Language is constantly evolving; words are created, and fall out of common use. Meanings shift like the tide, and subtle nuances become bold statements without adding or taking away a single letter. To an extent this is an inescapable reality of the spoken word, and always has been and always will be. But should we be so quick to devalue a word?
Shakespeare wrote in his famous tragedy Romeo and Juliet that “a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” However, by changing and devaluing a word we play a dangerous game, unintentionally resulting in the mediocritizing of a vast swath of ideas and figures. And this happens to words denoting meanings both noble and abhorrent. Take a look at the words ‘Fascist’ and ‘Justice’. Two words, drastically different, but both carrying a heavy weight of emotion invoking imagery; and somehow both seeing that weight drop daily.
The word ‘fascist’ traditionally elicits visions of grim-faced despots maliciously guiding their people to complete authoritarianism, committing genocide and all sorts of atrocities along the way. However, at the present moment, the same word produces nothing more than an eye-roll from anyone politically to-the-right of Bernie Sanders.
This is what happens when you overuse your ‘linguistic-capital’ and label all dissenting opinions as fascist. Were President Trump to actually enact a dangerous, authoritarian policy, the fascist label could then provoke people to seriously consider the merits, disadvantages, and motives of said policy.
But unfortunately the President’s opponents have decided to label him as a fascist, as well as a racist and a Nazi, at every turn- with absolutely no evidence or substantiation of any kind. For the past year and a half (really the past 8), the Left has been the ‘Boy Who Called Fascism,’ and now no one is listening.
Justice is “the administration of law” or “the quality of being just, or impartial.” Justice is an all encompassing concept that has traditionally been highly regarded in Western Society. One could argue that a love of Justice is one of the foundational aspects of the civilizations of the West, which brought us the modern world.
So why is it now that justice has been amended to require all sorts of preceding qualifiers and subsections? Today we see social justice, racial justice, social-economic justice, ethnic justice, and ‘_______-justice’ ad nauseum. An action is either just or unjust, and by segregating things into different kinds of justice with different standards and different rules we stand to weaken the meaning of the root word.
Indeed, justice is absolute. It has been the same since the beginning of humanity, whether it was enforced as such or not, but social justice for example, relies on liberal arts undergrad students, and self-important city council members from Seattle and Los Angeles to define what justice is.
Humans may judge and discern justice, but is it wise for us to allow certain people to define it? Even if one agrees with the current definitions of the various justice movements, consider how you’d feel once another group takes over and decides to implement their own meaning with their own agenda.
Yes, rhetoric is unarguably weakened by the careless misuse of our language, but much more than that the desensitization to fascism and a relativistic view of justice stand to be a much larger threat to our Liberties.