Limits of Language

I love to write and I love to read. However, language often is one of the most difficult things to explain in more concrete terms. Languages are malleable and are created for communication. Because of this languages can grow and change and this can create some fairly substantial problems. The term Orwellian, is thrown about a lot these days. It comes unsurprisingly from the infamous author George Orwell who is a fairly famous 20th century author. However, if one looks more into the man from which the word derives, you find out quickly that the man is far more complicated than the word. This may not surprise anyone who knows other people. I only bring this up because the term Orwellian often is used as scare term meaning that words are losing their meaning and that often nobody can agree on what terms actually mean anymore. Orwell’s most famous works are 1984 and Animal Farm, but these are only two of the many works that defined Orwell’s work. Unsurprisingly, and amusingly, the books actually generate some disagreement on the man Orwell’s actual political leanings. Right wingers see him as a champion against the totalitarian tendencies of big government and specifically of the Soviet variety. It is true that Orwell was very critical of totalitarianism but it is also true that he was a champion of the ordinary person. The terms that most likely are related to Orwellian are the terms used in 1984 that relate to the fictional government that we see in the work. Terms like doublethink, and newspeak, are things that right wingers like to attribute to postmodernism and other things. However, if one relies on stability of language to argue, than one is at a distinct disadvantage. Language is extremely prone to change because society changes. The more specific you get with your language the more likely it will not be universal. I know this seems like common sense but especially when it comes to communicating values and especially universal values, people seem to forget that language isn’t just about the words being said or even what most people think words mean. Words get meaning from what people think the meaning is. Because of this, people who live very different lives and who have different values and experiences may not see the world the same. Experience can hinder you from seeing words as what they are, tools for communication. If you cannot accept that words may mean slightly different things to different people, you cannot understand where someone is coming from. This doesn’t mean sacrificing your own values and beliefs. It merely requires you to actively try to understand other people. If we want to make a better world we must understand that our experiences, values and beliefs are not shared with everyone. Find common ground when you can but when you fundamentally disagree acknowledge it and if you must work with them you must acknowledge the difference and compromise honestly and in good faith. This is so important

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