Reality, I hate to report, is for losers — meaning people hesitant to make the world reflect their personal conceptions of perfection; likewise reluctant to insist that holdouts get with the program, fast.
A common trope of political commentary pegs Donald Trump (rightly, I don’t doubt) as a narcissist, hungry for the world to keep spinning in his personal orbit. The irony here is how much company that trait affords him over on the political left — say, in Berkeley, California.
In Berkeley, fountainhead of the cultural flash flooding we came to call “The ’60s,” the city council announces that singular is plural and you better get used to it. This is to further the city’s mission of obliterating gender distinctions within the city limits. The council has voted unanimously to eliminate “him” and “her” as well as “sisters” and “brothers” from the city government’s official vocabulary. Down the ol’ Orwellian memory hole! On with the task of building equality, or something.
The council has decided in the name of the people of Berkeley, as well as potential imitators of its works, to banish language descriptive or indicative of sexual identity.
A brother might be a brother and a sister a sister, but the only point of significance here is identities of which the council approves — and that doesn’t include brothers and sisters. In official Berkeley, those formerly called so are officially, and henceforth, “siblings.”
This way Berkeley government signals its vast and impressive commitment to the annihilation of sexual disparities in the official treatment of men and women. Not that one had known of any disparities in Berkeley after all these decades, but you evidently can’t be too careful these days.
Thus grammar — a device for making communication easier than it would be otherwise — goes out the window along with all the brothers and sisters. A singular noun, for orderliness, dictates a singular adjective; as, “Everybody (singular) has his (singular) — or her (also singular) — task.” But we don’t do gender-specific ’round here anymore, so it’s “Everybody (singular) has their (plural) task.” To what end? Not sure. Sending a statement, I guess — as other cities of progressive bent have decided to do, with regard to grammatical “rules” they see as restraining the tide of progress.
It’s hardly the end of civilization. Nor is Berkeley — oh, thank you, Lord! — the whole wide world. But, oh, the “statements” our culture sends out constantly these days — on race, sex, equality, and how tedious these statements become after a while. Like now. A feature of our culture, sadly, is telling others what they need to think and do: not bothering to explain why, just telling them.
Progressives, as our liberal friends tend to call themselves, are especially bad about trying to line people up in order to make them salute in unison. The idea seems chiefly to be the supplanting and suppression of ideas characteristic of the culture against which Berkeley, California, went to war 50 years ago — a culture subservient, supposedly, to the racist, sexist, imperialist instincts of white males. Worst of all, dead white males; the kind they made you study in school; always drawing distinctions between things high and things low; pointing to what they called the Good and the Wise and the Just.
Well! We’ll show ’em in Berkeley! We’ll disassemble their racist-sexist edifice of privilege piece by piece, through action of — wow! — the city council.
The plain old silliness of such an enterprise is what arrests the attention: the idea that we’ll turn Webster’s and Strunk & White to the service of human justice rather than using intellect and persuasion to the same end.
Those who fail to see how Donald Trump rose to cultural potency in our time need to wipe their reading glasses. Ours is a non-serious time. This is why the silly — e.g., the solemn removal of “he” and “she” from the roster of approved cultural adjectives — so often wins out in our affairs.
This may pass. Witch-burning did. But, oh, the singes on our garments from those wood fires!
William Murchison’s latest book is The Cost of Liberty: The Life of John Dickinson.
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