Money Over Meaning

Sometimes we use a word to describe something so often that we don’t realize the word we are using is not an accurate representation of what is really going on. This careless use of words masks the real world situation we are in. This is especially evident in the United States, where words like “public” and “democracy” are often used without really thinking about what the words mean. These are just two examples of our unwillingness to really think about the meaning of words, and how money manages to warp the meaning of words.

Public

Dictionary.com defines the word public as meaning “open to all persons”. Going off of this definition, one would assume something such as public property to be open to all people at any time. However, this is not really the case. For example, two of my friends and I recently decided we wanted to go camping. However, we did not want to go to an official campground and pay money to be outdoors. Instead, we decided to go to a park with a large, woodsy area. The only problem was, the park was supposed to closed at a certain hour. While we were lucky and did not get caught, had we been caught, we would have been trespassing, which negates the meaning of public, being “open to all persons”. So, public property is not really entirely public, it is private property belonging to the government.

This misconception of the word public doesn’t only affect me, however, it also affects homeless people. In many U.S cities, it is illegal for homeless people to simply sit on the sidewalk, a public space. While sleeping and sitting on sidewalks is illegal, there is an exception to the rule. Although this exception can happen throughout the year depending on the release of new products, the most popular day of the year where this occurs is Black Friday. On Black Friday, tons of people wait in line for days, camping out on sidewalks, in order to get in on the special deals offered on the day. So, if you have no money, it is illegal to sleep on public property, while if you have money that you can’t wait to spend, sleeping on public property is encouraged. While we use the term public property all the time, the meaning of the word, open to all people, does not hold up, and is just used to mask the fact that it is actually property belonging to a particular entity, the government, which will punish anyone who cannot make its corporate puppet masters happy.

Democracy

Another word people often misuse is democracy. Many people often refer to the United States as being a democracy, masking the fact the United States is, in fact, more like a republic, although even that term masks the reality of the system in which we are living. Dictionary.com defines a republic as “a state in which the supreme power rests in the body of citizens entitled to vote and is exercised by representatives chosen directly or indirectly by them”. However, one can certainly argue that supreme power currently rests in the hands of a relatively small number of wealthy people, and the word republic is masking the fact that we are living in a plutocratic oligarchy, the furthest thing from a democracy.

Dictionary.com defines a democracy as “a form of government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised directly by them or by their elected agents under a free electoral system.” The United States is certainly not a democracy. If it were a democracy, then the opinions of the majority of people would actually be reflected in the laws, which we are forced to obey. Take marijuana for example. Whether you use marijuana or not, there is not denying that the clear majority of Americans believe that the use of marijuana should be legalized. According to a 2015 poll conducted by Benenson Strategy Group, 61% of Americans believe marijuana should be legalized, an increase from a 2013 Gallup poll that revealed 58% of Americans believe marijuana should be legalized. However, this is not reflected in the laws which the government sets. If we did live in a democracy, then marijuana would be legalized, reflecting the opinions of the majority of citizens, and allowing citizens to exercise their supreme power.

It’s not only within our laws that we see this undemocratic behavior, it is also extremely prevalent within our mainstream media, one of the most important tools in having well informed citizens. While there are lots of examples to choose from, one very recent example occurred with CNN after the Democratic Debate. After the debate, CNN concluded that Hillary Clinton had won, despite the fact that nearly every Internet poll showed that Bernie Sanders had won. Even CNN’s own poll determined Bernie Sanders to be the winner with 81% of the vote, while Clinton had 13% of the vote. The reason that CNN named Clinton the winner was likely due to the fact that CNN is run by Time Warner Inc., which is Clinton’s seventh largest campaign contributor. So, not only are laws in the United States not democratic, but so is the media, the means by which we judge how our country should be run. Just as the amount of money affected whether or not a person could be in a public space, here it can be seen that money has the ability to misinform the nation’s citizens, meaning money has the ability to change the meaning of words.

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