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Olduvai III: Catacylsm
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A small and deceptive word

A small and deceptive word

In a previous post I referred to two “highly seductive and misunderstood words.”  I dealt with one of these several years ago when considering the growing number of things that humans can do in theory but can no longer do in practice.  This applied to highly expensive projects like sending humans to the moon or operating commercial supersonic air travel.  But it also applies to more mundane activities like the once ubiquitous automated car washes.  The point being that whenever an activist, politician or journalist uses words like “ought,” “could,” “should,” and “can,” what they most often mean is “can’t.”

This, in turn, implies an unacknowledged powerlessness.  Because these antonyms are almost always preceded by another deceptive word… “we.”  People on what is broadly considered the political right, for example, will explain that “we ought/could/should…” start fracking the Bowland shale deposits in northern England and/or start drilling the oil deposits west of Shetland and/or hurry the development of new nuclear power stations.  Against this, those who identify as being on the left will claim that this is unnecessary because “we can/ought/should…” accelerate the deployment of wind turbines and solar panels, electric vehicles and charging infrastructure.  I have covered the impossibility of both proposals – broadly, that they are too energy and resource expensive compared to the energy they return to be viable in the real economy – in several previous posts.  But what I want to explore here is just how deceptive the word “we” is, since it should be patently obvious that used in these kinds of context, the word “we” actually means “they” – or more correctly, since nobody knows who “they” are – “someone else.”

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Olduvai IV: Courage
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Olduvai II: Exodus
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