The Three Dirty Words
The late George Carlin had seven dirty words. Seven words that you weren’t allowed to say on TV. The list is probably larger now, but you can also say them on TV. At least I hear them on TV regularly. If you are intersted in what they are you can look here.
A dirty word is a strange thing. In the end it is nothing more than a sound, usually but not always, made with the mouth. And when our brains hear this sound they go into a spasm. For social, racial, religious, or other reasons, as we integrate into a society, we are conditioned against certain noises.
These taboo noises can change over time. The N-word wasn’t taboo when I was a child though it was headed that way. When my father was a child it was simply a word. But the F-word was taboo when I was a child. It isn’t anymore, partly because it no longer refers to the sexual act but more than anything infers extreme hatred – or in some cases between friends, fraternal bond. It still isn’t dinner table language, and I don’t feel particularly comfortable using it in mixed language or around children, but by the time my kids are grown, that will probably have changed, too, and there’s no reason it shouldn’t.
Sometimes in politics there are dirty words too. Americans have some. And unlike the N-word or the F-word, I can write them on a blog and not feel… dirty. These words are socialism, communism, and nationalization. The S-word, the C-word, and the N-word. Interestingly, these all have direct parallels with actual, dirty words. Few words, over the last century, have conjured up more intense emotions than when leaders throw around the S, C, and N words. Whether the talk is directed at evil nations that use these dirty words, or domestic leaders thinking about them, the response is always explosive – just like with actual dirty words.
But like actual dirty words, these political dirty words aren’t dirty everywhere. Certainly in the Soviet Union the C-word wasn’t communism, but capitalism. And much of Europe is quite proud of its socialism. Much of the Middle East nationalized their oil industries in the last century, basically taking over the capital investments of foreign countries then contracting them to run the equipment.
Why the differences? Europe wasn’t always socialist. Prior to the October Revolution Russia was capitalist. China has a long capitalist history. And for a long time the Middle East was quite happy with foreign owned oil enterprises. What changed?
What changed was the same thing that is changing here. What is happening with AIG is why words like socialism, communism, and nationalism lose their dirty feel and are replaced on the taboo list by words like capitalism, profit, and speculation. What the west forgets is that the 1917 Revolution in the Soviet Union was economic as much as it was political. The wealthy industrialists in league with the White government had run the Russian economy into the ground through the same shenanigans that AIG is up to now. The public, the working class, the struggling masses, had been completely screwed and had had enough.
One of the most hated ‘classes’ of the Bolshevik Revolution were people they referred to as ‘speculators.’ Those who through their market speculation, drove the market in ways that benefited them financially, while contributing nothing yet causing extensive damage elsewhere. They then carried off their winnings on expensive European vacations or to summer homes on the Black Sea where they ate cavier and drove around in their cars and boats as if everything were completely normal. When the market finally collapsed the government tried to protect the business owners at the expense of the working class. By the time the communists took power the people were only too glad to have them! Of course the rest is history and we don’t want to repeat that though I fear we have already begun to.
I, personally, am enraged at what I am seeing. My own ‘wonderful’ company gave me a bonus of $450 this year – an insult and an outrage. I did some damn good work last year. A single bonus being given to one of these failed AIG speculators would allow me to retire my debt – including my mortgage – and take a couple of years off to pursue my (desired) writing career. And it is my tax dollars that are paying them! This malfeasance of government is the kind of irresponsibility that drives people to redefine their dirty words. I’m just about mad enough to kill. Put me in a mob and I might. President Obama knows this. He also knows he can’t do anything to stop AIG, but by using his bully pulpit to excoriate them he at least is tempering the rage. Will it be enough?
I’m a conservative and a capitalist at heart because I believe that what a man works for, and invests in, should come back to him. Cast your bread on the waters. In America today nothing could be farther from reality. Even the people I know who have become wealthy have used government money to do it. Modern industrialists have basically locked out the common man. To many of us ‘capitalism’ has already become a dirty word. And since we’ve already become socialist because the government is taking huge stakes in private firms, I would rather have the social services I have to pay for than have nothing. Especially since our retirement is also gone. Socialism, suddenly, is not such a bad word either. I can't even believe I'm writing this.
Nationalism? We’re already doing it. And why? Because American businessmen have become so insanely greedy that even government could do a better job. And that is saying a lot because government doesn’t do anything well except kill people and break things. Despite the illusion created by the movie Armageddon, NASA is in reality a complete joke. Contractors do and build everything at NASA. NASA engineers just go to meetings all day and talk about requirements and CDRLs. Health care is headed that way, too. The entire industry from the doctors to the manufacturers of cotton swabs is completely focused on profit, which is why you get terrible service at hospitals and offices.
Dirty words. They change from one generation to the next. They change through intense social upheaval. Where is the tipping point? How far can companies like AIG push before words that used to be 'bad' become 'good' and things start burning down. I hope we don’t find out because I like the old dirty words just fine.
-Futbol Guru, http://mises.org/community/blogs/not-a-lemming