The Fine Art of Richsplaining

AOC took a lot of heat from the GOP this week for saying something that is obviously, unquestionably true.

Controversial Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez left millions of television viewers scratching their heads this week; bizarrely asserting that it’s “impossible” for human beings to “lift themselves up by their shoelaces.”

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It turns out that AOC does in fact understand how idioms work because the phrase was created as a joke, just like AOC said.

To pull yourself up by your bootstraps is actually physically impossible. In fact, the original meaning of the phrase was more along the lines of “to try to do something completely absurd.”

Etymologist Barry Popik and linguist and lexicographer Ben Zimmer have cited an American newspaper snippet from Sept. 30, 1834 as the earliest published reference to lifting oneself up by one’s bootstraps. A month earlier, a man named Nimrod Murphree announced in the Nashville Banner that he had “discovered perpetual motion.” The Mobile Advertiser picked up this tidbit and published it with a snarky response ridiculing his claim: “Probably Mr. Murphree has succeeded in handing himself over the Cumberland river, or a barn yard fence, by the straps of his boots.”

Conservatives have gotten lost within their own dogma. They are unable to see the irony in an old joke that is now used to shame poor people. Instead they embrace an absurdity.

It's similar to liberals who say the phrase "All lives matter" is racist. By rejecting the universal truth that "all lives matter", they are implying that some lives don't matter and thus are being racist. They've elevated their rhetoric above their own values.
It's a good rule of thumb that if you are denying something that you know is true then you've made a mistake.

In both of these examples, people have forgotten the meaning of the actual words and have been blinded by the symbolism of the words. By doing so they've left themselves vulnerable to be exploited by smarter people of less virtue that have mastered the art of bullshit.
Sometimes the bullshit artists wind up working for very wealthy people in politics, and when they do a certain vocabulary is used.

Access: Poor people don't need health care as a right. They only need access to health care, in the exact same way that they have access to buy a yacht.

Aspirational: We can't tax the rich because we are an aspirational country. You see, no one has ever dreamed of getting rich except for Americans, and higher taxes on the rich means that everyone would stop trying to get rich.

Freedom:
Freedom means capitalism, guns and the American flag. And that's about it. Freedom from want and fear? That's crazy talk.

Socialism:
Socialism is scary because socialism is Big Government. Big Government is scary because it means school teachers, social workers and anonymous bureaucrats that work at the EPA. What Big Government doesn't include are prisons, the police, and the military.
Essentially socialism doesn't include the guys with the guns. But it's scary.

Patriotism: Patriotism means the troops, and the troops means our bullsh*t wars. To oppose our bullsh*t wars is to hate America.

Welfare: Welfare is bad. Subsidies are good. Poor people get welfare. Corporations get subsidies. Giving food/help to poor people gives them bad incentives. Giving money to companies gives them good incentives.

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Cassiodorus's picture

The point of saying "Black Lives Matter" is that, for empowered populations (police, and the politicians who are supposed to be responsible for their behaviors), Black lives DON'T matter. Any honest history of Baltimore, Maryland or Ferguson, Missouri would reveal as much.

Just saying "all lives matter" has become a way of being obtuse about those who champion "Black Lives Matter." Yes of course all lives matter. But nobody has to say "privileged white lives matter" for privileged white lives to matter. They do anyway, without there having to be a movement about it.

So it's a performative thing. It's not to be confused with the dogwhistle arguments of the political troglodytes as you've spelled them out above, because for the spokespeople of that group all lives clearly don't matter. In fact, for them no lives matter, including their own.

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"Neither time nor cognitive decline has, however, has calmed (Biden's) blood lust or a lifelong commitment to planetary collapse." -- Jennifer Matsui

PriceRip's picture

@Cassiodorus

          The real problem with saying, "All Lives Matter" is that is like shouting "Fire" in a crowded theater. Social triggering is a real thing. In a conversation "All Lives Matter" is nothing but a verbal stutter, in the public square it is like waving a rifle of very sharp sword.

          Words do damage. But, outside of the glare of hostility words are just words and we can have actual conversations. This seldom happens any more …

RIP

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"I know you believe you understand what you think I said, but I am not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant."
Robert J. McCloskey, U.S. State Department spokesman. From a press briefing during the Vietnam war.

@PriceRip we don't have conversations. I think we lost that ability through disuse. Instead we have jousting by verbal jujitsu and quips, because being clever is oh so much better than being smart in the good old USA. A snappy putdown is way better than some too long, didn't listen lecture about something something something.

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PriceRip's picture

@Snode , holding back the unkempt masses from my life. I still get to attend conferences. Disagreeing, no holds barred, with individuals that actually have a stake in the outcome, and display the integrity lacking "out there". It is not the "Ivory Tower" environment far too many envision nor the cabal they fear. For a time I took a friend (not a member of the cognoscenti) to a few meetings "out west". For him it was a nice respite so for a few days he didn't have to be oh-so-very cynical.

RIP

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"I know you believe you understand what you think I said, but I am not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant."
Robert J. McCloskey, U.S. State Department spokesman. From a press briefing during the Vietnam war.

@Cassiodorus
and I know you are coming from a good place.
Also I endorse the objectives of BLM.

My issue is with how the phrase is treated and used.
The fact that saying "all lives matter" makes me a racist is Orwellian.
BLM is a very catchy phrase, but it was a disastrous phrase to sum up a movement (which I could go into, but it's a tangent).
The fact that BLM is 6 years old and nothing has changed should be a clue.
The fact that pointing out these undeniable truths is not welcome should also be a clue.

Somewhere along the way the phrase BLM became more important than the objective of ending police murders. If the objective was what mattered the most then there would be other phrases being used.

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Cassiodorus's picture

@gjohnsit my feed was full of discussions of who it was that sold out Black Lives Matter and what they did. The main action was attributed to what is generally called the "Black Misleadership Class." Start here maybe, I don't know. I don't remember names, and I don't think addresses or phone numbers were leaked. There is, however, a Black misleadership class which does its part to make sure nothing of importance is done.

So the fact that "Black Lives Matter" hasn't accomplished anything can be traced to specific individuals and their actions, steering whole groups of people into ineffectual demands, endorsement of the wrong people, and your basic selling-out. The phrase "Black Lives Matter" is not the problem.

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"Neither time nor cognitive decline has, however, has calmed (Biden's) blood lust or a lifelong commitment to planetary collapse." -- Jennifer Matsui

PriceRip's picture

@Cassiodorus

          … not long ago, I met a young lady at a function that she was hoping to dominate, and disrupt. As the assemblage began to disperse she let the microphone down to her side as she shook her head in dismay softly saying, "Racist, so Racist". She had, apparently, expected some pushback and was disappointed with the results of her attempted coup. I can not be sure but I think she envisioned recreating a "Seattle" scenario.

          But, what do I know, I am a time traveling white guy from the 1950s and 60s. So, obviously, it is impossible for me to understand.

RIP

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"I know you believe you understand what you think I said, but I am not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant."
Robert J. McCloskey, U.S. State Department spokesman. From a press briefing during the Vietnam war.

@Cassiodorus there is an assumption by those of us who fall under the header of first nations that the slogan black lives matter tends to belittle us. It has been an ongoing thing since the 60s when we were told we didn't count by black leaders in the equal rights movement. Nothing is simple.

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Mark from Queens's picture

from the All Lives Matter con. Especially for the sake of our allies, The Hunted and the Hated, who have been marginalized, voiceless and demeaned for centuries. You’re doing a major disservice to Bernie’s movement every time you do.

It. Is. Totally. 110%. Racist.

The All Lives Matter bullshit originates from a RW worldview to both, discount the concerns of those being murdered and having suffered generationally under white supremacy and institutional racism, and as more “Law & Order” copaganda with which to denegrate a very legitimate and important movement with which we should all be standing in impenetrable solidarity. The Fascists in Blue have taken it to the furthest most disturbing degree with Blue Lives Matter, the fucking vile racist proliferation of which is everywhere today with that stupid black American flag with a blue line through it. It

The rallying cry of #BlackLivesMatter remains a grave pronouncement. It is a direct and affirming response to the callousness of police brutality and murder of unarmed black and brown people. It exists, and must be embraced by all progressives or whatever we are, because it remains a very disturbing, unresolved epidemic confronting these brothers and sisters of our for FOUR CENTURIES.

Could you imagine the burgeoning socialist movement, the engine driving the whole Bernie movement, getting behind All fucking Lives Matter instead of BlackLivesMatter? Never.

It’s starting to delegitimizate the rest of what you’re saying.

Got it, man?

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"If I should ever die, God forbid, let this be my epitaph:

THE ONLY PROOF HE NEEDED
FOR THE EXISTENCE OF GOD
WAS MUSIC"

- Kurt Vonnegut

Mark from Queens's picture

@Mark from Queens
With all sorts of distractions and noise.

There’s more to say.,.
Left out the excellent explanation of Copaganda by Citations Needed:

https://medium.com/@CitationsPodcst/episode-60-saving-kittens-lip-syncin...

Frankly, this is really pissing me off, and I’ve got a good friend visiting from abroad on his way to my home.

I’m gonna step away from this bullshit for a while...

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"If I should ever die, God forbid, let this be my epitaph:

THE ONLY PROOF HE NEEDED
FOR THE EXISTENCE OF GOD
WAS MUSIC"

- Kurt Vonnegut

@Mark from Queens
Imagine that we approached deaths from lack of health care the same way as BLM.
The ratios are similar (blacks are more likely to be uninsured, but most people going bankrupt and dying are white. Same with police murders).

But instead of addressing a universal problem and fixing it for everyone, the hands-down most successful method in a democracy, we only focus only on the AA communities health care problems because their problems are worse.
In addition, we accuse anyone who points out that this is a poor strategy as being a racist.

How popular do you think MFB would be?

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edg's picture

The chant of "Hell no, we won't go" would not have had the power it did if it had been rendered as "Hell no, rich white college students won't go". Unfortunately, the slogan Black Lives Matter was easily corrupted because of its over-specificity and thus lost impact.

BTW, a great vocabulary list. This was another excellent essay by you. Thanks for being part of the heart and soul of c99.

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