We Need National Names

As the 21st century evolves, nationalism is becoming a dirty word.  Pride in one’s country is considered déclassé at best and downright racist at worst.  What a crock of crap!  Since when did self-esteem became synonymous with hostility?  God, we live in useless times!  Yet there are tons of people who want to do away with these “stereotypical labels.”  Yeah, yeah, yeah!  We’re all God’s children, artificially separated by imaginary political boundaries.  [Heavy sigh!]  The last time I ate that pie-in-the-sky, I was twelve.  Since ancient times, people have identified things by the places they come from — things like Persian carpets, Greek fire and Mongolian barbeque.  It’s jargon.  It gives us tons of information.  It’s doesn’t carry a judgement call.  Let me demonstrate.

When I was a kid, there was a cool joke that swept the neighbourhood.
“How do you make a Venetian Blind?”
“Poke his eyes out!”
This is a funny, but it simply doesn’t work with any other city.  There are all kinds of things like this.  For example:

A German Shepherd is a dog, whereas a Swiss Shepherd is Heidi’s grandfather.

Russian Roulette is a game you don’t really wanna play, but if you have enough money, regular roulette can be kinda fun.

I don’t think the Beatles song Norwegian Wood would have had the same impact if the refrain was “Isn’t it good? / Yugoslavian wood.”

The French are particularly good at just stealing stuff and saying it belongs to them.  Things like French toast, French manicure, French horn, French press, French braids, French beans and, obviously, French fries.  None of these are even French, BTW, but the entire world knows them by that name.  Remember when the Americans tried to change French fries to Freedom fries and came off lookin’ like total idiots?  And, of course, there’s the French kiss which, I can tell you from experience, is probably French, cuz it involves an awful lot more tongue than most people are used to.

Plus, some words are just shorthand.

People drink Scotch, not “a blended malt liquor from the northern part of the British Isles.”

For Christmas dinner, you trot out the good china, not “the very best dinnerware.”

And when you and the boyfriend are off to the beach you wear a Bikini, not an “obscenely skimpy, two-piece swimming costume.”  Meanwhile, he’s wearing Bermuda shorts, not “frumpy dad pants that make his ass look tired.”

A Singapore Sling is a drink.  A Chicago sling is probably what you use when the loan shark breaks your arm.

A Brazilian Wax is a cringe-worthy beauty affectation, but English wax is just what’s left over after the candles burn down.

Turkish Delight is a delicious snack you want to put in your mouth. America cheese? – not so much.

And it goes on

There are animals: Shetland ponies, Labrador retrievers and Bengal tigers.  Drinks: a Manhattan, Long Island Iced Tea and a Moscow Mule.  Foods: Belgium Waffles, Swedish Meatballs, Greek Salad, Baked Alaska and Chicken Kiev.

Did you know the Ebola virus was named for the Ebola River?

This stuff is everywhere.

But here is one example that categorically proves just how important national distinctions are:

American Football is two teams of large men wearing helmets and extensive padding, playing a game with a ball, using a standard set of rules.  Australian Football is a couple of street gangs in short pants, running around a pasture, trying to murder each other.

I rest my case!

Government?

Look across the civilized world and you’re invariably going to find an election.  This is a quaint institution where every once in a while ordinary people decide who’s going to kick them around for the next couple of years.  Once it’s over half the people are pleased and the other half are pissed off.  But that’s the nature of democracy: somebody’s gotta lose, and losers are generally vocal about it.  In fact (and it’s a little known fact) the word “democracy’ comes from two words: “demos” (a corruption of “demons”) and “cracy” (a corruption of “crazy.”)  These were the pejorative terms opponents shouted at each other in the Athenian Agora where democracy was born.  However, despite the sophisticated name calling, Greek democracy was very primitive.  For example, not everybody got to vote — or even speak — including slaves, women, Pericles’ mistress Aspasia, convicted felons, tax evaders and anybody named Xerxes.  Nor was democracy universally accepted.  The great philosopher Socrates wasn’t a fan and advocated that only men who wore socks should vote.  When the youth of Athens began wearing socks and sandals, he was put to death.  (Rightly so!)  Some years later, Alexander the Great came along and put Athenian democracy to death — where it lay dormant for about 2000 years.  The democracy we know is a weird evolution of English barons, Boston lawyers, Virginia farm boys, French revolutionaries and John Stuart Mill.  It serves us well, but it’s by no means the only form of government available.  Here are a few other systems of note.

Monarchy – Named for the Monarch butterfly, this is government by glamour with plenty of crowns and gowns to go around.  Monarchy is characterized by over-the-top weddings, footmen, tiaras and glass slippers.  And even though one out of two princes are charming, monarchy has some serious enemies — such as spinning wheels, poison apples and wicked stepmothers.  However, when done properly, Monarchy can result in happily ever after.  (I’m lookin’ at you, Kate.) 

Authoritarianism – Sometimes called “tyranny,” “despotism” or “one-man rule” — whatever it’s called, though, it invariably works the same.   There’s always a short man who didn’t get laid in high school.  He somehow seizes power and spends the next few years acting like a paranoid dick to everybody.  (Hence the name – dictator.)  Dictators are characterized by funny hats, funny haircuts and no sense of humour.  And they don’t like to be called Winnie the Pooh.

Theocracy – No idea what this is, but I’m pretty sure it isn’t some silly-ass notion that religious leaders should run the government!  I mean really!  Nobody’s that stupid!

Tribalism – See Facebook.

Fascism – You get to march a lot, but you have to do as you’re told.

Patriarchy – This is where women do all the work and men sit around talking politics.

Matriarchy – Oddly enough, this is also where women do all the work and men sit around talking politics.

Parliamentarianism – This is a combination of two French words, “parle” which means “to talk” and “merde” which means – uh – google it.  The theory behind government by parliament is if enough elected officials talk enough shit long enough, eventually the problem will simply go away.  The best example of parliamentarianism is Canada where they’ve been talking about poverty, homelessness and unemployment for 50 years.

Republic – Parliamentarianism on the Potomac.

Anarchy – This looks great on paper but normally ends up with a big, ugly biker drinking beer out of the skull of the college sophomore who thought it was a cool idea.  It’s basically Mad Max meets academia. 

Communism – Sometimes called Soviet Democracy, there’s only one party, and it isn’t very much fun.

Socialism – Favoured by actors, rock stars and other rich people, the single premise of socialism is somebody else (normally called “they”) isn’t paying their fair share.  Socialists are political tourists who drink champagne, ride around in limousines, attend the occasional rally and then retreat to the leafy green suburbs to contemplate their awareness.

Polygamy – Oops!  Wrong blog!

Ochlocracy – This is a fancy word for Mob Rule.  It was made popular during the French Revolution’s Reign of Terror, and if you still think you’d like a taste of it, open a Twitter account.

Oligarchy – Not to be confused with Russian gangsters, this is where several groups of powerful people get together, hijack the government and do whatever the hell they like because they’re so badass/ruthless, ordinary people are too scared to …. Hey!  Wait a minute!

Meritocracy – A Cloud-cuckoo-land form of government popular with children and those college sophomores again.

Magocracy – A society ruled by magicians.  It’s hard to explain, but essentially it’s Harry, Hermione and Ron Weasley running the show.

Plutocracy – This is rule by rich people who – I suppose — take their instructions from Pluto.  This form of government has probably fallen into disfavour since a gang of treacherous scientists defrocked the tiny planet.

And finally, two forms of government that are very popular these days:

Kakistocracy – This is where the voting public continually elect the stupidest people possible and then wonder why nothing ever gets done.

Kleptocracy – This is where people vote for the candidate who certainly seems sincere — only to be taken in by these con artists who, once elected, turn out to be nothing more than common thieves.

Beware These Words

I have been plagued by the dichotomy of the “ible/able” words my entire life.  These are the words that, as little kids, we’re told are the GPS to success.  However, by the time we become teenagers, we discover that these words are really a double-edged sword.  And then, as adults we realize that, at times, they’re just out and out lies.  Here are a few things I’ve learned along the way.

Sensible

What it’s supposed to mean — Doing the proper thing.
What it actually means — Staying home and studying for your algebra exam while all your friends are at a party so-o-o epic that they’re still talking about it 20 years later!  The one where some guy took your girlfriend, Monica Peters, home — and a week later she dumped you.

Reasonable

What it’s supposed to mean — Looking at all facets of a problem or situation.
What it actually means — You’re going to get your ass kicked trying to explain to the wannabe biker on the Harley that the horn on your fuel- efficient Ford just gets stuck sometimes.

Capable

What it’s supposed to mean — The ability to perform a number of different tasks or duties.
What it actually means — You’re always given the crap jobs ’cause you’re the only one who knows how to do them.

Dependable

What it’s supposed to mean — A consistency that people can rely on
What it actually means — Guess who’s going to be the designated driver — again?

And finally

Responsible

What it’s supposed to mean — Personally taking care of the things required of you.
What it actually means — The night before the big meeting, you meticulously lay out your wardrobe, review your presentation, gather your notes, your charts, pens, paper, a pointer and another pen — just in case.  You arrive 15 minutes early.  Brenda arrives 10 minutes late, looking like she slept in her clothes.  She borrows your extra pen and some paper and scribbles a few lines while Dexter is rambling on about the “Mission Statement.”  Then, when you hesitate because you don’t want to look too pushy, she lays out the most brilliant proposal anybody in the company (including you) has ever heard — the bitch!

The “ible/able” words let you sleep at night, but they’re not very much fun.