Discrimination — ANOTHER Misused Word

This will be just a brief comment, parallel to my criticism in other posts of certain “popular” words (such as “common sense” and “hate”).

When I was young, “discrimination” had at least one positive meaning, that when used in the sense of a person with discriminating taste. In this sense it indicated an ability to distinguish being various competing choices and to select the alternative with the superior attributes. This favorable sense of the word seems now to have been wholly abandoned; now it is almost exclusively used to refer to malevolent behavior.

Now it certainly is proper to use this word in a pejorative sense in certain situations, as when it references illegal and, perhaps, immoral, discrimination; in those classes it would be most improper not to use it. But it appears it now usually is used in a much broader sense, to castigate actions of someone who makes any distinction between various persons or classes of persons.

Yet we, in minor and major manners, beneficially or injuriously, discriminate daily. We do this in selection of food, roads or areas to travel or not, items to purchase or not and a myriad of other choices. We do this also in imposing restrictions on particular persons or classes of persons, be they convicted felons, minors at certain ages of 16, 18 or 21, nonresidents for voting and a plethora of other examples which it would be too exhausting to catalogue. Still, these pervasive instances of appropriate and necessary discrimination are ignored by certain people who prefer use of a broad brush in application of this term to selected situations which offend them.

It is my assessment that there is a current prevalent propensity for a substantial proportion of the populace to make superficial and precipitate assessments — to ignore, or even fail to perceive, nuances. This is a most dangerous proclivity, for it constitutes an abandonment of the discipline, and perhaps even capacity, to employ discernment in evaluation and decision.

I acknowledge it may be facile to compare the frequency of absence of discernment and the prevalence of use of the term discrimination. Yet might there be a connection?

Thought frequently (or should) involves the development of mental systemization, to a certain degree at least, in observing and assessing various objects or actions. Methodology economizes analysis. The rub is when the methodology is defective. One more fatal is when methodology is absent.

Precipitate categorization is an absence of methodology. But cannot this become a methodology itself? — a systematized rejection of discernment. For the converse of studied analysis is the failure to engage in it.

Broad use of the term discrimination to critique and admonish any distinction by someone between persons or actions is but one instance of this failure. It is a rejection of the methodology of discernment which must be reversed. If we continue to fail in this regard I can only regrettably project an intensifying polarization with catastrophic results.

WAYNE A. SMITH
Forester Twp, Michigan USA
16 October 2017

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