Macaulay Honors College Seminar 2, IDC 3001H

Author: Eddie Farhi

Politics and the English Language

We didn’t really have any significant discussions this week, so it was really tough for me to come up with a topic for this post. Although it didn’t have anything to do with immigration, I did hear one small conversation that came up on Wednesday in which we discussed the use of language. Some claim that in word choice using the simpler word is always the better option. One of the main proponents of this view was George Orwell. Orwell is a writer most famous for his works 1984 and Animal Farm. He also explored his view on language itself in his essay called “Politics and the English Language.” He claims that our use of language is the result of the political climate of the time. Politics he claims is what dictates the use of language which ultimately influences how we think. Some political bodies, like Soviet Russia and Nazi Germany, used big words and euphemisms to cover up lies and make atrocities sound moral. This would cause the people of those countries to use the same unclear language by believing those lies. In of the most telling passages Orwell writes:

“In our age there is no such thing as ‘keeping out of politics’. All issues are political issues, and politics itself is a mass of lies, evasions, folly, hatred, and schizophrenia. When the general atmosphere is bad, language must suffer. I should expect to find — this is a guess which I have not sufficient knowledge to verify — that the German, Russian and Italian languages have all deteriorated in the last ten or fifteen years, as a result of dictatorship.”

Orwell makes a really interesting side point that everything is a political issue.  He was writing in 1946 and it seems to be even more truthful now. Every argument now seems to have a political undertone.

The other point he made was that politics is a “mass of lies…”. This seems to be one of the prevailing reasons why Donald Trump won the presidency. People became fed up with the typical political establishment viewing them as a mass of lies, and Trump represented a change from that. Although, he may not be so innocent as we have learned in the news.

Works Cited

Is the American Dream dead?

Today, one of the things we discussed was the American Dream. In the novel Netherland, the character Chuck is the archetype of this dream. He represents the optimism and patriotism in the American system. Nowadays there is a rising pessimism in the American Dream. Some are even proclaiming it to be dead.

Is the American Dream dead? Research has shown that on average 30-year-olds now are earning less than their parents. Also, the income gap is larger than ever before. In monetary terms, it seems like the American Dream is dying, but I don’t think that’s the whole story. I don’t believe that money is what the American Dream is about. The Constitution promises all Americans the right to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” We have become so fixated as a society on equating money to happiness that we lost touch with what happiness truly means. Happiness can found no matter how much money you have. What made me realize this was speaking with my parents and grandparents who are all immigrants. They spoke of their struggles and persecution against them. America afforded them a life of comfort and rights they couldn’t have imagined. This is where they found happiness. As a native born American I think I can sometimes lose sight of this. We need to find what truly makes us happy and find meaning in our lives. America gives us the right to pursue this dream. This to me is what the American Dream truly is, and it seems to be alive and well but you just have to take advantage of it.

Modern American Stereotyping

One of the things we saw at the Museum of Chinese in America, as well as something we discussed in class on Monday and throughout the semester, was how certain groups of people became stereotyped in America. In the museum, we saw some of the stereotypes against the Chinese people, especially cartoons reminiscent of Nazi propaganda against the Jews. Today everyone agrees that such stereotyping about a person, or group of people, is evil and wrong. Despite this, our nation, as well as our politics, is littered with this injustice of stereotyping. On one side of the political spectrum, a religion is assumed to be filled with terrorists. While on the other side, someone who supports the President of the United States is deemed a racist deplorable. In modern America stereotyping has not only turned into something about race but also became our media and politics. In the 2016 election, we got a view of this. Our presidential candidates made our politics more about name calling and less about the issues. This problem is also further incited by the American media. I am not saying the media is evil. The press is what makes this country great by keeping our government in check. The problem with the modern media is it promotes this stereotypical culture. This is in part due to the way we intake information. On our phones, we can access stories from thousands of news outlets. The only way a news outlet can attract views is by having a catchy provocative title despite only having shaky supporting facts. All news media on both sides are guilty of this. In turn, our political arguments started to be along the same lines because that is what would make it to the front page. In order to make progress, we need the media to talk about the issues and stop stereotyping in order to sell papers. I believe this to be one of the main causes of the deep divide in modern America. There is no way to have a meaningful discussion if the argument is “I don’t like Trump because he is a racist” or “I don’t like Hillary because she is a crook”. We as Americans should be better than that. We should look at the issues and the facts and not merely make assumptions because it says it on Facebook. We should also look at the people who disagree with us and not assume their viewpoint as automatically stupid but should try and understand their point of view and where they are coming from. This is the only we can make progress and make America great again.