Something I've Also Noticed

A blogger I've only just learned of recently, thanks to AVI, warns that many people are conditioned to accept and even to proclaim falsehoods. A particular example that he raises, which has bothered me for decades, is the habit of naming things like subdivisions with blatantly false names.
Canadians, for instance — who are among the nicest people in the world; who wouldn’t hurt a fly; who won’t complain about anything, however painful; and will spontaneously apologize to inanimate objects if they happen to collide with them — will suddenly become downright stroppy if one expresses an idea which their betters have ruled to be “not nice.” They will tell you that they “have problems with that.”

One must resist the temptation, simply to give them problems, e.g. by using non-euphemistic language. (Example: you are allowed to be abstractly opposed to abortion; but you are certainly not allowed to be against killing babies.)

Yet, under delicate cross-examination, in the spirit of Mr Socrates’ kindly niece, one finds that they might do it themselves — might express many of these not-nice ideas — if they thought they could get away with it. (We have free speech in Canada, but only between consenting adults.) Their disapproval is an anxious concession to the requirement for niceness, with its comfortable mental and spiritual inanition. It is the line of least resistance when any third party might be within hearing. Alone, with only the not-nice person to talk with, their “problems” begin to disappear.

Secretly, I suspect that across a range of issues, and commercial products, people pretend even to themselves that they like things they actually abhor. Or rather, I think this openly, even though it may not be nice.

The advertising agencies (which work with equal enthusiasm on commercial and political products) know this. It is why Democrats and Liberals exist. It is why products that are obviously not good for any conceivable environment are sold as “ecological” and “organic.” It is why new subdivisions are called “Mountainview” when there is no mountain in sight. Or, “Meadowview” when they are in the heart of an asphalt jungle.
I am always relieved, and even impressed, when I encounter someone who does not give in to this temptation -- even if they say things that are conventionally offensive or dispiriting. On the road to Ballground, Georgia,* there is a subdivision that is actually called "The Preserve at Long Swamp Creek." Just as the name suggests, it sits on the banks of Long Swamp Creek. There's a certain honor in that kind of honesty.

* Ballground itself is descriptively named for a Cherokee game that was played there. I have always heard that it was used as a form of dispute resolution, winner-take-all.


Anonymous said...

Ever been to "Chicken" Alaska

Guess whats in Chicken? Guess how it got its name?
Now there is an honest name.


Tom said...

That's a great little article.

Situated way out in the vast wilderness, Chicken had a population of seven in the last census. Even so, it is a town sharply divided into Upper Chicken and Lower Chicken, with bitter rivalry between the factions.

Ymar Sakar said...

This world is corrupt, why would anyone want to adapt themselves to it, except for necessity's sake.

Grim said...

"Therefore your end is on you,
Is on you and your kings,
Not for a fire in Ely fen,
Not that your gods are nine or ten,
But because it is only Christian men
Guard even heathen things.

"For our God hath blessed creation,
Calling it good. I know
What spirit with whom you blindly band
Hath blessed destruction with his hand;
Yet by God's death the stars shall stand
And the small apples grow."

raven said...

my wife is fond of saying that "subdivisions are named for what they destroyed in order to build them"