"The only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others. His own good, either physical or moral, is not sufficient warrant." ~ John Stuart Mill
Slavespeak, Part I
Column by tzo.
Exclusive to STR
An individual will quite naturally assume that he is in control of the language that he uses. He selects the words and phrases he feels are necessary to express himself or to describe people, places, and events in the world around him. He is the ultimate master over this tool that exists to facilitate his communication efforts, just as he is the master of the thoughts and ideas that are behind the language he uses. It all originates in his own brain and there’s no one else is in there with him.
Or can language at times actually control the individual more than the other way around? But if language is a tool, and it is controlling a person, then who is controlling the language? Can some people, to some extent, remote-control other people through the use of language? Interesting question, that.
Frederick Mann posits the existence of such a control mechanism, which he calls Slavespeak. I would like to borrow his term and some of his ideas and use them here to examine how this type of language may indeed be a dangerous, double-edged tool.
Let’s begin by deconstructing a commonly-used little two-word phrase, question authority. There are multiple contexts in which this phrase is used, but the one I wish to examine is, I believe, its most common usage: "A State-appointed ‘authority’ is telling me what to do (or what not to do), and instead of just blindly obeying, I should ask myself if what he is telling me to do is wrong."
On the surface, this seems reasonable. What’s wrong with questioning what you are told to do? After all, you shouldn't take actions that are harmful to yourself or others, and so if you are told by an “authority” to undertake an action that you feel may cause harm (and this includes the action of not taking action, as in the case of being told to get out of the way and let the “authorities” do their jobs, which may be causing harm), it makes sense that you raise an objection.
But authority does not just float around in the air, waiting for the first person to come along and grab it in order to wield it over others. Nor does it magically infuse itself into individuals who manage to secure the support of a sufficient number of others so as to crush any objections to their claim.
No, authority resides in each individual human being, this fact deriving from the axiom that each person controls/owns his own body. You have innate, inalienable authority over yourself, as do I. It is logical, natural, and just. So how may I acquire the ability to have authority over you? By what logical, natural and just process?
The only answer that satisfies all the conditions involves you voluntarily granting authority to me—and this in no way eliminates the authority that continues to reside within you—it is merely an extension of that authority. You do not lose your authority over yourself, and you may at any time withdraw the extended authority that you grant to me. I cannot rightfully become your master against your will. This is all quite logical, natural, and just.
So now let's examine question authority under this light. You grant me an extension of your authority, and I propose to compel you to perform some act (or I myself perform some act) that you do not approve of. What will you do? Will you question authority? Or will you simply withdraw the extension of authority and eliminate the temporary power I enjoyed until I misused it? The authority that was voluntarily extended always remains yours. It was never transferred to me and it can always be withdrawn at any time.
Since authority never leaves your own body, question authority translates into question yourself. This is certainly never a bad idea, but it also means that the responsibility for whatever actions you undertake lie squarely with you, yourself, and you. "I was just following orders" means "I was just doing what I told myself to do." Well, obviously. That also means you possess the control over—and bear the full responsibility of—your own actions. In this light, the phrase question authority really serves no good purpose other than to confuse the otherwise straightforward and easily understood question yourself.
And this confusing extra layer of seemingly innocuous complexity is the mechanism by which language can be made to exert control over the person who chooses to use certain words and phrases.
In this case, the question authority statement subtly introduces an external authority that the user accepts as an individual to whom he is naturally subordinate, and I would contend that this is the very definition of a master/slave relationship. And since no one wants to be a slave, then in order for such a relationship to be accepted, the relationship must be disguised. That is the function of the word “authority” here. Question my Master is a bit too obvious to work well as a subliminal controlling mechanism.
A Tool of Deception
This externalization of authority is the foundation of the Slavespeak language. All Slavespeak is based on the premise that there exists external authority and that the individual must subordinate himself to that higher power. Since reality shows us quite clearly that those claiming “authority” over others are just human beings—the same as those over whom they claim to have power—then any such claim can be identified as being merely an inadequate attempt to justify a master/slave relationship.
But once this concept of external authority has been accepted, then an avalanche of supporting words and terms can follow: Government, tax, war, citizen, democracy, Constitution, legislator. All rely on the premise that authority justly resides outside of individuals and must be obeyed.
Slavespeak is dedicated to utilizing, while at the same time disguising or explaining away, this invalid concept of external authority. It hides the widespread master/slave relationship that exists in today’s societies by calling it a government/citizen relationship. The Slavespeak definitions for “government” and “citizen” make this perfectly acceptable to the citizens/slaves, many of whom actually take great pride in their citizenship.
The language thus drives the thoughts and ideas these citizens have, which in turn drive behaviors and actions that reinforce the unacknowledged but very real master/slave relationship. The Slavespeak language they utilize paints a pretty mental picture of well-meaning public servants working hard in the best interests of their citizen bosses.
They are proud to be slaves, because they are in charge. These types of contradictions can be found at all levels of Slavespeak, but are never acknowledged by its users. Ignoring these contradictions is essential to hiding the true facts, which protects the self-esteem of those who are being exploited. Thus the exploited have intrinsic motivation to avoid seeing the bitter truth, even when they have reason to suspect that something is up.
Because nobody wants to feel like the 98-pound weakling getting sand kicked in his face. Hey, the big guy is actually my buddy and we both get a laugh out of him kicking sand in my face. It's just a thing between us. I know what it looks like, but we get along famously. He's really a great guy. Truth is, he couldn’t get by without me. Whaddaya mean, you don't want him to kick sand in your face? Are you weird or something?
Slavespeak arises and continues because it provides advantage to the masters. They utilize Slavespeak as a way to get inside the slaves’ heads and remote-control autopilot them from a distance by misrepresenting the true nature of the relationship between them.
“It is hard to fight an enemy who has outposts in your head.” ~ Sally Kempton
Just Arguing Semantics?
But come on, what’s the real harm in using the word “authority” in the phrase “question authority”? It really doesn’t matter if you call them “authorities” or “thugs,” you know what I mean. Quit arguing semantics and absorb the meaning, because you know what I’m trying to say.
I do know exactly what you are trying to say. But I do not think you mean what you think you mean when you say it. You are complaining about your master in Slavespeak, and I would like you to recognize this fact and stop accepting that master/slave relationship as being valid or unimportant or nonexistent. Words matter very much here. Until you drop the Slavespeak, you will continue to generate Slavethoughts and Slaveideas, which will drive you to perform Slaveactions.
The language you are using here drives your thoughts, ideas, and actions more than the other way around. This language has locked you down into the confines of a labyrinth that you can’t even see, much less escape. This is not merely arguing semantics.
Consider Hans Christian Andersen’s The Emperor’s New Clothes. If this tale is taken as an allegory about government and the illusory finery that it surrounds itself with in order to impress and distract, then the story points out how the deluded people accept the illusion and are blinded to reality. The little boy cuts through the obvious misdirection and the crowd suddenly begins to talk about the emperor not having any clothes.
But still they remain deluded, because there is still another layer they have yet to cut through. By utilizing the Slavespeak term “emperor,” they keep themselves locked into a master/slave relationship with that person. Again, this is not a matter of semantics. Their language clearly implies a hierarchy, and they automatically render themselves subservient when they choose to use this particular word.
Simply by using the word “emperor” as if valid, they project the illusion into reality and give support to this external “authority.” They subordinate themselves to him through their own language, and it is a single word that controls them even more than does the emperor.
Rational human beings should ask, “Why does this naked man walk through the streets, and why does he call himself ‘emperor’? Is he proclaiming his authority over us by using that title? Then either he thinks we are all dupes or he is mentally ill.”
This is clear thinking, and is impossible to obtain while there exists language that sets off emotional bombs in the brain. The word “emperor” exists in the people’s brains, and it drives their thoughts and ideas, which drive their behavior and actions. But a crazy naked man walking through the streets believing he commands everyone around him is simply a crazy person. If he has a bunch of enforcers around him with swords, then he’s a thug.
The word “emperor” had to be invented so that thugs with delusions of grandeur and an uncanny sociopathic ability to attract a supporting gang around them could seem like a legitimate external authority.
Part II to follow.