Newspeak creepings

Shortly after having landed in Vancouver, I opened a newspaper and read how the city was installing new bins that were easier to open and dig through than the existing ones, in an apparent gesture of goodwill towards the town’s many “binning entrepreneurs“.

That made me feel good. What a considerate things to do, so typically Canadian to be concerned for the less fortunate. But there was something odd in that feeling. I felt good about the binning entrepreneurs too. About the way the destitute and the desperate were defined. Binning entrepreneurs. That made it sound good, like a real job, a step in the fantasy ladder we climb to get to the fantasy top.

Opportunity Street

Opportunity Street

en·tre·pre·neur

/ˌäntrəprəˈno͝or/
Noun
  1. A person who organizes and operates a business or businesses, taking on financial risk to do so.

Aren’t these binners a necessary ingredient of the welfare of a capitalist system, the given percentage that has to be poor to keep down salaries, the sacrificial lambs at the feet of the mirage that help profits climb to the top by chilling the masses’ rightful expectations of a fair shake at any level of their picturesque ascent towards paradise on Earth?

According to the tenets of the capitalist ideology, even if all of these people got off the street tomorrow and became big time recycling businessmen, an equal number of individuals would have to take their place as the poor and destitute, the starving and destroyed, in order for the capitalist economy to stay “healthy”. That’s just how it works.

But here it was, black on white – some people apparently seemed to choose dumpster diving as a career and, according to the definition, they even took financial risk to embrace their glamorous career! They’re just “partners” in the great rat race!

Still, something wasn’t quite fitting… as Chris Dillow mentions in his article Unemployment, Well-Being and Capitalism, “capitalism requires that there be not just unemployment but that the unemployed be unhappy”.

That created some sort of cognitive dissonance in my brain… The word entrepreneur, while not synonymous with happiness,  is definitely a positive word, full of uppity feeling, and yet I was pretty sure that most of these folks didn’t grow up dreaming of embracing binning as a career, and that the system is built in such way that the very poor ought not to be happy, lest many more people choose the path of happy poverty, without slaving for someone else just to stay away exactly from such careers as binning.

Just how many conflicting concepts such as binning entrepreneur did I hold in my brain?

One come readily to mind: “collateral damage” – it’s lateral, on the side, it’s damage like breaking a vase or hitting a wall, ops! Even google images seems to think collateral damage is almost fun, just a movie!

Another one is PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), which seemed to be something one catches, not too good but not too different either from a venereal disease. It’s out there, no one’s fault, no one to blame. Unlike the WWI “shell shock”, PTSD just made me feel like some minor disturbance that a pill or two might take care of. (maybe one of these pills).

As you live long enough you see words manipulated to affect people’s ideas. It is, indeed, Newspeak. George Orwell also had a good definition for the choice we make when confronted with cognitive dissonance, when we briefly understand there’s a conflict between what we are safer to believe, often the words we are offered by politicians and  “public relations” humanoids, and what we instead might know to be true.

from the Rational Wiki definition of Newspeak:

Crimestop means the faculty of stopping short, as though by instinct, at the threshold of any dangerous thought. It includes the power of not grasping analogies, of failing to perceive logical errors, of misunderstanding the simplest arguments if they are inimical to Ingsoc, and of being bored or repelled by any train of thought which is capable of leading in a heretical direction. Crimestop, in short, means protective stupidity.”

So yes, Newspeak is widely used, I’m sure you can find plenty more of it just paying attention, by acknowledging those slight pangs of discomfort that sometimes your brain experiences when hearing a word or a phrase.

Of course, like most, I am comforted by newspeak, I have a strong bellyfeel, like George Bush’s  “gutfeel”, or gut feeling as he naively called it, and so from that day on I started to refer to myself no longer as a debt slave, but as a successful debt entrepreneur…

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