Every person is unique. However, we do share common behavioral patterns, based on our characteristic functions, by which we can be categorized. We walk, talk, touch, imagine, invent, reproduce and recreate.
Speech is a good example of how the patterns are then set, into distinct languages, in response to the influence of our environment. While almost all infants make sounds, it’s their environment which renders some meaningful and some meaningless, depending on the response to the prompt. There’s a feedback loop. The sounds ma-ma and da-da get a positive reaction from almost all humans everywhere, but not from most dogs. Sound also serves to determine who’s in and who’s out of the group.
Simple or complex, the pattern is set. “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all,” is just practical advice, along the lines of “don’t bother scolding the dog ’cause the tone will just set him off.” But, to an aspiring politician, whose success depends largely on his gift of gab, it presents a problem. Not talking is not an option. So, he resorts to the euphemism, saying nice things without meaning them. Sweet nothings. They’re almost a conservative trademark.
Perhaps “euphemism,” deriving from the Greek language, albeit brief, is too fancy a word for what conservatives, preferring a down-to-earth simile with which we are all familiar, would call “making lemonade out of lemons.” Just add sugar and water. That’s all it takes to turn an unpleasant sensation around. Say something nice.
What’s interesting is that sugar is a preservative and taking the lemons and sugar and water just one step further and setting them to boil would initiate a material transformation, turning the lemonade into a conserve that will last until long after a yen for lemonade has passed. But, while one might expect so-called political conservatives to be all about preservation and conservation, they’re incapable of taking that next step. “Just add sugar and water” is where they seem to get stuck. Then, when they run out of lemons, sugar water is all that’s left. They’re hooked on the sweet stuff. And, if they’re politicians, the euphemisms swell from sweet nothings into full-blown lies.
Of course, since the future is unknowable and unknown, we almost expect empty promises and sweet nothings out of the mouths of political aspirants. Which no doubt accounts for why conservative candidates prefer to natter on about, not just the future, but the unknown as a whole. To the unpleasant present and the people who try to remind them of it, their response is simple, “If you can’t say something nice,….”
Besides, it seems to be almost characteristic of people whose only talent is the gift of gab that they don’t listen very well. It may be that there’s a missing link in their brain. So, instead of a feedback loop which transforms words into meaning, much as the process of boiling turns lemons and sugar into conserves, some speech is nothing more than a repetition or regurgitation. What goes in comes out, unprocessed and unfiltered.
Chris Matthews compared it to a “speaker system” the other day. I think a jukebox is the more apt comparison. Add that to the Etch-a-sketch and what do you get?