George Lakoff is a linguist who has taught us a new way of looking at our political dialogue and discussion. He has made us aware of the way we “frame” our arguments and made us sensitive to our opponents’ assumptions through the metaphors they use. At times his analyses seem flatfooted and patronizing, but, as is true of Noam Chomsky, we ignore him at our peril.
Lakoff has written a new fascinating essay, “What Conservatives Really Want,” that is being given wide distribution by Reader Supported News. a progressive email subscription service. [Here] (He writes that the piece is “dedicated to the peaceful protestors in Wisconsin, February 19, 2011.”)
Lakoff lists some of the issues which are at stake today from women’s rights to collective bargaining, from public broadcasting to food safety and on and on. However, Lakoff says that budget deficits are only a ruse. He argues that: [Here]
The central issue in our political life is not being discussed. At stake is the moral basis of American democracy.
...Conservatives really want to change the basis of American life, to make America run according to the conservative moral worldview in all areas of life.”
Lakoff points out that the Conservative moral view is that of a strict father-dominated family. The father decides everything, rules with an iron hand and physically disciplines his children. It is only in this way that children learn the inner discipline and morality necessary to be materially successful. The less prosperous folks in society demonstrate their lack of discipline (and low morality) by lack of riches.
I hope that this essay earns a wide audience. It describes the Conservative’s lack of empathy and simple humanitarianism that saddens and enrages liberals and progressives. I am sorry that Lakoff does not label this heartless conservatism as an updated form of Calvinism. It certainly is pure neoliberalist thinking.
(Speaking of which, I hope that we are prepared for the release on April 15th of the movie version of Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged Part I.) We should also be prepared for the media frenzy around its release. I wonder if Mr. and Mrs. Alan Greenspan will walk the red carpet.
Lakoff also warns Democrats that they should not use Republican language such as “entitlements” for earnings and reminds us that pensions are deferred payment for work performed.
Words are important and Lakoff should give Democrats a new lexicon. Look how the GOP has tried to eliminate the adjective “Democratic” from their vocabularies by using "Democrat" when referring to the opposition party. Maybe it doesn't matter but it sounds jarring, ungrammatical and just plain wrong to my ear.
Perhaps we could be clever enough to frame language so that the entire GOP message sounds jarring, ungrammatical and just plain wrong.
It's certainly worth a try...