My Blog Week: December 8 to December 14
All the Latest from Torsade!
A Word on the Week
An Avoidable Accident
It’s worthwhile, in regard to the White Island tragedy, to consider the psychology of a type of relationship: that of the individual to authority. Authority can be represented, in our world of businesses and bureaucracies, by people who are both untrained and uncertain of their roles. Probably in many cases, the persons-in-charge don’t see themselves in the light of expert or leader, and don’t fully feel the responsibility. Leadership has to be taught to underlings, demonstrated for them; and if the company milieu feels permissive, underlings will feel given permission. When laxity devolves to the client level, it is still the case that the client is the naif, and the team captain (or such as the title may be) the expert.
If you were on a guided hike at Yosemite, you’d have a different response to someone who shrugs, and says: “Some people go off the path…”; than to one who says, “Do not go off the path!” A couple of points in this case are simply matters of logistics, and so should bear no debate.
One, there is no outrunning the cloud, when a volcano erupts in steam and ash. Anyone who is allowed to approach the vent will certainly be killed if an eruption occurs at that moment. Since this is non-negotiable, that tour operators should have not permitted it, seems equally non-negotiable.
Two, there are no “rights to sights”. A boat tour of the island, without landing anyone at the crater, would still be a saleable proposition. The expectation had been created that tourists could walk on an active volcano. Which they can—I’ve done it myself at Kilauea. White Island is a different type of volcano, and safer viewed through a camera lens.
I wrote my piece on the singular they before Merriam-Webster made it their word of the year. The issue is worth a second visit.
Torsade is always on the job sussing out propaganda and potential propaganda. The trouble here seems to be evolving organically, but it’s still important to note that a tactic of divisionists is to take differing goals and treat them as though they addressed the same grievance, setting up a broader group stirring opposition in the public-at-large, for eventual internal factionalism. Some articles I read when writing my essay contended that “they” has a long historical tradition. The existence or the longevity of a thing is never an argument for the validity of the thing, nor does it preclude even a good thing being partly valid and partly invalid.
So, sharp eyes for this sort of representation. In politics, not grammar, we’ll be seeing a lot of it.
What we have is one argument, about inclusiveness and respect. And a second argument, about the acceptability of a more casual English, even in “formal” writing. They both have their attractions, but obviously the former will make people angrier.
The screenshot above is from the Parliament.uk website. British rules and American rules on “they” are not the same, but this is a pretty egregious example. Here’s one from the new book “A Warning” by Anonymous:
“These few gestures are standard protocol by any president, when a distinguished senator dies, regardless of their party…” [Twelve, 2019]
I make the point again, that we shouldn’t misunderstand context. The prime minister and the senator are really any prime minister or senator. Our conditioning, yes, as a long matter of historical use, is to see they referring to a non-specific person, in which case we don’t badly need to know who this person may be. The usage doesn’t confuse, because we don’t conflate a theoretical person with a he, a she, and a they, who are then joined by a group of three others, and begin to converse among themselves—he speaking, she speaking, they speaking (“they” the individual, as opposed everyone in unison?)—and so we don’t end up annoyed by the story and ultimately indifferent.
(The best solutions: “…the Prime Minister will not know what questions will be asked”; “…when a distinguished senator dies, regardless of party.”)
On Monday, a the second Mr. Boots poem, “Dog of Sorrows”. Tuesday’s Impresario was part nineteen, Regalus finding herself free of cursedness, her skin healed, and resolving to be worthy of the miracle. Wednesday, a new episode of Yoharie: “Existence”, with Savannah thinking of her father and what’s come between them. On Thursday, Frédéric Boutet’s “The Garden of the Pirate”, and the conclusion of a plot to dispose of an inheritance. Friday, a new Totem-Maker, with the character both learning and drawing conclusions.
Images on my posts often have a link to related information (click first image), sometimes serious, sometimes whimsical, sometimes in answer to a direct reference. Since people can be leery about links, I include them here: what they are, what sites they point to.
My Blog Week: December 8 to December 14
Dog of Sorrows (poem)
The Impresario (part nineteen)
YouTube: Truth, “Love Takes It All”
Yoharie: Existence (part six)
Frédéric Boutet: The Garden of the Pirate (conclusion)
The Totem-Maker: Use for Use (part two)
If Only Others (poem)
Poetry Foundation: John Ashbery, “Blueprints and Others”