The Chinese word for city is 城市 (pinyin – chéng shì). The first character 城 means wall in the sense of a defensive wall, and the second character 市 represents market. The name Polis (πόλις) for the ancient city-states of Greece is believed to have derived from ptólis which means citadel or fort, but it is also worth noting that it bears a striking resemblance to the Greek verb poló (πωλώ) which means to sell (like in the word monopoly).
There is no denying that walls and trade are at the core of human civilization. They are the primal boundaries that keeps us civilized and polite (yet another word that derives from polis), the tools that enable us to keep what we have, and to exchange some of it for other things we want. And if someone doesn’t respect those boundaries, it is usually a good time to contact the police.
In this article we are going to talk about currency and fences, which are both under attack not only in the physical world, but – as you will learn if you keep reading – also within your mind.
- Chesterton Fence
- The invisible fences within our mind
- The fences between the sexes
- J.K Rowling is manning G.K Chesterton’s fence
- The influx of infiltration
- The Value of Words
- The inflation of Language
- The nature of drowning
- The Endgame
Ever heard of the principle of Chesterton’s Fence? Simply put, it states that reforms should not be made until the reasoning behind the existing state of affairs is understood. The person behind it – G.K Chesterton, gave a fence in the middle of nowhere, as an example of something you shouldn’t simply get rid off just because you do not (or cannot) see the purpose it serves.
The Hebrew word for fence is גָּדֵר (gader). Grammatically speaking this word is female so its plural form is גְּדֵרוֹת (gderot). When we conjugate its shoresh ג-ד-ר (Gimel-Dalet-Resh) is binyan Pi’el we get the verb גִּדֵּר (gider), which means to build a fence around something or fence up an area. A place with a fence around it is described as מְגֻדָּר (megudar), a word which is based on the passive binyan Pu’al in the middle tense.
I grew up in a little town called גְּדֵרָה (gdera) in the southern parts of central Israel, and the small group of our neighboring moshavim (unions of agricultural households) was called גְּדֵרוֹת (gderot). So you could definitely say that the shoresh ג-ד-ר (Gimel-Dalet-Resh) was all around me during my childhood and my youth – just like actual fences.
The invisible fences within our mind
The shoresh ג-ד-ר (Gimel-Dalet-Resh) makes a rather surprising appearance in another Hebrew word – the word הַגְדָּרָה (hagdara) which means definition in the sense of the meaning of a word. The verb to define in Hebrew is הִגְדִּיר (higdir), and it is interesting to note that the second meaning of ‘define’ in English is to mark out the boundaries or limits – though not necessarily with a fence.
I remember the exact moment I noticed this conceptual relation between fence and definition in practice. It was when I watched the following clip on YouTube titled ‘How to Speak’:
Essentially, it’s a lecture about giving lectures, and at 6:32 the speaker starts making the point of “building a fence around your idea so it can be distinguished from somebody else’s idea”. He was speaking Hebrew without even releasing it, because he basically told his audience they need to define (לְהַגְדִיר) their topic, but he chose to employ the word fence (גָּדֵר) in order to do that. Both of these concepts are based on the same root in Hebrew, and I find it absolutely fascinating.
The word גָּדֵר (gader – fence) exists in Biblical Hebrew. The word הַגְדָּרָה (hagdara – definition) is a Modern Hebrew word which came into common use during the revival of the language, and undoubtedly was very useful for the people who were engaged in that task. However, it is not the newest Hebrew noun which is based on the shoresh ג-ד-ר (Gimel-Dalet-Resh) – that word is מִגְדָּר (migdar) which means gender.
The fences between the sexes
The word מִגְדָּר (migdar – gender) was coined in the early nineties by a woman Varda Bikovitski while she was serving as the Head of Student Administration in Tel Aviv University. At that time, they were looking for a more convenient way to refer to the field of Women’s Study and the Differences Between the Sexes, and she came up with the word מִגְדָּר (migdar).
The new word was immediately picked up and put into common use, and in 1997 it was even officially accepted as the Hebrew term for gender by the Hebrew Language Academy. It’s really not that hard to see why. First of all, it is based Hebrew word מִגְזָר (migzar) which means sector and it is no coincidence they sound so similar. The roots ג-ד-ר (Gimel-Dalet-Resh) and ג-ז-ר (Gimel-Zain-Resh) share a common origin and it shows both their phonetical and semantical characteristics. Plus, there is also a certain similarity to the word gender which it is meant to replace and that is an added bonus.
But there is no question that the main reason it caught on so fast, is fact that it serves it purpose accurately and efficiently. It employs an appropriate shoresh and molds it into a proper mishqal, and thus it describes exactly what it purports to describe in a very natural and user-friendly manner. When a Hebrew speaker comes across this word for the first time, he or she can immediately sense it has something to do with the definitions of groups and the dividing lines between them. They wouldn’t have picked it up otherwise.
J.K Rowling is manning G.K Chesterton’s fence
I think it is quite reasonable to say that in recent years, gender ideology is being used to undermine, subvert, or basically dig under the fence of the very concept of definitions. If you need a good example, then look no further than J.K Rowling who is trying to keep the goal post from being moved in the fight to maintain the current definition of the word ‘woman’.
J.K Rowling is one of the most prominent women who is currently manning a post on Chesterton’s Fence, but she is certainly not the only one. Another woman who is doing that, and arguably even more successfully is Kellie-Jay Keen. She got her international 15 minutes of fame with the brilliant comeback “I am not a vet but I know what a dog is” in an argument that took place on the bleaches while swimmer Lia Thomas was racing.
The influx of infiltration
Just like with actual fences in the real world, when it comes to definitions there are two primary ways to deal with them. The first way is trying to sneak pass them unnoticed, leaving it intact and go about your day as if nothing happened. The second way is to flood the area, either with water or people, and hope that the sheer magnitude of the force applied on the fence will destroy it and render it useless.
Sneaking passed the fence
Sneaking passed the fence requires a certain degree of sophistication. After you cross the fence, you need to blend in, or you’ll get reported and deported back to where you came from. You must look and sound like you belong and have always belonged. A good way to achieve that is to have a fake ID made for you, and base it on an actual person already in the system. A few good examples for this are words like ‘gender’, ‘equity’, and even the blatant attempt to repurpose of the word ‘they’ and use it as a singular pronoun for unique and specific individuals.
Alternatively, you can also pretend to be the child of two long standing and well-established citizens, like many newly formed compound words such as ‘birthing people’, ‘undocumented immigrant’ or ‘cisgender’. Though sneaking passed the fence is considered to be the more subtle method between, it also requires acting against or even eliminate those individuals whose mere existence is enough to expose your false identity and bring down your shell of background story. That is why the word ‘woman’ for instance, can literally cause some people to go berserk these days.
Flooding the fence
Flooding the fence is essentially what is known in the hacking world as a Brute Force Attack or a DDoS Attack (Distributed Denial-of-Service). The purpose of brute force attacks is to gain access to the system by repeatedly trying to guess the correct password, while DoS and DDoS attacks are meant to overload the system with requests (from multiple sources in the case of DDoS) and cause it to crash. Their main principle is the same – constant bombardment until something cracks and gives.
This method of crossing the fence requires a much lower level of sophistication. Instead of fake IDs, blending in, or at the very least remaining inconspicuous, those who use this method usually rely on other people’s kindness and sympathy. They announce their arrival loud and clear, and they even keep attracting attention to themselves well after the fact. Some of the lingual examples for this method include the endless stream of new genders and sexual identities, weird pronouns like Xe, Xem and Xyr, or the Angelo-Hispanic mutation known as Latinx (shoutout to Professor Charles Xavier).
These two methods are not mutually exclusive. In fact, they work best when employed simultaneously and it’s not hard to guess why. Flooding a certain area of fence with people serves two purposes – attrition and distraction. The flooded area of the fence sustains a lot of damage and begins to crumble, all the attention and resources are diverted there, and other individuals can cross in the areas of the fence which are now left unchecked. The more people successfully cross the fence, the harder it is to track them. Not to mention it also incentivizes more people to try to cross and thus the flood continues and expands well beyond the fence.
The Value of Words
In Hebrew, entries in a dictionary are referred to as עֲרָכִים (arakhim, singular עֵרֶךְ – erekh). The Hebrew word עֵרֶךְ (erekh) doesn’t mean ‘entry’ which is how you refer to words in a dictionary in English, instead it means ‘value’. From the shoresh ע-ר-כ/ך (Ayn-Resh-Kaf) we also get the verb עָרַךְ (arakh) which means to edit or to set, and the verb הֶעֱרִיךְ (he’erikh) which means to evaluate, appreciate, or appraise. The Hebrew word for editor is עוֹרֵךְ (orekh) and a rolling pin is called מַעֲרוֹךְ (ma’arokh) because you use it shape the dough into something of value and set its thickness or thinness.
I really like the fact that English refers to words in the dictionary as entries. I know it was mostly done from purely practical reasons because you enter a word into the dictionary, and nowadays you even make an indent at the beginning of the line and press the enter key at the end. But I also like to think how it also describes how each word is an entrance to a domain of meaning, or a gate to a semantic field with borders set by the fence of definition.
As much I like the concept of dictionary entries in English, I still prefer the Hebrew approach with the word עֲרָכִים (arakhim) – values. That’s because it directly corresponds to the true purpose of words, and it reflects how we use them as currency to exchange information in the marketplace of thought and ideas. Words are just like money in the monetary system of language. They hold a certain value which we all agree upon (or at least used to) and are willing to give and receive them from each other. At the same time, we are also free to decline the exchange if we feel it is not a fair or accurate trade.
But just like with the monetary system, we have to be very careful when it comes to languages as well. Because if you allow people to tinker with the language, and flood it with undocumented and untested meanings which may hold no actual value, then you end up with inflation. Only this inflation takes place inside your brain.
The inflation of Language
Inflation in the real world is a general increase in the prices of goods and services within a certain economic system. Most experts agree that it is mainly caused by a persistent excessive growth in the money supply. In other words – too much money floods the economy, there is no actual demand or use for it, and as a result the money loses its value. Once the money has no value everything becomes really expensive, consumers lose their buying power, and many businesses go out of business.
Language inflation is very similar in principle. The root cause for it is also a flood or an influx, but since words are not exactly the same as money or goods, it manifests itself in other ways. The main two are pumping value into words and draining value out of words. One could argue that they are essentially the same thing, only viewed from a different perspective.
Pumping value into words
This method itself is divided into two subcategories. The first one is creating redundant unnecessarily cumbersome words which do not hold actual unique meaning of their own. This is the method of choice to create politically correct and woke terms, from classics like “overweight” and “hearing impaired” instead of fat and deaf, to newest craze mentioned earlier of referring to women as “birthing persons” or “menstruating people”.
This practice is extremely dangerous when it is adopted by government officials because it is the linguistical equivalent of printing money the populace doesn’t need or require as a whole. When regular people do it, it is closer to printing counterfeit money. Or in the case of the pronouns “xe”, “xim” and “xyr” – drawing numbers with crayons on small pieces of paper and asking people to start carrying it in their purses and wallets even though it will make a mess.
The second subcategory refers to existing words which are being pumped with false value and then forcefully applied where they clearly don’t belong semantically. In this category we can find words like ‘violence’, ‘racism’, ‘oppression’, different types of ‘phobias’, and the pronoun ‘they’ which we already mentioned.
Draining value out of words
Draining value out of words is usually achieved by pairing two well established words. One word usually carries a lot of meaning, but in this case it is completely voided or negated by the presence of the other word. Terms like micro-aggression (the most purest form of this method in my opinion), social justice, environmental justice, rape culture, and even the term political correctness itself are all perfect examples of this.
Alternatively, one could also form pairs in which one of the words adds little to no value to the whole. For example, “biological male” – is there a male which is not biological? Another good example is ‘lived experience’ – is there an experience which is not lived?
All this is very similar to a capacitor which is made of two plates with opposite electrical charges. Make the difference between the charges too big to sustain, or bring the plates too close together, and the capacitor will discharge. Make the charges on each plate the same and you also won’t get any voltage or current.
When you do the same thing with words, it is your brain who becomes incapacitated and can’t generate any thought of actual value.
The nature of drowning
Viewing words as values is not the only way Hebrew equates language with currency. One of the Hebrew ways to say ‘an expression’ or ‘a figure of speech’ is מַטְבֵּעַ לָשׁוֹן (matbe’a lashon) which literally means “a coin of tongue”. It probably has something to do with the English phrase ‘to coin a phrase’, though a similar use of the word מַטְבֵּעַ (coin) is found in the Talmud as well.
The shoresh of the word מַטְבֵּעַ (matbe’a – coin) is ט-ב-ע (Tet-Bet-Ayn). The basic meaning of the shoresh ט-ב-ע (Tet-Beit-Ayn) is to drown or to sink. For instance, the sentence “the man drowned at sea” in Hebrew is הָאִישׁ טָבַע בַּיָּם (ha’ish tava bayam) and a common sign around different bodies of water in Israel is סַכָּנַת טְבִיעָה (sakanat tvi’a) which warns against the danger (סַכָּנָה) of drowning (טְבִיעָה).
In many cases, when an object sinks into a pliable substance it leaves an impression. As a result, the shoresh ט-ב-ע (Tet-Bet-Ayn) gradually also developed the meaning of imprinting and that is why it makes an appearance in the word מַטְבֵּעַ (matbe’a – coin). Two more words which make use of this meaning of the shoresh are the word הַטְבָּעָה (hatba’a) which means both to sink and to imprint, and the word טַבַּעַת (taba’at) which means ring as in signet or seal rings.
The shoresh ט-ב-ע (Tet-Bet-Ayn) makes a rather surprising appearance in the Hebrew word טֶבַע (teva) which means nature – both in the sense of the physical world and things that were not created by us humans, and in the sense of the basic essence or inherent features of something, like in the phrase ‘Human Nature’.
The word טֶבַע (teva – nature) is one of the many Hebrew words which were formulated by the Ibn Tibbon family in the 12th and 13th centuries. The main inspiration for its creation was the Arabic word طَبِيعَة (tabi’a) which is based on the same root. I really like the use of the shoresh ט-ב-ע (Tet-Bet-Ayn) for the word טֶבַע (teva – nature) because it shows how things that are part of our nature (טֶבַע) are literally imprinted in us or טְבוּעִים בָּנוּ (tvu’im banu) in Hebrew.
This connection between nature, currency and drowning is where we come to a full circle. The verb ‘to drown’ in the sense of making something else drown is הִטְבִּיעַ (hitbi’a) and it tells us that if you want to fundamentally change the nature of something, if you want to remove all of the defining borders that are imprinted upon it and make it what it is, then one of the most effective ways to accomplish that, is to drown it completely until they all fade and disappear, until the object itself is completely soaked and becomes so malleable you can shape it into any form you wish.
This method is even more effective when it comes to language. Because when you are drowning in an endless flood of new words and strange definitions, you have to grab anything you can hold on to – and it is at this particular moment that inflated language seems like exactly what you need to stay afloat. Before you know it, phrases like “biological male” or “white privilege” become a part of your vocabulary and you start using them to get your point across, even if the phrase itself contradicts the very nature of your existence or goes against your entire world view and core beliefs.
If want to see the result of this method in the real world, the following clip is a very good example of an individual whose mind gave up and caved in on itself, and now is totally incapacitated and completely malleable.
You might roll your eyes and maybe even laugh at this person, but it will serve you well to keep in mind that at the end of the day this is also somebody who’s drowning even though there’s no water in sight. Or – if you will – a person whose mind is in the same state as the US economy in 2022.
People drowning in their own inability to define themselves is a mere side-effect of abolishing definitions, and a relatively benign one at that.
The actual results of this dangerous psycho-linguistic game can be seen all around us these days at all levels of society. From the purest form of disrespecting boundaries at the street level with rioting, looting, and carjacking, and all the way to the top with a supreme court judge nominated by a president who can barely form a coherent sentence, and she herself can’t (or won’t) draw a line around the definition of the word ‘woman’.
These are the sounds of a civilization crumbling down not because its enemies have breached its walls and are now taking anything of value, but because its people came to believe they don’t need walls as they have nothing of actual value to offer – even within their own minds.
It is the sound of a privileged society hyperventilating itself into oblivion while drowning in its own private pool simply because its people didn’t bother to maintain their yard anymore.