Doing Violence to Community and Beauty by Policing Language


Providence College English professor Anthony Esolen has it correct when he writes, “Language is not language unless it is communal, and it cannot be communal unless it can refer, quickly and clearly, to the things in front of our noses: to husbands and wives and hats.”  His subject, following that assertion, is the effect and objective of those who seek to make it impossible for us to communicate, particularly on matters of gender and sexuality.  His essay’s title is, “Pronouns, Ordinary People, and the War over Reality.”

To pretend, therefore, that we do not know what we immediately and urgently perceive is to do violence at once to human nature, language, the possibility of a shared life, and the intellect’s capacity to apprehend reality. If I cannot say, “There is a man walking down the street,” then it is hard to see how I can make any reliable judgment about anything at all that bears on human existence. If I cannot say, “Joey is going to grow up to be a fine man someday,” then what in life is left to talk about? Everything else is less certain than sex. We may disagree about whether President Eisenhower was a good leader of men, a loyal husband and father, or a pious Christian; but if we cannot agree that President Eisenhower was a man, then speech itself is but sound and fury, signifying nothing. Or, rather, speech collapses into action, and reason lies prone before appetite. Speech delivers the bribes and threats of people who want what they want and do not care overmuch how they get it. (Emphasis added.)

This is the objective of the radicals.  In the case of transsexuals, we could be compassionate toward them — even as disinclined as the radicals to draw any substantive distinctions regarding gender — without forbidding each other the ability to describe reality objectively, but:

[The radical] says that she wants all people to feel “safe” and comfortable, regardless of their sexual identity. That is not true. What she wants is that ordinary people should feel uncomfortable. She wants to rob them of their ordinary perceptions. She sows the field of conversation with mines, glad if ordinary people learn to tiptoe around them, but much gladder still when they fail and blow themselves up, because that provides her with the opportunity for more “education,” which means a more aggressive campaign against our common grasp of objective reality and our ability to communicate with ease what we see. (Emphasis in original.)

Esolen then goes into the why, suggesting that confused people want others to join them in their confusion and, of course, that some people profit from it.  “They sow the mines and then sell you a map to the field.”  A third explanation, though, is that some people are purely rebelling against the good, the beautiful, and the ordinary, typically because they for some reason find it difficult to achieve.