The Evil of Plural Pronouns (We & They)

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There is a real problem with plural personal pronouns.  It is embedded in our culture and our language, and it slips by the common observer without so much as a pause.  These are words like we, they, our, us, them, and their.  Today, I want to discuss the words “we” and “they.”  These words need to be discussed in depth because they matter in the deepest sense of how each of us frames our life.  In short, I think “we” and “they” have been a source of great and pernicious evil in society, and most importantly in breaking down the mind of the individual.

Whenever someone says something like, “We just need a sensible policy on this,” or “We all just need to stick together,” or “They’ve decided that some racial slurs are OK, but others aren’t” I shudder to think what this person means by “we” and “they.”

Let’s take my first example.  What if someone were to say, “We need to have a sensible drug policy.”  Well, this may be a cliche, but “what do you mean by WE?”  Do I have a say in the matter?  Is someone going to ask me to sit down and offer my ideas on a drug policy?  Do you mean the State of Texas, the elementary school down the road, the U.S government, the UN?  It is a very dangerous game to use the word “we.”  What really should have been said, and what is going to happen is “Somebody with power should force a drug policy down our throats, and I hope it will be reasonable because frankly, you and I will have no say.”  Government officials use the word “we” on purpose to imply their legitimacy…to enforce that they speak for you, and make decisions for you, but most of us just let that “we” slip by.  This is dangerous.  You give your tacit approval when you let others say “we” without asking why they want to include you in their logic, and in what group you are included.

We can do this together!

We can do this together!

One of the most tyrannical uses of the plural personal pronoun is when someone wants to speak for over 300 million people living in the geographic borders of the United States.  This implies that everyone must submit to whatever a small group decides…even if it is the majority of voters (which in fact represent a non-majority of the population):

  • We need tighter gun control
  • We need safer food
  • We owe our freedom to them (that’s 3 plural pronouns..woohoo!)
  • We need to lose weight in America
  • We all need health care
  • we, we, we…

A related aside:  it is a geographical accident that you or I were born anywhere.  Even though there is a need to belong, you were not born an American, a German, a Russian or whatever.  From my perspective, belonging to any group is voluntary.  You should not be forced into this group, and if you have to play along to get by, then so be it.

Now, on to “they.”  I have a specific example for this one.  A twitter friend was recently upset at how the slur of “cracker” was used on MSNBC (which they have done more than once:  here and here) seems to go unpunished, while other slurs get the hammer (I think THE example of this is when a non-black person uses the word “nigger,” in any context…I’m bracing for the hate mail).  Anyway, in her dissatisfaction she mentioned that “they” don’t allow some slurs to be said, while others were just fine.  I was confused by her term “they.”  Because I am so used to this word being said to refer to those who make the regulations, I thought that is what she meant.  Note:  Mentally, I usually make no distinction between the mainstream media and government; they are essentially 2 branches on the same tree. It got my feathers ruffled, because I thought she was calling for more regulation on the words that are said in public.  Of course, I will have none of that.  It is a slippery slope when those who are outraged by some or another behavior complain that “they” are not policing this enough.

Be careful what you say.  (Photos by (C) STROINSKI.PL)

Be careful what you say. (Photo by (C) STROINSKI.PL)

In the end, I think she simply meant all of those of the “politically correct” nature, rather than those in power who create tyranny (although these are often the same people, unfortunately).  However, it scared me.  It scared me because enough people might get outraged that they think “they” should do something (for all of “us,” of course).  It scared me that a government crony might take advantage of this outrage and issue more of “their” control.  It is for this reason that plural personal pronouns should be used precisely, and those who do not wish to be included in the collective should speak out, when these pronouns are bandied about.

It is my opinion, that the “they” in the media can say whatever they darn well please.  In fact, anybody can say just about anything they want to, legally.  That is what freedom of speech is.  It is up to the listener to exert his or her influence through their own choice.  This could be simply not listening/watching, sending the corporation responsible a communication of disapproval, or it could be exposing them to the public via their own communication.  Of course, I am speaking of how things SHOULD be rather than how they are.

In any case, I am very careful about those plural pronouns, and I do not think we should make them do anything.

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Liberty with Women & People who “Feel”

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Within my little twitter circle of liberty, there seems to have been some controversy regarding some opinions of how the liberty-loving community can recruit more women.  In short, libertarian YouTube mini-star (LYTMS…you too, can be one of these) Julie Borowski posted this video addressing why there is a dearth of libertarian (small “l”) women.

This promoted several responses from the blog world, like from Bonnie Kristian, BleedingHeartLibertarians, Robert P. Murphy, Bryan Caplan, and even one of my long-time favorites, Tom Woods.

The original video has impressive entertainment value (with 30,000+ hits, as of this writing), and has initiated a discussion among the liberty-minded.  I will summarize some generalizations about women that have been both proposed, refuted, or affirmed by all involved.  These generalizations are presupposed to be anti-liberty traits, thus making it difficult to attract the gentler sex to liberty ideas.  Women, in general, are…

  1. more social
  2. more collectively minded
  3. more susceptible to trying to “fit in”
  4. more likely to make to decisions with feeling rather than by thinking (research facts were actually noted by Caplan; women tend to be 30/70 thinking to feeling while men tend to be 60/40 on Myers-Briggs tests)
  5. less argumentative (according to Murphy)

It appears that some of these generalizations may be true about women, in general.  However, I think maybe the discussion misses the point.  The point is how do you sell liberty to a population that has been force fed safety, collectivism, and the “government is always right” (at least about the big things) propaganda?  Whether the generalizations above are true or false about any segment of the population is less important than if there ARE segments of the population who think that way.  In fact, if I crunch the numbers correctly from Caplan’s data, assuming 50/50, male/female, then there are more FEELERS in general, and this includes nearly half of all men.  Indeed there are plenty of women AND men too, who feel more than think, who are less argumentative, and who think we should all help each other out.

Many "feelers" out there.  Awwww, aren't they adorable?

Many “feelers” out there. Awwww, aren’t they adorable?

I must diverge here, just a bit.  An equally impressive video could have been made about men, and how they fall into the marketing trap of media as well.  Just think about video games, NFL, etc.  Take a look at a men’s health or bodybuilding magazine, sometime.  Men and women are both equally capable of begging for free handouts, while blowing their resources on trifles.  All are vulnerable to propaganda and uninformed hypocrisy.

OK, back on point… A consistent message of why liberty actually makes us safer, wealthier, and more cooperative is the rub here.  That requires persistence and patience.  It requires people who can reach beyond the stuffy academic arguments and be entertaining, and it requires a simple approach.  Look to Julie Borowski…she’s nailed that (she needs a sponsor).

Liberty needs to made mainstream, like "Iron Maiden."

Liberty needs to be made mainstream, like “Iron Maiden.”

I suggest that maybe the four facts below might be a consistent message to deliver to those who a) feel, b) those who think we should “cooperate and help each other,” and for c) those who don’t like arguments.  In fact, as they are explained over and over again, liberty facts sell themselves to anybody with an open mind, who is not too far gone.

  1. Non-aggression — No person has the right to take the property of another through any means.  To do so is violence.
  2. Government represents the ultimate form of aggression — taxes, war, fees, regulations, and controls are all violence against individuals.  They forcibly take the property and freedom of individuals who have hurt nobody.
  3. People will help others and cooperate without government aggression (in fact, they do it all the time) — some people will be more selfish than others, but in the end most people understand reciprocity.  If they do good, then they get it back.  They inherently know that sharing, giving, helping and serving others is the right thing to do and is in their best interest.  Likewise, they inherently know that to cheat, steal, kill is wrong, and will lead to their own demise.  This goes for 98% of all people (maybe more).
  4. The government is not “here to help”  — some claim that government knowingly does evil.  I think maybe the institution of the State just can’t help itself.  It grows and grows, and feeds on the productive in the name of doing good, when in fact it just creates more misery.  Having the state’s powers minimized allows for people to act in more natural ways and accomplish #3 above.  Furthermore, one of those 2% who aren’t “good,” who are in government (and I anecdotally guess that these sociopaths are overrepresented in government service) can do far worse than an individual committing evil on her own.

I agree with Caplan, that we need to market our ideas to the “feelers” (men and women).  Again, this requires a persistent message that shows how the state does so much damage to the individual.  We need to make those “feelers” hearts bleed, with counter-stories of how guns don’t kill people, government does.  Then we can fight for “government” control, rather than gun control.

No doubt it will be an uphill battle.  I’m in!

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