On March 17th 2018, a woman named Kathy Forth who was involved in the rationalist community (e.g., Less Wrong, Effective Altruism) committed suicide. She left behind a lengthy suicide note, where true to her rationalist roots she expended a lot of energy doing introspective analysis and describing social phenomena in literal terms. At first I skimmed it with contempt. You’re not supposed to hate on the dead, and when someone commits suicide you’re supposed to keep your thoughts to yourself unless you have something nice to say. Many people resort to incredibly charitable interpretations of the deceased person’s actions that they never would have dreamed of when the person was still alive. But I don’t play by those rules. Anthony Bourdain wasn’t any less of a condescending faggot just because he killed himself. But I relaxed my contempt for her after reading a bit more closely. She might have been insane, but she wasn’t an idiot. It’s a tragic waste that she wasn’t able to solve her deep problems, because she obviously had a lot of potential. Rather than as the ravings of a disturbed lunatic, her post should be read as a flailing but interesting attempt to get at the root of what had gone so wrong in her life. And despite being very atypical in many ways, the underlying cause of her struggles was anything but atypical in the modern West.
Few things are more common among the followers of mainstream linguistics than the claim that no language is better than any other language, and that the only yardstick of correctness is whether native speakers consistently employ the word or grammatical pattern. According to such enlightened individuals who seek to uphold the modern age of tolerance, it’s dangerous pseudoscience to call a European language with a rich literary and intellectual tradition ‘better’ at communicating philosophical concepts than the language of an isolated African tribe. Every language can communicate every concept. That’s what the linguistics textbooks say, and only the muddleheaded idiocy of a racist would say otherwise. There’s no room for bigotry in science. We’re all the same, from those who warm their hands in front of their electric heater in the frigid reaches of Northern Norway to those who ready their spears in the sun-soaked stretches of African savanna.