anarchy means i'm bitter

I try not to merge disparate parts of the internet, such as the message board I often inhabit and my blog, but sometimes it's called for. Some thoughts brought on by this discussion of gender-neutral pronouns:

Linguistic debates seem to curry a great deal of passion in people in every which direction. It seems a bit odd, as linguistics isn't something that a whole lot of people are all that interested in, but at the same time there are two factors that make it fairly sensible that this is the case: First, language is something we all use every day, and second, most of the debates revolve around presciptive grammar, which can be viewed as a set of "rules," which is always a touchy subject in libertarian America and in often-left-libertarian "punk" circles.

The overarching point to all of these discussions about language and the treatment of people in minority groups and people in privileged groups, to me, is that regardless of where you stand on the subject of being governed, there will always be a set of standards by which people abide in order to cohabitate on Earth.

I personally am, in philosophy at least, an anarchist1, because I don't believe in the theoretical right of the state to destroy (or injure) life, and that's where the state ultimately derives its power. What that doesn't mean is that I'd advocate a free-for-all society in which everyone looks out for number one, vis-a-vis Ayn Rand or some similar kook. I don't see every guideline and standard as necessarily an extension of the state/the patriarchy/the hegemony's power. Sure, many/most of them are right now, but that doesn't mean they have to be or always will be.

So, when someone suggests a way to change the guidelines by which we live -- linguistic guidelines, for example -- to better accommodate a more liberatory philosophy, we shouldn't automatically discount it because it's a change in the "rules" instead of an abolition of them. I'm not supporting state solutions here, just grassroots efforts to deal with problems we've been handed.

So, when I support efforts (at least in theory; I think most thus far have been a bit clunky) to institute the use of gender-neutral pronouns, or when I suggest that we be more sensitive about race and gender and class in our language, I'm not doing it for the sake of being "politically correct"2, or for fear of "offending" certain groups. That's not the point at all. The point is that language structures our thoughts (to a great extent, if not completely), and in order to be completely and thoroughly free of racial/gender/sexual prejudices (which I wouldn't claim to be), one would have to make a very deliberate effort to purge one's linguistic habits of latent prejudice.

And until the structures we speak/write within accommodate those sorts of efforts, we can't even begin to pull it off, right?

Not to beat it into the ground, but I think once again we can draw an analogy with Monderman: Monderman's traffic design works because, lacking hard-and-fast rules, drivers create conventions in an effort to watch out for themselves and one another. Even lacking a governing structure, linguistic guidelines would prevail, and they would (I think) be even more respectful of the different types of people involved because of their grassroots, non-authoritarian, nature.

1. Prod me if I don't get back to this in another post soon.
2. I recoil at the use of this term not only because it was demonized, but because I don't think it was ever correct or adequate in the first place.