Monthly Archives: September 2016

Meaning

On the night of 6/7/2016 I heard on TV a journalist/political commentator Chuck Todd say that Donald Trump had his worst week on the worst week possible of the primaries. This comment made an impact on my feelings about what is going on today at this moment in our political life as a society.

We all want to improve the lives of everyone, we all want to have better conditions for our living standards and wellbeing. We come together through “politics” to establish civilized rules of engagement, where words matter. It is clear that having correct and accurate semantic interpretation of what it is said is of paramount importance in our social relationship. People can’t just say what ever they feel and expect that the listener will get a different idea of what is said. That is one problem today with how spinning words that mean something are made to mean something different.

Take the words “conservative” and “liberal”, they should mean something but after may years of spin these words have lost their meaning. Depending on who utter them they will have a pejorative meaning. For a “liberal” a conservative person is an uneducated, retrograde, regressive individual who is not prepared for the demands of a continuous changing world. For a “conservative” a liberal is someone who is lazy and depending on other’s work, drug-addict who wants to destroy our way of living.

Of course in reality this is not true. Liberals and conservatives want the best for all, as individuals and as a community. Why is then that appears to be such a deep division in our society today? Can we blame the “media”? Can we blame “special interest”? Can we blame “education”?

Is the problem today that we are so lazy (in general) or so busy that we don’t take the time to think about the meaning of words anymore? I’m reflecting on this now because on the one hand I am teaching my students of chemistry the meaning of very specific words like “mole” that have a quantitative as well as qualitative narrow meaning; and on the other hand I am listening to the news where it appears that no word has meaning. Take for example the word “immigration.” In the news of the last days people have been talking about the “problem of (illegal) immigration” in a way that doesn’t make any sense but individually people appear to make sense of it because they create the meaning that they want.

In one of my classes last spring as we were talking about human nature and the meaning of names I asked my students: What is the name of this country? My students were perplexed, and looked at me intrigued! How can ask such a stupid question? So when I insisted with my question they replied derisively “America”! Of course they were wrong as this country is not named America as America is the name of the continent. So I clarified my question by telling them that a name is something like “Oregon”, “Canada”, “Great Britain”, etc. Immediately they came with the name: United States of America! Which is not really a name but an idea! My point being that when The United States of America was founded the founding fathers were thinking about an ideal, were thinking about a place where there were not going be labels of nationality as all of them were immigrants and came here to a land of opportunity given by the fact that “all men were created equal.” This is for me the main reason why this is the country of the future now and has been for many years and for many (immigrants) who have labored in order to make it so.

We have much to learn, and we will.

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