Friday, June 02, 2006

Slogans are usually devoid of meaning.

Slogans are almost always dumb. They are supposed to be pithy, clever and cute but invariably they are idiotic and silly. The Left has some dumb ones: "People before profits." Who do they think earn profits? How do they think the profits are earned but by supplying people with things they want. A businessman who doesn't pay attention to people, his customers, can't earn profits unless he has government help in stealing it. And if he does have government help in stealing money it is almost always done via legislation promoted and supported by the Left.

Conservatives these days are even sillier. They didn't used to be but then that was before they were Bushified, dumbed down, religioned up, and Anne Coulterfied. For them slogans are meant to replace arguments. Here is one that I just saw which struck me as dumb: "If you're reading this in English, thank a veteran."

I was reading it in English. Should I thank a veteran? Why? Now presumeably veterans fought in wars. The American government was on the winning side in some of those wars. Therefore these victories are the reason we speak English. Why is this dumb? Well, lets start with the last war that the US obviously lost: Vietnam. Americans are not speaking Vietnamese as a result of losing that war. If the US wises up and brings the troops home from Iraq nothing will change for American culture particularly language. Americans won't suddenly be having to speak Arabic.

Now if we are going to thank a veteran it must be that whoever came up with this contentless statement can only be referring to the more recent wars. It would be damn hard to thank a veteran from the Spanish-American War for instance. In fact it's unlikely you'll be running into veterans from World War I much either. If somebody enlisted at 17 years old and if he fought for one day before the armistice was signed he would have been born in 1901. That would make him 105 today. And that is really pushing it for including him as a veteran of that war. So I think it fair to consider from World War II onwards.

Take the Second World War. America was on the winning side. Germany was not. So we thank veterans that Americans speak English. Presumably that would mean Germans speak English too. They lost! But they speak German. Who do they thank for that? Veterans who lost? It appears that regardless of which side won and which side lost the people of those countries still speak the languages they spoke before the war. In fact Germany was on the losing side in two major wars and they still speak German decades later. The Russians conquered Poland and kept it under their iron fist for half a century and the Poles still speak Polish. What this implies is that veterans are not the reason Americans speak English.

Surely they can't mean that all fighting was wonderful regardless of the outcome of the war. If we really twist the facts to assume that without a victory in World War II we'd all be speaking German I presume these are the veterans we are supposed to thank. We are thanking them for winning. But does this then mean we condemn Vietnam Vets because that war was lost? And if it was lost was it their fault? No, the veteran boosters will say, the loss is the fault of the people who ran the war. Fine. But then shouldn't they get the credit for the wars that were won? Blank out.

But what if the US had never entered World War II? We would neither have won the war nor lost it. The fantasies that Germany would have invaded the US is pretty absurd -- they couldn't even get to England. So without a victory, without any veterans the result would be --- well, we'd still be speaking English. Perhaps there were other reasons to fight, and this is not the place to debate it, but speaking English is not one of them.

Of course there is one obvious reason you read that slogal in English. You read it in English because that was the language it was written in. I could have it published in German and in Germany and Austria and Switzerland lots of people would be reading it in German. The English wouldn't be reading it. Since it was written in English who but English readers could possibly be reading it. It's not so profound.

And what if we didn't speak English? So what? If everyone in the United States spoke German or French would that be a disaster? Germans do quite well with German and the French seem to understand each other fine. I, on the other hand, will never understand the French. Is there some supposed innate superiority to English that this slogan is meant to imply?

Or is this just supposed to be some sort of praise, albeit misplaced, that they think veterans automatically deserve? I don't know. Slogans, because they are so simplistic, actually don't say very much when you analyze them. The quickest way to indicate you aren't thinking is to use a slogan.