Censorship by Language Reform
If the word "Mankind" is objectionable because of its masculinity, "Humankind" is no better.
April 5, 2010 - 12:05 am
In his essay on the liberty of the press, the great philosopher David Hume wrote what has been many times quoted, but has never achieved the status of a cliché:
It is seldom that liberty of any kind is lost all at once. Slavery has so frightful an aspect to men accustomed to freedom that it must steal in upon them by degrees and must disguise itself in a thousand shapes in order to be received.
I think this is borne out pretty well by our current experience. Freedom is being nibbled away in the name of justice, security, well-being, and even of freedom itself, that is to say true freedom, not the merely apparent kind — for nothing is easier for power-hungry intellectuals to justify than the coercion that they favor to bring about true freedom.
However, Hume goes on to say something that seems to me not to be quite true:
But if the liberty of the press ever be lost, it must be lost at once.
He says this because he assumes that the only serious threat to freedom of the press comes from a despotic government desirous of imposing centralized censorship of what appears in print, and which it is be able to do by fiat. This is not so; there are other, subtler threats to press freedom.
I have noticed that whenever I used the word “Mankind” in an article, it emerges in the printed version, without my permission, as “Humankind,” a word I despise as both ugly and sanctimonious. (In the Oxfam shop round the corner from where I live there is a poster with a slogan that nauseates me: “Thankyou for Being Humankind.”) The change is made with such regularity, and in so many publications, that the government might as well have decreed it, though in fact it has not. There is, presumably, a monstrous regiment of sub-editors at work, all of like mind.