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#1920 - 05/08/00 02:24 AM Politics and Words
jmh Offline
Pooh-Bah

Registered: 03/22/00
Posts: 1981
Here's a new thread so we can talk about the politics of words without distracting anybody who is looking for an answer to a simple (but none-the-less important)question like "How do you spell supercalifragelisticexpealidotious?" (you can answer that one in Q&A if you like twu)


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#1921 - 05/08/00 05:22 AM Re: Politics and Words
Philip Davis Offline
journeyman

Registered: 04/03/00
Posts: 81
OK. I'll start off.
How do folks feel about the habit of changing the descriptive terms used to describe people and conditions with which there is some political discomfort. I'll give a series of examples to illustrate what I mean.
Negro - Colored - Black - African American
Moron - Mental Handicap - Learning Disordered
Mad - Insane - Mentally Ill - Mental Health Problem
Crippled - Handicapped - Disabled
Queer - Homosexual - Gay.
Generally these terms are changed to reflect 'more enlightened' views with the hope of changing prejudices but rarely achieve this in my opinion. Are certain groups right to take on older terms and use them as proud labels? Did the 'Black is Beautiful' and 'Black Power' campaigns of the seventies do anything to establish Black as a more positive term? If they did why has african-american come into use? More generally can changing the word used to describe a condition actually change general attitudes?


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#1922 - 05/08/00 06:18 AM Re: Politics and Words
jmh Offline
Pooh-Bah

Registered: 03/22/00
Posts: 1981
The one I've been most involved with was "disabled".

The point made by the disabled people that I was working with was that "people with disabilities" was about being recognised as a person first, then as a person with a disability. Those that wanted to be called "disabled" saw themselves as disabled from society by virtue of having a disability as well as because of their specific disability.

I think that the biggest difference is who has put forward the new word - the people to whom the word would apply or others (perhaps wishing to create a euphemism). Use of the word "disabled" has been accompanied by a whole movement towards "disabled people" taking more control of their lives and being more active on committees and in charities. No more "does he take sugar".

It is such a personal subject I'm sure others will disagree.





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#1923 - 05/08/00 06:37 AM Re: Politics and Words
wsieber Offline
old hand

Registered: 03/15/00
Posts: 1026
Loc: Switzerland
>Are certain groups right to take on older terms and use them as proud labels?
Are we really in a position to judge this question? I think they did it after realizing that the euphemistic devices didn't help them a great deal. The latter generally flourish in times of budgetary restraint. Renaming things is still cheaper than solving a problem.


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#1924 - 05/08/00 11:42 AM Re: Politics and Words
Jackie Offline

Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 03/15/00
Posts: 11609
Loc: Louisville, Kentucky
Guess I'll be the first U.S. resident to take a shot at these loaded questions. Philip, you asked "can changing the word used to describe a condition actually change general attitudes?" I will give a qualified "Yes" to this, the qualification being, "as long as you know I don't mean
quick or widespread change in attitude." Many times I have
heard individuals say, after learning of a new way of seeing
something (or someone) that they had never before been aware
of the ramifications of their old view, and that they
intended to change for the better. The phrase I used in my
first sentence is an example: In the past, I would have simply said I was an "American", with no further thought, before it was pointed out to me that there are, in fact,
people actually living in Central and South America!

I hope, optimist that I am, that gradually this change will
spread to include the majority of folks everywhere. I also
hope that more of these folks will speak up, since it seems
that the loudest voices, which are often negative, often
sway the crowd's opinions. There is an old song that goes,
"One man's hands can't tear a prison down; two men's hands
can't tear a prison down; but if two and two and fifty
make a million, we'll see the change come 'round".

Wsieber, I agree that "we" (whoever that is) are not in a
position to judge "them" (whoever they are). Not many of
us can understand another's problems with little or no
frame of reference. If I look at trying to resolve the
problem from the underdog's (victim's?) position, the main
problem seems to me that there are too many different ideas/opinions, in a lot of cases, to form one strong
"This is what we want" slogan or whatever to stand behind.

My main question to you, though, is about your "budgetary
restraint" comment: surely you did not mean that literally, to cover all situations? Could you clarify?
I am assuming (oh, here I go again, probably making an a--
out of me but not u, I hope) that when you said,
"Renaming things is still cheaper than solving a problem.",
you did not mean strictly that a lack of money is the only
barrier. Your comment made me think of entirely too many
"leaders" who essentially do nothing but rabble-rouse:
make incite-ful (is that a word?) speeches but have no
real answers or even starting points to offer. The result
of this is usually that the crowd splits into various groups, each of which comes up with a different idea, and
no one person or group has enough clout to accomplish much.







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#1925 - 05/10/00 02:15 AM Re: Politics and Words
wsieber Offline
old hand

Registered: 03/15/00
Posts: 1026
Loc: Switzerland
Hi Jackie,
I very specifically questioned if we are in a position to judge whether it is "right" for certain groups to take on older terms and use them as proud labels. And of course I do not think that you can solve problems with money ALONE. But those requests that cost nothing to fulfill hardly ever cause dispute..
Best Regards
Werner Sieber


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#1926 - 05/10/00 07:15 AM Re: Politics and Words
Philip Davis Offline
journeyman

Registered: 04/03/00
Posts: 81
I think it's precisely those requests that cost nothing that are the most difficult to fulfill. It cost nothing to talk to the person in the wheelchair instead of the person pushing the wheelchair but this simple, courteous, action if often not done, even by professional who should know better. However, coming up with a way of changing attitudes requires much thought and fundamental changes in education. These changes may involve relatively cost but require much drive and leadership to overcome the social inertia. It's a lot easier to suggest you spend money on making physical changes. Of course, for people like me, who have disabling mental illnesses or impairments the only changes that help are changes to attitudes.

I noticed, with some dismay, the comments about mental illness 'care in the community' programme. My experience both as a giver and receiver of psychiatric care is that from an individuals point of view care in the community has had little effect on quality of life. Some chronically ill people now wander along the streets rather than along the corridors of psychiatric asylums but I don't see much actual difference. What putting the mad into the community has done up to now is to emphasis the fear of madness that is now coming to point where the UK government is considering forcing medication onto a wider group of people (as opposed to offering support - including medication). However, in my opinion, that care in community will eventual result in more positive attitudes to the mad given time, educational support and a wider introduction into all sectors of the community (not just the inner city and seaside grey ghetto towns).

It's just this sort of response and the time that such changes take that leads to groups being frustrated into trying to speed up changes in attitudes. In this words can be very powerful campaigning methods. Queer is much more forceful than gay. Mad is more forceful than 'mental health problem' There is, as yet, no great effort to put peoples attitudes to disability more in their face. (Ian Dury's anthem Spasticus Autisticus was a notable exception) but I'm starting my own campaign called 'We're not mad, we're mad!'


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#1927 - 05/10/00 08:12 AM Re: Politics and Words
Jackie Offline

Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 03/15/00
Posts: 11609
Loc: Louisville, Kentucky
Philip--
>It cost nothing to talk to the person in the wheelchair instead of the person pushing the wheelchair<
This is EXACTLY the kind of "speaking up" that I said
I hope people do more of! I like your slogan, too.


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#1928 - 05/11/00 05:45 PM Re: Politics and Words
Meta4 Offline
stranger

Registered: 05/01/00
Posts: 13
Loc: Sydney, Australia
I think Martin Luther King said words like "Don't look down on anyone unless you're helping them up"


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#1929 - 05/12/00 05:02 AM Re: Politics and Words
jmh Offline
Pooh-Bah

Registered: 03/22/00
Posts: 1981
This came up in discussing the kind of UK papers where the best crosswords are found. There is a wonderful list of the kind of people who read UK newspapers but in the meantime, here are few definitions from a frequent traveller to assist (???) inter-cultural understanding.

I always find definitions of political words interesting.

Political Party

In the UK A political party is defined by its core beliefs. Of the two largest parties, the Conservative party is regarded as being broadly right wing. The Labour Party is regarded as being broadly (nowadays very broadly) left wing.

In the USA its traditional base of supporters defines a political party. Within each party are far right and centre right factions, there is no electable party which represents a left wing viewpoint.

In US politics the UK Conservative party would be left wing and the UK Labour Party would not exist.

In the UK - liberal = warm, gentle person, prone to wearing woolly jumpers and thinking kind thoughts about people, the environment and animals.

In the USA liberal = someone who engages in left wing political activity, the sort of person you would be embarrassed to have round to dinner because of their weird thoughts about social spending on free healthcare for all.

In the UK socialist = warm, gentle person, prone to wearing woolly jumpers and trying to do something to help people, the environment and animals.

In the USA - socialist = someone who engages in left wing political activity and is active in encouraging a Russian invasion of the United States, the sort of person you would be unlikely to meet, let alone have round to dinner because of their weird thoughts about social spending on free healthcare for all and other communist structures.

All this written with my tongue firmly in my cheek!

Please reply and say that this isn't correct!



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