Monday, 2 August 2021

Distorting the meaning of words


The timing of today’s announcement of a new UK coin celebrating the fantasy world invented by Lewis Carroll is very apt, coming as it does on the heels of yesterday’s announcement by the Queen of Hearts Michael Gove that Scotland can have another referendum on independence when it becomes the ‘settled will’ of the Scottish electors. In true Wonderland style, that ‘settled will’ is a matter for the exclusive determination of the UK government using criteria which they will neither explain nor justify, but which absolutely definitely excludes counting the results of any elections held to date or which might be held in the future in which supporters of holding such a referendum win a majority, and which will be found to have arbitrarily changed whenever they are in danger of being met. As Carroll put it:

"When I use a word," Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, "it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less."

"The question is," said Alice, "whether you can make words mean so many different things."

"The question is," said Humpty Dumpty, "which is to be master—that's all."

What appears at first sight to be a change from the UK Government’s anti-democratic position that a referendum will never be permitted turns out to be little more than a re-statement of the same answer in terms which eliminate all possibility of logical counter-argument. At least Lewis Carroll knew that he was writing fantasy; it’s doubtful that Gove understands the difference.

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