don't give enough of a shit to hold onto words that confuse me, I ditch them because I'm afraid I won't get my proper meaning across. Instead, I try and specify what sort of "offended" I'm talking about in my speech when I need to using words that (I think) have a better consensus surrounding them.

But it's a maddening thing when people have such strong convictions and reactions to - not really words even, but - concepts. I know I'm repeating myself a bit, but creating a shared meaning of various concepts is something difficult to achieve. Without consensus, understanding each other is fucking challenging.

I'm not even going to touch the definition of "politically correct" because that conversation is a) often acidic and b) even though I've read up on the concept and had it explained to me a dozen different ways, I STILL DON'T FUCKING GET IT. One person's "politically correct" is another persons "decent behavior" and vice-versa.

I'd say that the internet probably lends itself to this sort of thing more easily since each of us practically lives in our own isolated internet, but it's been going on forever - I would hazard to guess that a common consensus of meaning was harder to establish back when we didn't have all the information ever at our finger tips and we needed to write letters and shit to keep in touch with people.

Distance affects things. Even today, the word "fag" doesn't mean the same on our side of the pond as it does on Europe's end.

But is a fragmentation or inadherence to consensus a bad thing? I'm not sure. Not inherently. 1984 is all about what happens when you force consensus on a populace ("doublethink" "doubleplusgood" the word "revolution" removed from the dictionary). V for Vendetta  is a lot about this too (oops, my neckbeard is showing a little...).

But if mental homogeny is like severing off a limb that makes humanity what it is, and too much mental fracturing is a vehicle for discord, then where is the appropriate place where meaning can be agreed and dissented at without the trampling of rights?

I don't fuckin' know. I'm just some guy with an internet connection and some thoughts, thinking he's all "deep," calling himself an artist.

I'd like people to talk at me now please. My brain hurts.

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