What’s wrong with this sentence?

I just had a little game idea that would promote greater awareness about the language we use to convey certain thoughts and encourage people to think more about what they believe and what they’re saying.

There are a lot of myths circulating among people and some of them are literally mind numbing. They keep using a particular term or a particular sentence or even a slogan without really thinking about what it means to them and what does it truly refer to in reality.

The game would basically keep popping up such myth-full sentences and ask you to fix it, to write down what it really means and if there is nothing beneath it then what is the equivalent. I think an example will best illustrate what I mean.

Starting with a simple sentence:

  • Democracy is freedom.
  • Fix: Democracy is mob rule.

Here is a little more challenging one.

  • Government is here to protect you.
  • Fix: People calling themselves the government think they need to protect you.

Not a very effective argument against government perhaps, but it does seem to reflect the truth much better and that’s the whole point. I think that if people thought about what particular sentences really refer to, to basically dismantle the abstractnesses which cover up what’s beneath, they would soon by themselves realize certain fact that they may have never been aware of before.

In case of this particular sentence, saying that “government is here to protect you” implies that there is someone or something called government that is “here” to protect you or that it exists for your protection. This isn’t quite clear unless your thinking is fuzzy and you’re fine with it remaining fuzzy. Who or what is “government”?

The fix demystifies “government” as people, the group of people. “Here” is removed because the place doesn’t seem to have any relevancy to the intended meaning, unless it did in which case we could leave “here” in so the sentence would be “People calling themselves the government think they are here to protect you”. Also the myth that they exist to protect you, as if it’s their sole purpose in life or as if it was an absolute truth, is removed and replaced by that they think they need to protect you.

Indeed, people in government are often led by genuine beliefs. Obviously, I find those beliefs to be extremely irrational, but that’s what’s leading their actions.

I’m not sure what kind of programming would be required for this kind of game to be made, but I’d allow multiple “correct” answers for the fixed sentence because various people may form their sentences in various ways. It could also contain direct equivalents to particular words which would always apply, such as in above case where “government” is replaced by “people calling themselves the government”. This kind of substitution would probably work in most sentences.

Other substitutions may include replacing “public good” with “individual liberty” or “personal liberty” (public good doesn’t really exist.. it’s only individuals which we can be concerned with), “nation” with “group of people calling themselves a nation”, “taxes” with “theft” or “stealing”, “president with “a person calling him/herself the president”, “law” for “rules forced by one group of people to another” or “rules forced by one person on another” etc.

Anyway, I just wanted to express that idea.



This entry was posted on Monday, June 23rd, 2008 at 3:43 pm and is filed under Blog. You can follow any responses to this entry through this RSS 2.0 feed. You're welcome to leave a response, or a trackback from your own site.