Anything by any other name is… nothing at all

The word “black,” as in “Black Lives Matter”, is simultaneously both strictly defined, and as slippery as an eel. That’s a bad omen.

The tight definition refers to people of a dark skin colour being killed, or sometimes only alleged to be killed, by white police officers. It does not, in this definition, apply to such people being killed by officers of a similar colour, which is more common, nor to black-on-black criminal homicide.

Even this definition suffers from severe biological problems, in that somebody a half, or even a quarter, “black” may count as black if they have inherited darker pigment, whereas a police officer of the same ancestry, but lighter skin hue, may be deemed “white” for the purposes of the narrative.

But outside such homicidal situations the situation is even more confused. For example, one of the core tenets of BLM is the de-funding of the police, and support for this is in turn a mark of “blackness” and if you are a white activist, of solidarity with “blackness” against your own “whiteness.” Are you keeping up so far?

Those black people who oppose de-funding are said, according to critical race theory, to have “internalised their oppression” and to have become effectively white, which makes them the objects of as much opprobium as light-skinned people. In fact, they will be hated even more as “Uncle Toms.” Conversely, a white protestor may yell at a black police officer that she is more black where it matters – inside – than the policeman is. You are black until proved white, and white unless you manage, through penance, to become internally black.

A recent US study, however, revealed that 81% of those identifying as “black” (skin colour) wish for the same, or more, policing to be done in their area. That was only 6% less than “white” people, and a bit more, for some reason, than “Asians” (apparently Brahmin Indians, Han Chinese and Siberians are all of the same race and their opinions therefore count as one, in the same way as the Berbers, the San or the Batwa and their Bantu conquerors are all “black” because they originated in Africa). It follows, therefore, that 81% of “blacks” are actually “Uncle Toms,” and that only 19% of them are “black” at all.

If 4/5 of black people are actually white, at the level that matters to those who insist on defining Adam’s children that way, the terms themselves really mean nothing at all. “Whiteness” comes to mean “an invisible quality of nearly everybody of all colours.” In fact it is more useful to replace it with the old Marxist term “bourgeois,” which is itself a buzzword for anybody who is not on board with the collectivist agenda. That gives us, in turn, a more robust woke definition of “black” as “Marxist.” Much clearer, it seems to me.

Whatever your skin colour, then, you may henceforth react with equanimity when you are, in one way or another, accused of “whiteness.” It means no more than “non-Marxist,” and I for one am happy to embrace that broad identity, for I share it with most of the people of the world, my fellows made in God’s image.

The same is true of other fashionable terms of abuse, “fascist” being the most vernerable. I think I’ve shared before about my acquaintance Dave at medical school, a Marxist who complained one day of being “the only socialist amongst 600 fascists.” “Fascist” then, is simply a term for “human being who is not a Marxist,” which is no insult at all, but a unifying term for billions of normal people. In practice, it even includes many Marxists, for they have historically had the habit of branding each other as “fascists” when the other is deemed to fall short of whatever party orthodoxy is that week.

Now, a number of other terms, because wrested in a similar way from any foundation in fundamental reality by the left, have lost their meaning entirely, and have similarly become synonyms for “person.” That process may be simple orcomplex, sometimes both. An example of the simple is the branding of anyone who believes there are biological men and women as “transphobic.” Since that is almost universally the case, “transphobic” means nothing more than “rational human.”

The term “racist” is similar. The simple process of its changed usage is that it has simply become a generic term of abuse, like “Fundamentalist,” employed to render the recipient ashamed on their own behalf, and an outcast by others. But that’s as absurd as feeling ashamed because someone yells, “Human!” accusingly in your face.

The more complex evolution of the term is that racism has now been defined by the intersectionalists in systemic terms. You are a racist simply by being white, an immutable characteristic (to which they attach immutable blame, but why should we accept the moral diktats of some bigoted academics?). And so “racist” is now a synonym for “Caucasian,” though it is frequently stretched to include “Hispanic” (when did the Spanish become a race? They were the first to colonise Wales), “Asian” and particularly “Jewish” – for as the anti-semitic Rapper Wiley notoriously showed recently, amongst the woke Jews are regarded as a kind of “arch-white” villain responsible for every conceivable evil, except when Jesus is said to be black and the woke Archbishop of Canterbury starts removing statues that don’t correspond to that incoherent mishmash truth.

Add that to the “exceptions to blackness” that exclude from the race those with a strong Bantu heritage who like the Police, support the family, worship Jesus or, worst of all just now, vote for Trump, and once again you reach the conclusion that “racist” now simply means “non-intersectionalist.” Or avoiding sociological jargon, it could be understood as simply “non-Marxist,” in agreement with the huge majority of humanity past and present. It ought, then, to be seen as a term uniting humanity against divisive extremism. Why should anyone feel intimidated by being accused of not being a totalitarian Communist committed to overthrowing whole classes of people?

More broadly, it’s worth noting how frequently terms of abuse have become standard usage by those at whom they are hurled. “Christian” was such a term, first used in Antioch and probably by Jewish opponents who mocked the believers’ theological stress on the arrival of Messiah (rather, I think, than indicating their particular allegiance to Jesus of Nazareth).

Another such word was “Puritan,” used by lax Christians to scorn those who aimed for doctrinal purity (another such insult was “precisionist”). They even became tarred by the name “recusants” which they shared with Catholic dissenters. They themselves thought of themselves as “the godly,” and most often described themselves by their distinctives as “Presbyterians,” “Baptists,” etc (they were all Reformed Calvinists at that time). The P-word, however, had the advantage of common usage, especially as many non-Puritans claimed to be “Reformed” when they were scarcely so. Eventually, then, Puritans were often happy to use the world of themselves.

Since then, “puritan” has become weaponised, firstly by a deliberate anti-Reformed disinformation campaign after the Restoration, that has lasted right up to the present in the cartoon misrepresentations of Blackadder or Horrible Histories, and secondly by its application to anything considered repressive, such as Islamism or, recently, intersectionality’s own cancel culture.

But there comes a time when one has to shrug all that off, and simply argue the case for the historical Puritans on its merits, by encouraging people to look at the thing rather than the word. It’s a bit like the word “evolution,” or better still “evolutionist,” which has become as fought over as the Ypres salient and is best left unused without some kind of contextual definition.

So the conclusion of the matter, in the present climate, is this: a particular ruling collectivist ideology has deliberately hi-jacked, or even used its cultural influence to coin, pejorative terms for the rest of us. Scarcely any of them retain their original meaning, if indeed they ever had one that didn’t conceal a totalitarian warhead. Many of the worst appear to have been deliberately invented to create a new list of cardinal sins that are not in God’s law at all, except on the opposite side of the moral divide (that is they are designed to make what is good appear evil, and vice versa).

The result has been destructive to society, and will become more so. It has seduced even the churches into focusing their attention on “sins” that are not the damnable evils revealed to us in God’s Word, but excuses for class hatred, division, and neglect of both of God’s Law and the freedom of the Gospel for all men. These are things that ought to concern us. But fear of being tarred by one of these verbal brushes ought not to trouble us, any more than it should shame us for some Antiochene rabbi to spit “Christian!” at us in the marketplace as we preach the gospel.

Jon Garvey

About Jon Garvey

Training in medicine (which was my career), social psychology and theology. Interests in most things, but especially the science-faith interface. The rest of my time, though, is spent writing, playing and recording music.
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4 Responses to Anything by any other name is… nothing at all

  1. Ben says:

    Coining new words (the -phobics) to smother debate is bad enough, but I think there is something even more insidious about redefining existing words in ways that gut discourse completely. It reminds me of reading about Scientology where familiar words are all charged with weird meanings which – I’m sure – screw with people’s heads and make it terribly difficult to think straight, or think at all.

    Obviously, our use of words evolve with time, and particular domains often repurpose words for use in the context of their expertise. But this seems different to me, more like a hi-jacking.

    • Jon Garvey Jon Garvey says:


      You’re right. But it’s not a new idea for those of a certain political leaning. Remember that “People’s Republic” means “absolute rule by One Great Helmsman. Remember Marcuse’s “repressive tolerance” in which only socialist views are tolerated.

      Orwell had it sussed, of course, in The Ministry of Truth, and
      “war is peace
      freedom is slavery
      [diversity] ignorance is strength.”

      Auschwitz has “Work Sets You Free” above its gate, which comes from the same stable of perversion, literally, since National Socialism grew out of socialism, as did Italian Fascism (Mussolini was originally a socialist, as were many Nazis).

      In many cases it’s just ironic – nobody was under any illusions about what kind of “freedom” Auschwitz offered, or what kind of “truth” Pravda peddled. But the trick with Cultural Marxism is to let the unread ordinary folk assume you mean a word in the old way, without knowing that it now means something completely different.

      Who could argue with “social justice” if they don’t appreciate that it has nothing to do with equality before the law any more, and what that means for society.

  2. Robert Byers says:

    All identity terms in North America, I guess Britain, are false. It simply means a different people no different then Swedes. they lost thier african nations/tribes identity upon migration long ago but did not become united with the people groups here. stayd segregated in identity. now they try to use the word African. thats okay as long as it doesn’t have following it AMERICAN, or Canadian. Because these are real people groups and not a geo term. In fact in Britain I notice they call the english WHITE. they strip thier identity away and the truth. Its all about human hearts conclusions on who your people are. So black means a people indeed even if only half or a quarter. nothing to do with skin colour. it should be a cause to settle what people divisions there are and are going to be. Indeed in Britain black is used relative to white and brown because they want to clai britain as thier country based on identity. so it forces them to use a colour system which is a fraud.

  3. Jon Garvey Jon Garvey says:

    Here’s a chilling quote from F A Hayek (1943) – think of how woke Christianity is spreading for the first part:

    The most effective way of making people accept the validity of the values they are to serve is to persuade them that they are really the same as those which they, or at least the best among them, have always held, but which were not properly understood or recognised before… And the most efficient technique to this end is to use the old words but change their meaning. (The Road to Serfdom, p161)

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