Pull your head on out your hippy haze and give a listen
Why the words “Mother”, “father”, and “marriage” are important, and have a specific meaning; Abstracted From Reality: France Bans ‘Mother” and ‘Father’.
France is attempting to ban the words ‘mother’ and ‘father’, in the effort to declare that “marriage is a union of two people, of different or the same gender” and that they are simply the two “parents” of any children who belong to them. In order to this, there must be, apparently, no mothers or fathers anywhere. The abstract “parent” shall suffice.
The reason given by Christiane Taubira, France’s justice minister: ”Who is to say that a heterosexual couple will bring a child up better than a homosexual couple, that they will guarantee the best conditions for the child’s development?” She then reassured critics of the proposed law, “What is certain is that the interest of the child is a major preoccupation for the government.”
If the law goes through, then all references to “mother” and “father” will be erased from the civil code and replaced with the more abstract, cover-all, cover-anything term “parents.”
This is, of course, political.
Let’s focus on that shift to abstraction. It’s more important than you might think, because, as France is now demonstrating, he (or she) who controls the language controls the fundamentally human ability to speak about reality.
Stay with the author …
We now speak of “partners” rather than husbands and wives, because sexually linking up for indeterminate periods has replaced lifelong, heterosexual monogamy. “Partner” is sufficiently abstract to allow any number of individuals of whatever gender — it wouldn’t even restrict the relationship to other human beings.
Parents. Partners. Individuals. Relationships.
The reason is historically important: Modern individualism, invented by Thomas Hobbes and John Locke, didn’t want the family to be understood as the foundation of society.
Hobbes and Locke wanted to reject the Christian natural-law argument that the natural family (father, mother and children) was the natural foundation of society and the root of its moral order. In its place, they wished to substitute the all-desiring “individual,” a name that abstracts completely from gender — from male and female, father and mother, son and daughter. This individual, abstracted from any natural connections, is unbound to anyone by natural moral duties, and its only goals are self-preservation and self-interest. Such self-interested “individuals,” Hobbes and Locke argued, form society by a contract.
But this about more than just using different words. But this is Jeff Goldstein’s bag so I’ll let him explain. You see .. words have meaning.
Because it is who gets to control that meaning that is important — and what we’ve done, through a series of rejuvenated philosophical and linguistic “discoveries” (that date back, formally, to at least the sophists), is to problematize who is in control of what a text or speech act means.
But the trick is to press these modern-day sophists further — to ask, from what does that meaning derive, and who controls it (or, better, is it even possible to control such a thing)? Because it is there that the you’ll find the kernel assumptions that, when encountered, in real-word form by people like Harsanyi, manifest themselves in a kind of frustrating incarnation of hermeneutic collectivism — which, as I’ve been at pains to point out here, is precisely the kind of animating linguistic underpinning that leads inexorably to “progressive” politics, a denaturing of meaning as something that can be universally determined, and the will to power as the litmus test for deciding both meaning and, from there, provisional “truths”. Contingency, irony, solidarity.
For such a logically incoherent linguistic project to work, one must accept that “meaning” is derived solely from interpretation — a premise that is analogous to the philosophical idea that reality is wholy experiential. The idea behind this noxious notion of how language works along a communicative chain — gussied up and sold as the liberation and democratization of meaning, henceforth to be confiscated away from the autocrats (authors, utterers, ratifiers) who presume to lay claim to it and give its provenance over to the “people” (and here you can see its collectivist aspect) — is that the receivers of messages encounter signifiers (sound forms) which, through convention, they’ve learned to expect are signs (signifiers plus what they reference and signify). So far, so good.
Where it all goes horribly wrong, however, is at the next step — the one where receivers have been empowered to take those signifiers, apply whatever signifieds and referents they wish to the sound forms (“merit” goes from disinterested examination performance to white patriarchal “code” word “advancement through economic, racial, or sex-based privilege”), and either “add” these significances to the “meaning” of the original utterance (with the suggestion that the author wasn’t aware of the fullness of the language), or else declare that these interpretations are part of the author’s original meaning, and so s/he is responsible for any interpretation that a text or utterance seems to yield.
And this is done over and over and over again. Marriage and mom and dad are all homophobic terms, you see. Well, perhaps they’re not today. Today, they’re just exclusionary (and very likely h8tful).
So when Harsanyi asks, “words still have meanings, don’t they?” — what he needs to keep in mind is that it isn’t the words we need to worry about. It is those who have institutionalized the idea that intended meaning (the act, in most cases, of an individual — but one that is in all cases an individual act) can be stolen and then redistributed by an “intepretive community” — a collective — with its own intentions and passed off as the responsibility of the original author, that we need to push back against.
This is about more than just language and words. It’s about meaning, and what it means to be a mom and dad, or to be married. This is a progressive trend to break apart the traditional family structure. It’s about being a member of society, and not a member of your family. Which has it’s roots in communism.
With the transformation of the means of production into collective property the monogamous family ceases to be the economic unit of society. The private household changes to a social industry. The care and education of children becomes a public matter. Society cares equally well for all children, legal or illegal. This removes the care about the consequences which now forms the essential social factor-moral and economic-hindering a girl to surrender unconditionally to the beloved man. Will not this be sufficient cause for a gradual rise of a more unconventional intercourse of the sexes and a more lenient public opinion regarding virgin honor and female shame? And finally, did we not see that in the modern world monogamy and prostitution, though antitheses, are inseparable and poles of the same social condition? Can prostitution disappear without engulfing at the same time monogamy?
Here a new element becomes active, an element which at best existed only in the germ at the time when monogamy developed; individual sex love. Friedrich Engles, “The Origin of the Family”
But, now this is all just crazy talk, right?
No. No worries here.