America the Failed Experiment: "I Don't Think That's a Word" and Other General Folly

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Column by Alex R. Knight III.

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Did you know that America has the smallest constitution of any other tax-farm on Earth? It was, of course, ostensibly designed to produce the most limited and least intrusive State in all of history. Yet, the American State is now the largest empire to ever exist in all the time humans have walked the world, with the hugest, most destructive military bar none. In fact, the American government has more laws, more prisoners, and more debt than any other, now or ever.

If those facts alone are not indicative of not just failure, but failure on a most grand and utterly spectacular scale, then I can’t fathom what else would be. The polar opposite of what America was intended to become has already long-since taken root and is now considered the norm. And yet virtually any suggestion that it should be scrapped in favor of more intellectually and philosophically evolved alternatives is generally greeted with anything ranging from deep skepticism to frothing-at-the-mouth rage.

And I have often asked myself why.

Just recently, I was in a roundtable academic discussion, and a history teacher present happened to use a term she thought particularly witty (and so did I), but then quickly followed up with, “But I don’t think that’s a word.”

The discussion moved on quickly, and there wasn’t time or opportunity for me to say what instantly came to mind, but I have time at the moment, and so I’d like to ask, “Who, pray tell, gets to decide what is, or what is not, a word?”

Is it some team of Ph.D.’s in English from Cornell and Oxford with patches on the elbows of their suede jackets who annually appoint themselves the guardian angels of all things Anglo? Just who is barred from coining or inventing a word -- and then putting it to use in either writing, speech, or both, without any outside approval – and who is not? Can’t a reasonably intelligent practitioner of word-usage in their native language convey meaning or concepts after their own fashion? Few people are going to speak wholesale nonsense (not that this should ever be a crime either), but rather some verbal invention that will be implicitly understood by a receiving party of similar linguistic knowledge. It happens (and has been happening) all the time, in fact, in the pop-cultural, tech-driven world we increasingly live in. Did you know that Google even got their name from hard-boiled crime writer Raymond Chandler, who made up the word for a section of first-person narrative in which the speaker was poking fun at science-fiction?

It’s not the limited effect such arbitrary appeals to some imagined word-authority have in factual reality, nearly so much as it is the raw psychology behind it; the far more grim societal ramifications. The rubric is such: I may attempt nothing on my own without approval from someone who claims for themselves – by writ or by word -- greater power or influence in a certain area than I have done. Regardless of whether the job can be successfully accomplished without this kind of senseless self-abasement. Absent any actual examination of the alleged credentials that would grant these arrogators of institutionalized pomp and circumstance such absurd levels of exclusivity. An unthinking abstention from invoking one’s own unique powers of invention, to the detriment of actual innovation. Indeed, what could be more obtuse?

Yet most people engage in this kind of thinking on a routine basis, conditioned from early youth to defer to those holding political office, those wearing uniforms, those wearing badges, enforcing taxation, and other forms of arbitrary obedience with lethal zealotry. Government is, after all, necessary (so this kind of thinking goes, at any rate), and so we must subsume ourselves to its overarching supremacy in the name of peace, justice, and order . . . even as it repeatedly produces anything and everything but.

And this, in short, is why the idea called America – allegedly mankind’s best chance so far for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, according to self-proclaimed purpose -- has so abundantly failed.

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Alex R. Knight III's picture
Columns on STR: 138

Alex R. Knight III is the author of numerous horror, science-fiction, and fantasy tales.  He has also written and published poetry, non-fiction articles, reviews, and essays for a variety of venues.  He currently lives and writes in rural southern Vermont where he holds a B.A. in Literature & Writing from Union Institute & University.  Alex's Amazon page can be found here, and his work may also be found at both Smashwords and Barnes & Noble.  His Facebook page can be found here.  Receive Alex's occasional Tweets here.

Comments

John deLaubenfels's picture

I feel kinda bad for the teacher, who is cast into a role of exemplifying What's Wrong With America, all because of a quick half-apology.
 

Nevertheless, your point about the timid mindset of most Americans is without question correct.

 
I enjoy making up new combinations of syllables, and when my wife asks, "Is that a word?", I always answer "It is now."
 

Paul's picture

"I feel kinda bad for the teacher..."

Ha ha. :-)

Anarchoblake's picture

I've tooken to creating new words myself, and the most entertaining part is when I hear the mass of children I work with using them.
As far as teacher exemplifying what's wrong with america, working at a school deigns those in the profession as the most hobessian and totalitarian among us. They would be elated if they could beat the kids, as their resource officers are allowed to do.

Paul's picture

I don't think of America as an experiment, much less as an experiment that failed (anyway experiments do not fail in the usual sense, but simply by failing to convey accurate information, in which case they are simply called "inconclusive").

I am in the process of reading this book:
http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0300152280?psc=1&redirect=true&ref_=oh_...

In it, the author makes the case that states were difficult to set up in SE Asia since they depend on concentrations of exploitable humans in compact areas - in that case, where rice cultivation predominated.

Well, what was America? In effect, one gigantic rice paddy. The population shot up like a rocket, production became enormous, and vast amounts of cash started flowing toward the governments. Is it any wonder we ended up as we did? How could it have gone otherwise?

There is no failure here (other than the fantasies of constitution, "rights" and all the rest). There is just the normal progression of human societies.

There *are* some differences, that I have written about here:
http://strike-the-root.com/how-americans-are-exceptional
And there are no doubt other differences. Are they enough to steer us into new territory, something different than the normal human progression? I believe so, but at my age, I won't be around to see. Oh well...