The Myth of a Universal Language and Translation Ability

Languageby Anniel6/4/16
Thinking about words and how we use, or misuse them has always fascinated me. Confuscius often spoke of the need for clarity in speech and the free exchange of ideas based solely on understanding one another.

There are two very different ideas about language we need to consider if we can ever enter into a dialogue with people who speak a language different than our own. The first has to do with making a language our personal property in understanding (for want of a better description) and the second has to do with how language shapes our minds and culture.

Our eldest son is a linguist and also works in the field of semiotics and artificial intelligence. He speaks at least three languages that he is able to think in. When an advertisement for a translation app appeared on Facebook that would supposedly work for any language, he said that the idea is simply not feasible, and may never be so. He writes that the goal in learning any language is to be able to think in that language.

Consider the following language conundrums that might cause an English speaking person problems:

1. Many ancient languages and even some today, have no words for colors. They use only “light and dark” or “black and white.” Until the invention of dyes, color was considered to be intrinsic to the nature of an object. No need to say “the green grass of summer” because green is in its nature. There was no word in Greek for blue. When Homer spoke of the “wine dark sea” everyone knew what he meant, it was “dark”, as in a storm. Blue was the last dye formulated so there was no word for it. Just how do you explain the term “white as snow” to someone who has never seen snow?

2. Turkish is a language that grammatically separates direct and indirect experience. You arise in the morning and see puddles in the street, in English you would simply say, “It rained last night.” In Turkish you only use that form IF you were a direct participant in the rain, you watched it, or walked in it. Otherwise you would use a form that indicates it rained but you are reporting it as a supposition since you see evidence of it, but were not directly involved; the rain is just one example of how you would be lying if you used the wrong form. How do non-native Turkish speakers understand and think that way?

3. How do we understand humor from another culture? I heard a story about a famous English speaker giving a talk to a German audience. He had an “instant” translator who was only fractions of a second behind him in speech when he realized that the man’s joke was untranslatable in German, so he simply said, “The speaker is telling a joke, please laugh.” Being obedient Germans, they did, and all was well.

4. Can one play with words or puns in another language? A married couple who were native speakers of both English and Mandarin Chinese decided to translate James Joyce’s Ulysses into Mandarin. It was laborious and took them 40 years to complete. They told of how difficult the translation was and offered the following snippet as an example:

Some women have their will,
But Ann hath a way.

Pages and pages of footnotes follow. They have to explain who Shakespeare is and his place in English literature; how “will” is both short for William, and also indicates strength of character; then they have to explain that Shakespear’s wife’s surname is “Hathaway”; and then break the word down and hope that their readers might get the meaning of the pun, AND then think it’s funny. We might never understand what is humorous in a Mandarin Chinese joke, because their culture is so different.

And there are always other issues of syntax and grammar, so the search for truth might get lost in this mix. There are also the differing fields one might need to develop the grammar and vocabulary for, such as medicine (our daughter Cate is fluent in medicalese, which ticks off some docs), or music, law or dance. Universal translator anyone? Probably best not to lose your money.

The second issue concerns how our language might shape our minds and culture, and is that an unbridgeable gap between different societies?

Are our minds and culture shaped by the language we speak? It seems like such an intriguing question. The well-known linguist Noam Chomsky, says not, but he thinks he’s the smartest man in the world so we can safely assign him to his extreme liberal anti-American bent and ignore him.

Two linguists, Edward Sapir and Benjamin Whorf, have hypothesized that the language a person speaks is a determinate of what he knows. Called at first the Sapir/Whorf Hypothesis, it is more commonly now known as
The Theory of Linguistic Relativity.

As laymen we think the reality expressed by the spoken word is the same as the reality perceived in thought. We are, after all, truthful people. But is our speech based on our thoughts or do we encode and decode language in such a way that our thoughts are based on our speech? Basically the Theory of Linguistic Reality states that thought is formed from language first. What you see and believe is based on what you say.

Our language shapes our view of reality, and our world view may be strongly responsible for what we see in our minds. Some languages may not be so strong as to world view and leave one more able to consider differing views without angst.

Distinctions encoded in one language may be unique to that language, as in the Language of Turkey noted above. The structural diversity of languages has no limits. It appears that our Language habits within our group or country predispose us to certain choices.

I’m not going to get all fancy-fancy here so I’ll try to make my take on all this clear. If one is born into a warrior society, say Otto Von Bismarck is your Chancellor and even the music is martial, one would be predisposed to the glory found in exploits of bravery and battle for the sake of battle.

Or if you are born into a peaceful agrarian society, it might take a superhuman effort to go to battle. You might even be an easy society for a warrior to destroy. So Radical Feminism tries to destroy masculinity by the use of language. Men are constantly criticized. Children are subjected to abortion and other horrors, or constantly infantalized and miseducated. All by design.

Human communication is a very open field of study, and those of us who are Politically Conservative watch in horror as political correctness and moral decay are destroying our society. The first thing those who lust for power do is subvert the language of a people or nation to their own ends. The demise of a nation is sown in the demise of its language. The lies of Communist dialectics was a reality the western nations had to contend with during the Cold War.

There are endless lies today as the thugs shout slogans fed them by their leaders, creating and reinforcing neural pathways in their brains. Belief systems that teach what is permissible, linguistically and morally and that permit no other thought. Unfortunately, he who controls history also controls the future as true lessons and judgments are never learned.

So you and I are left struggling in a society where the enemy is often our own children and grandchildren, who no longer speak, nor think, in the same language we do. We need to have a clear-eyed understanding of the enemy within and what we face and always remember that “the truth sounds like hate to those who hate the truth.” You will not be loved for speaking truth, not even by your own families.

George Orwell wrote: “(Language) becomes ugly and inaccurate because our thoughts are foolish, but the slovenliness of our language makes it easier for us to have foolish thoughts.”

Our only hope for the future is in Truth, and that Truth is in the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, He who used His Word, His language to speak this world into being. • (1349 views)

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36 Responses to The Myth of a Universal Language and Translation Ability

  1. Timothy Lane says:

    I tend to doubt that language is absolutely determinative. Orwell noted that in the final version of Newspeak, it would be impossible to verbalize political freedom, though one might say that a dog is free of fleas. I suspect that the concept of political freedom could be restored eventually.

    It’s possible to tell a bilingual pun. I once referred to “the terrible struggle for Grozny”, which was a pun on the Russian grosny, or “terrible” (e.g., Tsar Ivan Grosny). One of our FOSFAX contributors mentioned a moment of inspiration he had in a German class when a fellow student couldn’t seem to verbalize a question he had: “He must have a frag in his throat.”

  2. Steve Lancaster says:

    There are variations within English that make it the world’s language, in spite of what certain speaker of Arabic think. One of those is a variation used by pilots. Regardless of their native language when making announcements to the passengers they will take on the accent and word cadence of a certain West Virginia pilot, Chuck Yeager. Perhaps they are attempting to convey to us, the passengers, that they also have the right stuff.

    However, I have heard perfectly respectable Englishmen, Germans, Italians, and assorted Latin Americans drop into the that Virginia dialect to think that it not in some small way also a tribute to, at one time the fastest man alive.

  3. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    No need to say “the green grass of summer” because green is in its nature.

    I didn’t know that. But presumably grass would sometimes turn brown or yellow…or exist in different shades of green. Perhaps some languages are more utilitarian and others more open to expressing poetry, if you will. And if this is so, is this an effect of the constraints of language or merely the result of culture? A war-like culture might be expected to emphasize other things. Like Eskimos who supposedly have a dozen words for snow, a war-like culture might have a dozen words for stabbing and couldn’t care a flying fig about the color of a flower.

    “It rained last night.” In Turkish you only use that form IF you were a direct participant in the rain, you watched it, or walked in it.

    Maybe the Turks are just retarded in their language. Surely an Englishman has a choice. He could say “I saw puddles in the street so I assume it rained last night.” His fellow pipe-smoker sitting on the stoop taking in the morning with him might reply, “Old chap, it was the street sweepers that left those puddles for you’ll see there isn’t a drop of water on the sidewalks.”

    Regarding the universality of language, clearly this is not the case for there are many languages. But there is almost certainly the ability for language hard-wired in our brains, as well as a universal syntax. It’s worth noting the fact that languages can be translated at all, although certainly some of the difficulty in dealing with idioms and such is worth noting. But idioms might be said to be little capsules of culture rather than something inherent to the language. You can translate language fairly easily. Germans might put part of the verb at the end but you still have the basics of noun, verb, adjective, etc. But idioms could be thought of as unique cultural constructs that simply have agreed-upon meaning and do not derive from a one-for-one reading of the words. But I don’t see this as an aspect of language. It’s an aspect of translating culture.

    It’s a very complicated subject in regards to if and how language is thought, precedes thought, thought precedes language, or some combination of the above. We’ve all heard children creatively use language in ways we didn’t expect (and often find humorous) when trying to get a point across. Clearly there is a thought in the child’s head independent of and preceding language.

    And it seems clear, especially in regards to our Leftist friends, that language can constrain and even replace thought. But even this aspect gets complicated. This is why Rush says “Words mean things.” One of the devilments we run into is what we mean by the words (and not that words mean things, per se). Much of our trouble is the unstated (more importantly, often unexamined) beliefs that are taken for granted out of which then flows our thoughts and words. An argument can be perfectly valid and yet untrue (or missing the point) if the premises are not true. And whether something is a matter of hard “truth” or merely preference, it’s all a grand muddle if people do not tap down to their basic beliefs.

    You’ve certainly noted yours truly stating the devilish problems of understanding libertarians, liberals, and even Trumpsters because it is very hard to get down to the unstated beliefs. They may go on and on about this outrage or that outrage and we’re going, “Whoa…where did that come from?”

    Many times there is more commonality between speakers of different languages than there is amongst those speaking the same language. One thing we do here at StubbornThings is bravely and honestly state our beliefs and guiding principles as well as trying to articulate why we believe such things. One may then agree or disagree, but at least you know where we’re coming from.

    We are thus left flustered, if not terminally bewildered, when we encounter the opposite, when out of the mouth of the Progressive comes something like “Bathroom equality.” We’re left to say, “Whoa, there. Back up. You’ve just shot past about a half dozen assumptions, presumptions, presuppositions, and talking points. I might or might not agree with your ending statement, but what is so unequal about a man with a penis using the men’s room? Why not horses in the ladies’ room? Wouldn’t that be more ‘equal’ still?”

    This is when we could say that the language itself has lost its ability to enlighten. It’s been corrupted by and made subservient to politics which is a different language, somewhat like medicalese, although I assume with medicalese at least the goal is to make the patient better.

    • Anniel says:

      Ask my daughter Cate about medicalese. About the docs who challenge “how” she knows she has a specific condition, “prove to me what you say you know”. About the docs who send around the psychiatrists because she is too “sophisticated” in her healthcare language and must therefore be “drug seeking” or just plain “attention seeking.” How do you make the patient “better” if you start from a falsehood?

      My son has translated several Hungarian Books to English. I asked him if he could translate medical research from Hungarian to English. Answer: No, and no. He might have to attend Hungarian med school to do that.

      • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:


        Did you bring your son up speaking Finnish? I ask because I have had a couple of very close relationships with Hungarians and they told me that Hungarian and Finnish are related.

        The little I know of Hungarian is that it is extremely difficult for an English speaker to learn. It has nothing to do with the Indo-European language family.

        My hat is off to your son.

        • Anniel says:

          KFZ, I know the SOUNDS of Finnish but very few words. We had a Finnish neighbor and my son asked if she could teach the language to him. She snorted and said it was a “dead” language and wasn’t worth his time. The Finno-Urgit language group has only three languages in it, Finn, Hungarian and, I want to say Serbian.

          My father could translate Hungarian very well, but I don’t think he could ever really speak it. He grew up in mining camps and learned to speak many languages, besides his family’s native Finn.

          The one thing my son learned that still astounds me is the ancient form of Hungarian. One of the books he translated to English has some poetry from long ago and he rendered it so that the author of the book was very happy with the decisions he made on meter and rhythm.

          He says he still loves being in Budapest and seeing one of “his” books stacked in a store.

          • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

            I have heard that Korean is a distant cousin of the Finnish-Urgit languages, but I have never checked.

            I was first in Budapest in 1974 and last in 1988. By then there was a bloody McDonald’s on a main square. My story “If Allah Himself Came Down”, was a result of that visit.

            Although there had been some change in those years, I can imagine the city has changed enormously since then. But one thing they can’t change is the Danube flowing between Buda and Pest.

            Budapest is considered one of the special “Hapsburg” cities. The others are Prague, which also has a river flowing through it and Vienna, which doesn’t. The Danube is outside the city, but there is the “Danube Canal” bordering part of the central part of the city.

            • Timothy Lane says:

              The Finno-Ugrian language group includes not only Finnish and Hungarian but Estonian, as well as some minor tribal languages in northern Russia. I believe it’s currently considered a branch of the Uralian languages. These used to be linked to the Altaic languages, which include the Turkic languages. (Before World War I, there was a Pan-Turanian movement in Hungary.) That may be where a Korean link could come in.

  4. Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

    He writes that the goal in learning any language is to be able to think in that language.

    I would go further and say the goal is to dream in that language.

    Even today, I still sometimes think in German, because certain situations bring it to mind. Very rarely, I will still dream in German, but nothing like I did in the past. Years ago, I would remember things, but could not recall whether I experienced them in English or German. Movies and books are good examples.

    When an advertisement for a translation app appeared on Facebook that would supposedly work for any language, he said that the idea is simply not feasible, and may never be so

    I don’t know if the time will come when such apps work, but I do believe it is years away, at the very least.

    I have done some translation work from German to English and English to German and the apps available sometimes generate pure rubbish. At the very least, the sense of a sentence is often lost and the generated “translation” must be almost completely re-written. This is particularly the case when dealing with discrete phrases or sentences without any particular context in regards to the whole.

    One can pick out numerous words which have may different meanings in different settings and only if the overall context of usage is known, will a proper translation be possible.

    Take for example a word which I chose at random. “Mind”. Here are some of the definitions of that word as given by the “Reader’s Digest, Universal Dictionary” printed in 1988.

    1. Consciousness considered as residing in the human brain, manifested especially in thought, perception, felling, will, memory, or imagination.
    2. The totality of conscious and unconscious processes of the brain and central nervous system that directs mental and physical activity.
    3. In some philosophical systems a principle of intelligence or consciousness held to pervade reality.
    4. An attitude or emotional state.
    8. Opinion or sentiment.
    9. Focus of thought.
    10. To remember.

    I have left out more than I included. And the above only deals with the noun mind. I have not touched on the verb.

    Language is much more complicated than many believe. Trying to translate from one language to another while keeping the meaning and mood of the original text can be very difficult. This is especially so since languages are constantly changing and the definition of words can take twists and turns which we are generally not aware of.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      The superb Clint Eastwood movie Firefox brings up the matter of thinking in a language as opposed to merely speaking it. Eastwood plays a pilot with (I believe) half-Russian ancestry who can even think in the language, and is sent to steal a new Soviet jet which is operated by the pilot’s thoughts. The movie does a nice job of revealing the nature of Soviet tyranny at its height.

    • Anniel says:

      I’m reminded here of a book my son recommended years ago, called “Women, Fire and Dangerous Things.” I think that’s the correct order. I’ll have to reread it. As I recall it had to do with separating language into categories and why those categories came to be.

      Dreaming in another language, now that’s a goal.

      • Another good book I’ve read recently on this issue is “The Power of Babel” — author’s name is not coming to mind, but his thesis is that languages are not separated by hard, fast lines of demarcation, but, via dialects and pidgins morph slowly from one to another. It was fascinating. I also found Steven Pinker’s (I know, another leftist wingnut) “The Language Instinct.”

        I teach a lengthy unit on general linguistics and the history of English and I find all of this so interesting. Thanks for the article, Annie.

        • Timothy Lane says:

          Pinker has a lot of good stuff despite his ideological flaws. I especially liked his study of regular and irregular inflexions.

        • Anniel says:

          Thanks Deanna, I’ll add that book to my pile. Lots to think about.

        • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

          Pinker is trapped inside of liberal fascism at the university level. It is sometimes difficult to know how much he believes his own leftist BS. But he dares from time to time to contradict liberal dogma, including the idea that man is a blank slate to be programmed at will — an idea he debunks in “The Blank Slate,” even while doubling-down on materialism as he attempts to poo-poo the idea of a soul, the “ghost in the machine.”

          He’s an example of GIGO…garbage in, garbage out. His is a great brain with some rotten programming in it here and there. His logic is marred by relativism and political correctness. He seems a deep thinker but, say, just like Christopher Hitchens, he does not examine the cultural water he is swimming in…except sometimes when he does. He’s a real mix.

          I haven’t read “The Language Instinct” but surely the gist of it is that our capacity for language is hard-wired. What he likely won’t get into is why, if we are evolved from apes, there is no sign of any kind of language wiring in chimpanzees or gorillas.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      You mined a lot out of that, Mr. Kung.

  5. Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

    George Orwell wrote: “(Language) becomes ugly and inaccurate because our thoughts are foolish, but the slovenliness of our language makes it easier for us to have foolish thoughts.”

    Kung Fu Zu said,

    “If language is not correct, then what is said is not what is meant; if what is said is not what is meant, then what must be done remains undone; if this remains undone, morals and art will deteriorate; if justice goes astray, the people will stand about in helpless confusion. Hence, there must be no arbitrariness in what is said. This matters above everything.”

    I think that is correctly said.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      So now we know why the Chicoms don’t like Confucius.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      They both really do hit on the same idea using different words. But there is surely an essential idea that predates the words: Language and words, like a hammer, can be used to construct something or to just hit someone over the head.

  6. Rosalys says:

    “Are our minds and culture shaped by the language we speak?”

    Of course they are; otherwise the left would not spend so much effort in redefining words and destroying language (because, remember, the left destroys everything!)

  7. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    Also, it’s worth noting that much of the difficulty regarding language — aside from translation issues and word-meaning issues — is purpose differences. Language is but a tool that can be put to many purposes, many of them nafarious. This is surely the root of things such as “talking past one another.”

    I may mean to communicate. Your purpose may be to obfuscate or indoctrinate. I may use words with deliberate precision. You may use them haphazardly. I may be sincere. You may be deceitful.

    • Anniel says:

      Like Queen Hillary and Obama. Not a single word of truth to be found anywhere.

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        Annie, I don’t remember who recommended the book, but I was reading the free Kindle sample of Idols for Destruction: The Conflict of Christian Faith and American Culture by Herbert Schlossberg, Charles Colson, Robert H. Bork and ran across this:

        Our anti-philosophers are especially vulnerable in this age, because the media fill our environment with popularized philosophies. Marshall McLuhan was right in saying that environments tend not to be noticed (although he exaggerated the effect). We see many of their explicit contents, but the environments themselves are imperceptible. 15 We do not see the environment, as Os Guinness says, because we see with it. That means we are influenced by ideas we do not notice and therefore are not aware of their effect on us. Or, if we see the effect , we find it difficult to discover the cause.”

        This is what I often refer to as the “Fishies swimming in the fishbowl who do not see the water they are swimming in.”

        And that brings to mind the idea that language, per se, isn’t often a matter of communication, at least not in the idea of mathematics communicating precise information, or even an artistic form of language such as poetry which tries to communicate an overall picture, thought, or feeling with the understanding that this artistic form is inherently fuzzy because much of the interpretation is about what the reader brings to it. Breathe.

        And I realized that a lot of the fuss we have over language is this division between communication and the other hidden, fishies-swimming-in-the-fishbowl, aspect: culture. And cultural ideas, including our very identities, are usually automatic and unconscious. It they weren’t, they wouldn’t be culture.

        These cultural ideas (beliefs, principles, dogmas, etc.) become ingrained and unnoticed because we see with it. They are pre-thought. They are the camera lens. It’s like having infrared film in your camera (in the pre-digital days). It will see some amazing things, such as this. But that is just a very narrow, if spectacular, part of the spectrum.

        And it’s not that the Left aren’t inherent liars. They are. But there’s also the aspect that they honestly (within the parameters of their assumptions) cannot imagine any other way of seeing (combined with the fact that they have been coerced, routinely emotionally shamed to stay inside that cultural box of seeing things just one way).

        It’s akin to John 11:40 whose essence is the adage that you don’t see to believe, you believe in order to see. Whether this is true in the case of Christian faith, the same idea applies: If one is stuck in the narrow bandwidth of Leftism, that is all one will ever be able to see and, using language, is all that you’ll be able to articulate.

        Given that Leftism tends to dispense with thought and substitutes pre-packaged nostrums, we get the result that we often witness. Instead of actual discriminating thought we get the equivalent of a monkey sitting at a keyboard where every key is linked to a pre-packed thought-byte. In essence, language (combined with cultural programming) alleviates the need for thinking among the Left. Sometimes it’s not just a matter of being inside a small spectrum. It’s like having your 35mm film camera already filled with exposed film, each frame with a different picture or frame shot by somebody else.

        The point of a classical Western Civilization education was to expand our site, to get a glimpse not only of the many fine things that went into building our civilization but went into building the rest of the world as well. Art. Culture. History. Science. Mathematics. Logic. Philosophy. Religion. All of that and more had as its point to create an educated and well-rounded person whose site would not be so artificially limited. He would have a wide-angle lens. He would by no means be omniscient. (That is not possible for us.) But he would have a wider and clearer vision.

        That is not what is being cranked out today by our narrow Leftist/Progressive culture. I just heard that a professor at Seattle University (I think that was the one Dennis Prager mentioned) was disciplined for wanting to teach about Western Civilization.

        Any child born into this progressive culture, whether or not they have had tradition and thoughtful parents, has a lot of blinkeredness to rub off. These precious little snowflakes think they are the height of brilliance and compassion. And yet this “brilliance” and “compassion” is extremely narrow…so much so that to actually study world history — a huge part of which is Western Civilization — is outlawed. These precious little snowflakes are dangerously narrow and spoiled. Look at the mob in San Diego (or wherever it was the Trump supporters were accosted by the Leftist mob while the Leftist drone police stood by and did nothing, all cheered on by their La Rasa mayor).

        Unfortunately I see Trump as just a continuation of this narrowness. But certainly he is a lightning rod at the moment of revealing just how narrow, bigoted, and intolerant these compassionate and enlightened snowflakes really are.

        And it comes to mind the nice things you’ve said of your talented son. I hope I didn’t scare him off a while back with any criticisms of what he wrote. He’s a good writer and should submit some more material. But I wonder if he doesn’t have some snowflake that needs rubbing off as well. He is always welcome here, although I know this is a tough crowd.

        This expanding is painful. We all tend to want to be precious little snowflakes walled off from conflicting ideas. And culture — particularly regarding the aspect of sex, as widely distributed as it is now — is so central for how to live with other people, there is seemingly no upside to expanding one’s spectrum. In fact, there is a definite downside. To actual expand one’s vision and become a more thoughtful, well-rounded person puts you at odds with the culture at large. You stand every chance of alienating yourself from this mob that pretends to be so tolerant, loving, forgiving, and nice.

        The use of precise, thoughtful language has not shown that it can routinely penetrate the emotional indoctrination done by this Progressive culture to the precious snowflakes. Their ideas are bound to melt somewhat with the coming trauma of violence and economic collapse. But the problem is, they already don’t have the ideas to deal with understanding what happened. Those conservatives who are of the “collapse” hypothesis — thinking that this will wake people up — are almost certainly wrong about that.

        And, lastly, regarding language, it is a chore, sometimes a painful one, to intersect with the insanity going on right now. To accurately describe it is to touch it to some extent. There is a price for precision. No wonder so many like staying inside a fog.

        • Timothy Lane says:

          People have to be willing to see. Many are, but too many just don’t want to think about it. So they just accept whatever they absorb by osmosis from the rotten culture.

          • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

            We talk of Orwellianism as if it is some strange disease found only in novels as a warning. But, really, what a job it would be to distinguish between normal cultural assimilation (after all, no man is an island) and groupthink.

            I think Progressives are clearly engaged in groupthink. Still, it’s very normal for various cultural subgroups to share such a tight in-group identity that a slightly paranoid, if not violent, “us against them” is the way they see the world. Sometimes such groups form in a response to be picked on by others, so it’s not necessarily irrational.

            And it would be a Herculean task to try to impart to young skulls–full-of-mush when unity is good, when too much is not good, when “diversity” is good, when too much is not good, etc. I’m sure Annie, Deana, or Glenn (either Glenn) could write a book on the subject and still leave much unsaid. It’s a yuge subject.

            And on-topic, it would be easier to translate from German to English than it would be to translate from conservative to Libtard.

            • Timothy Lane says:

              Groupthink is a risk for any group, but in the case of the collectivist left, it’s inherent from the start. In their case, to think for oneself is to place the individual above the group, which is unacceptable.

              According to The Road to Terror (part of Yale’s Annals of Communism series), this was a key aspect of the Yezhovshchina. If you challenged the charges, you were accusing the Party of being wrong. That was unforgivable. If you admitted wrongdoing, you might conceivably receive mercy (though in reality I wonder if anyone actually did).

              • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

                Yes, I think it is there from the start. Because Western Civilization isn’t being taught widely, and philosophy is now the province of Leftist professors who can only deconstruct wisdom, not pass it on, we can acknowledge these aspects that facilitate non-groupthink and hope someone is reading over our shoulders:

                1) An appreciation for, and understanding of, the concept of freedom of speech.

                2) The Christian central virtue of “love your neighbor and/or your enemy” — the antidote to, and opposite of, narrow parochialism or tribalism (which is not the point of multiculturalism or “diversity,” both of which are cheap knock-offs of the real thing).

                3) Human exceptionalism — the belief that every person has an inherent divine aspect and purpose and so it would be an offense against God and man to squelch his human potential in order to be a cog of the state (no matter how supposedly good and utopian the goal of the state is) and thus rob him of his ability to know and form his own mind.

              • Timothy Lane says:

                Those points do express a great deal of wisdom, which no doubt means they’re not being taught much today.

        • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

          To actually fight for our culture, it takes the will to open our eyes, the will to expend effort and the will to accept discomfort.

          I don’t know that so many people have the will in all three areas.

          • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

            As I’ve oddly noted before (sort of in the “Who the hell cares?” category), one of the reasons I hike and bike ride is to subject myself to some pain. Yes, a “runner’s high” can be had at the end of the trip. And that’s a good thing, as are the health benefits and psychological benefits of getting out in nature.

            But there is also the conscious experience of being a Flagellant. No, God know, not to pay penance for sins. But there is a therapeutic effect in knocking some of the branches off of the delicate, precious, six-sided little snowflake. That can certainly facilitate expansion.

  8. Anniel says:

    Reading all of the new comments here certainly opens many thoughtful aspects of the language conumdrum. I did find my copy of “Women, Fire, and Dangerous Things” written by George Lakoff. It deals with how we categorize our language by ideas that are undoubtedly wrong because human thought and imagination are left out and thus humanity is reduced to mere cogs in the wheel of all that makes us human. Kind of simply put there, sorry. But Lakoff, sort of like Brad on his bicycle, stresses how important the physical body is to our understanding.

    Last night I thought a lot about “the robots are going to take over the world” crowd in light of the philosophical implications set forth in Lakoff’s book. There will be no “singularity” where computers and robots take over the world. They do not achieve the human qualities of imagination, metaphor or real thought to do so.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      There will be no “singularity” where computers and robots take over the world. They do not achieve the human qualities of imagination, metaphor or real thought to do so.

      Among millennials and other yutes, apparently “trans-humanism” (all we needed was another “trans,” right?) is the utopia of choice. And it would be foolish given what we’ve already seen from computer technology to underestimate it.

      But because of this now over half century of familiarity with computers, we are finding they are wonderfully fast, but can only do what you tell them. And you can certainly give them some fancy programming that is flexible. But in the end, I do think there is an inherent limitation. Computers can only do what they are programmed to do. They are deterministic.

      Millennials are also snuggling up to atheism and materialism via this blind trust in technology. But there is indeed some kind of ghost in the machine that allows us to be more than a machine. Our minds allow us to escape the physical constraints of determinism. We can make leaps of logic, leaps of faith, and leaps of all types…something that arguably a computer will never do.

      But those are fighting words because, as we all know, “Humans are just machines and given time we can create something as good if not better.” Again, who knows? But this utopia being expressed through technology will likely be just as murderous and destructive as every other attempt at utopia.

  9. Anniel says:

    I can now try to THINK in Turkish for our weather. At least we must have a Turkish weatherman in Anchorage. He forecast “chance of showers” for yesterday. We awoke at 2 A.M. to a direct experience of torrential rains all day long. No inferences there. The forecast for today was for more rain, and both Bear and I inferred no rain, based on previous experience. So I think we must be progressing, at least in weather prognostication.

    It’s now 5pm and STILL no rain. We are directly enjoying sunshine.

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