Monday, June 27, 2011

Militantly anti-Cheese

While I have yet to read the article in full, this article from the Guardian about Michael Grove's calling the teacher's unions in Great Britain militant resonates with me. I'm not British, I'm American, but I'm always interested in seeing what's happening in other countries around the world. After all, no man is an island unto himself, no matter how hard Howard Roark bitches otherwise or how desperate Galt is to remove himself from society. The same is true for countries as well - humans form a loose super-organism; the net of humanity is interwoven. What affects one of us will affect all of us.

I'm not going to comment on the article; I'm just going to comment on the overview of it. I come from a very strong union city, and I'm very pro-union. If that surprises you, slap yourself. You're reading the wrong blog. Unions are a basic embodiment of this thing called "solidarity" - that is, we're never stronger than when we're together, and that net of humanity, the great human super-organism, is never stronger than when it's united in solidarity. When you take care of your neighbor, you take care of yourself. History is full of class-antagonism; the poor have been continually exploited by the rich and the wealth, and unions are just one way that we can twist the system in our favor. After all, there's a lot more of us on the low end than there are of them on the high end; enough to tip the scales in our favor.

But this post isn't really about the unions. The heart of what I want to talk about is that word: militant.

Apparently, Mr. Gove has been taking lessons from the Right here in America. As a politician, they select their words carefully, and "militant" is one of those words that get used whenever you want to apply a negative connotation to something: militant gun-nuts, militant Christians, militant Pro-Lifers - see how easy that is? Unfortunately, like all polispeak, the actual meaning of the word itself is lost to the political connotation it carries. A "militant" is a person who takes up arms and actually fights for something. The definition itself is very neutral, which is as it should be. But the connotation is not, and there's a reason why Mr. Gove, like so many right-wingers here in the United States, chose that word to describe the teachers' unions for walking out: he's backed in a corner, and he's attempting to appeal to populism. This word gets used a lot by the political right: militant gay-rights activists, militant abortionists, militant liberals, militant this, militant that; anything I disagree with becomes "militant", because it's a thought terminating cliche that carries a few metric yottagrams of negative connotation along with it. It's like "patriotism" and "freedom" - they way they use the words in almost everything they do, you'd think they were compensating. But they aren't - what they're doing is a psychological defense mechanism called "projection" - they're the militants - militantly anti-union, militantly anti-choice, militantly anti-freedom, anti-poor, anti-human - but because they can't bring themselves to admit that, they paint their opposition with the term to make themselves feel better. "We're not militants," they say, "it's those other people who are militants."

Of course, I'm probably giving them too much credit. Their leaders and puppet masters are certainly thinking like this; they've got their base wrapped around their finger if they're insane enough. But it's the appeal to authority and the use of thought terminating cliches that keep their base from thinking at all: whenever you encounter someone claiming that the unions are "militant", or anyone is "militant", ask them "militant in what way?" Odds are, they're just parroting a claim and they'll try and dodge the question, like good puppets do.

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