Coffee Share 200307: Euphemism Spirals

This is a Weekly Coffee Share Essay.
I’m part of a small group of bloggers who stay in touch and chat about blogging, writing, or just about anything else that might be of interest. Here’s mine for the week ending March 7, 2020.
Link to This week’s full list
Link to my Story Blog. Come share a laugh with me.

Greetings.  I’m so glad you stopped by.

These past two weeks have been – well – strange. I remain haunted by a writing project that I’ve started (Tamara’s Dumb Waiter tale) and think about it often, but work and family stuff have kept me all but grounded in terms of word production.  Frustrating, but real.

Yesterday, Friday, was supposed to be a normal work day, but even that got strange and did not follow my calendar of planned events, but it started by me suddenly being wide awake at 2:00 am.  This may be normal for many, but not me.  Over the years, my inner clock developed and now wants me to be up and making my tea between 5 and 6am and working by 7am.  I’ve decided to change it some by starting each day with a certain amount of reading from the Bible. I’m finding that it grounds me and clears my mind for the focus needed for the rest of the day.  I’m pretty pragmatic and so find something useful first thing each morning by doing this.  I then follow with some reading and study time of non-religious topics; stuff about writing, politics, science or history topics of interest.

But yesterday, this being wide awake at 2am was just weird.  I listened to radio for an hour because that often sends me right back to sleep, but by 3am I was still alert and wondering why.  Should I just get up and grab some unexpected writing time or continue the battle to get back to sleep.

I compromised by getting up, had my tea ready by 4 and getting to my daily studies early, thinking I still had a head start and might even get my coffee share essay created and posted on Friday rather than Saturday. But then my morning studies uncovered some interesting stuff that easily sucked up that extra hour and sent me down multiple rabbit holes of interesting things to think about.

Enough of that line of thought.  I doubt this makes for interesting reading.  So what do I have that is interesting?

– – = = ( o ) = = – –

From my early morning study, I found an article that both surprised and didn’t surprise me.  It was short, but tied up my mind off and on for the rest of the day.

We all know that healthy societies mature.  Stagnate ones tend to lock themselves into a depressing, slow cycle of creeping rot where creativity and innovation might exist but it is safely locked away in that culture’s museums,  where tourist and academics may visit and study them, but just outside, the people are living dull, mind-numbingly boring lives that are often micro-managed by broken (and often venal) governments.

So, I celebrate the fact that our American culture is full of ideas, creativity and people who are trying to find a better way of making: a living, a mouse trap or website, blog articles that posit challenging thoughts and clever ways of saying important things or better ways of capturing amazing photographs that we really should just pause and contemplate.

But some author so clearly articulated a point that found fertile root in my mind and thus distracted me the rest of the day.  It left me with a question, and no, I don’t have a full answer, but do think I have part of the answer.

The question is, who among is qualified to mandate how our, or any culture changes?

Certainly not me.  You already know that I’m a Bible reader.  Thus, on that point alone, you might rightly judge me unqualified for the role of “culture cop”.  Fine, I accept your judgement but point out that you too are not qualified to prescribe how we should mature as a society.  We all have our flawed biases and blind spots. So who is?

I think that any option that boils down to a defined group of people is fundamentally flawed.  For example; (back to this article I read) the unnamed author pointed out that we (in America, and I would add, California in particular) have allowed what s/he called a ‘euphemism spiral‘ to develop.  (I so wish I’d coined this term but I don’t even know who to credit. *)

Referring the change in how we talk about youth who become problems for society and require intervention, this author cites the following downward spiral of how polite society should refer to these youth as a group.  Watch what happens when I list them in order of their appearance in our judicial culture.

  • Bad kids” became,
  • Juvenal delinquents” who became,
  • Underprivileged” who became,
  • At-risk” who became,
  • Justice involved“, who became,
  • Disconnected youth“, who became,
  • and are currently mandated to be called”Opportunity youth“.

And those of us who have been around long enough to recall most of this polite evolution of legal terminology roll our eyes and regret that somehow this spiral was not somehow interrupted and magically reset back to common sense describing things as they are. What idiot group of people managed to do this?  Becoming an opportunity youth almost sounds like something that would strengthen your resume.

In this case, the answer to that last question is simple. We have a virtual group who have both an agenda (which has some value BTW) and (dangerously) also have the ability to penalize anyone who does not play by the rules of their preferences.  This group is empowered to force us to talk like idiots or be punished for non-compliance.

And this, all too political of-thought-police-style control of our culture derailed me from the otherwise normal work day.  It does not fit into a meme nor does it offer safe harbor to those who value the social influence of the “South Park” ridicule mob, but I found it to be a healthy rock to stand on and note who we are ceding control of our culture to and to think some about whether this is all a good, mixed or purely bad thing.

I believe we are a culture who are able to do better that our parents with just about everything – but we have crippled ourselves by allowing some among us to enforce their ideas by force of law rather than by the natural evolution of what society in general would do – if only we were allowed to think, digest and reason our way forward as a group.  Instead, we stand by, in fear for ourselves,  while bakers are sued for not servicing someone with an ideology they find immoral and men are allowed to win trophies in women’s sports because to object would label us as haters and might even put us at judicial risk of punishment.

Sigh.  We used to be be better than this.

My next question then turned into; given the above example, can it ever be right to imprison an “opportunity youth” as it clearly was to imprison a really “bad kid” for exactly the same act of violence or has the euphemism spiral in this case, destroyed enough evidence and due process, to make rational judgements impossible?

– – = = ( o ) = = – –

But today is Saturday, a new day, a weekend day so no work will likely come between me and the writing I hope to accomplish.  Today, I plan on spending some long overdue time with Tamara, messing around with a piece of fiction that has developed into, what I think is, a fun story deep below her Teancoff Cafe.

My brain hurts enough with the thought of the day from yesterday.

Thanks for stopping by.  I’ll be by to check out your coffee share shortly.


* Such as I am able to credit the author of the article mentioned above, all I have is that it appeared, without a separate title, in: National Review, March 9, 2020 on page 10, in their leading section titled, The Week.

To select another story, please visit the full index by clicking here.

Gary photo n bio

10 thoughts on “Coffee Share 200307: Euphemism Spirals

  1. Good morning Gary.

    I, like you, like to start my day with the Bible, but since I can’t seem to wake early enough to actually put eyes on it, I listen with Audible during the morning 30 minute commute. Perhaps this disqualifies me as well from being able to mandate how our culture should change, but I would argue that there are things that should not change at all. Right is after all right, and wrong at the end of the day is still wrong. Even if there are those who don’t won’t to believe it.

    I like that we can contribute to our culture, if even in a small way through our blogs and fiction and whatnot so easily now, and if I can add something good to our great big culture and maybe nudge it ever so gently toward something good, so be it. If not, well, I’ll be cooling in the ground before too many more years pass, and this can be someone else’s problem.

    Good luck with the writing this weekend Gary! Hope it goes well!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. So very well said Russell. Thanks for making it through a not-so fun post. I hope I gave you some useful mental mental foundation for thinking it through. It sounds like you already have a great understanding of the issue. Once again, I’m so pleased to know that you’re out there.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I take this as what is this world coming to? It is all to me very frustrating and I understand that things morph and change as life is moving, evolving, and can also be repeating to a certain degree. It’s very interesting what you shared and I haven’t completely digested everything you talked about and to be completely honest, I don’t delve too deeply into the meanings of all of these euphemism changes. I thought I’d respond and just say I’ll remain positive in our humanity! Hopefully I make some sense! Lol 😃

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi Gary, Thank you for this insightful posting! I’m one of the guilty who admittedly looks for alternatives to the “lock ’em up” mentality du jour, but agree that the pendulum may very well have swung too far.

    However, I find your premise at best faulty that there is some unnamed group controlling our culture generating these euphemism extremes, and at worst dangerous. WE are the culture influencers, not “them”!

    It’s like a debate where anyone can posit anything. Without any retort from us, we’re left with something which increasingly becomes accepted as fact. I encourage us all to speak up >in a way that others can hear< when we disagree. (Your posting is a wonderful example off sharing your opinion this way while leaving room for discourse!)

    Our choice to be quiet is acquiescence, thus we've voted with our silence.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Well said GD, but you may have missed part of my point. There are those who can enforce their opinions with access to legislation, tax policy, zoning, licensing or publicity. You and I don’t have that kind of power, so our influence is proportionally reduced. How often have you been silent because you simply did not care enough as compared to how often you did not want to expose yourself or family to the retaliation of others with the power to beat you down somehow? These folks are much more of a risk to public discourse than attitudes of getting involved.
      Great comment my friend – thanks for engaging.


      1. Back at ‘ya! The hardest part I take in your response is the fear of retaliation. If nothing else, we need to fundamentally support people’s ability to disagree. When did it become heretical to voice dissent? In my opinion, this is our very moment of choice.

        “I (may) Disapprove of What You Say, But I Will Defend to the Death Your Right to Say It”

        If we care enough, then take meaningful action at a private and/or public level. Posting your blog is a great first step, but run for school board, city council, state or national legislature. Build consensus to grow your ability to influence. I have personally taken this on publicly in only a few areas, but am much more active on a grass roots level such as my response right now.

        Power is most meaningful when there’s broad societal agreement, but we currently live during a very polarized time. Separating ourselves against “them” in power is only divisive exasperating this situation further.

        I’ve always respected most when we can both start with areas we both agree on, AND are both open minded and supportive voicing our alternative viewpoints. You’ve personally made a profound impact on me doing so.

        Liked by 3 people

  4. LOL to “opportunity youth”. I thought the Labor Party here in the Netherlands had invented that term and then a major right-wing blog stole it for satire. Apparently not. I totally understand the euphemism spiral doesn’t really help anyone.

    Liked by 1 person

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