Monday, 18 March 2013

When did "reform" stop meaning reform"?

Some words change their meanings.  Some even take the opposite meaning to what they once meant.

Take the word "reform", for example.  "Reform" used to mean making something better for most of the people.

For example, governments that were engaged in reform included those led by Franklin D. Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy, and Lyndon Johnson in the US; by Clement Attlee in the UK; and by John Curtin, Ben Chifley, and Gough Whitlam here in Australia.  Whatever the failings of these governments, they worked from a motivation to improve the life of ordinary people.  They were reforming goverments.

In recent decades, since the Reagan-Thatcher years in the 1980s, "reform" has changed its meaning.  "Reform" now doesn't mean making life better and fairer for the average person.  "Reform" now means rolling back the social advances of the decades since Roosevelt, Attlee, Curtin & co., making life harder for the average person once again, and easier for the mega-rich.

The far-right politicians, academics, and commentators (the ones I sometimes call "the Ayn Rand Fan Club") have hijacked the word "reform" so that it means something that is the opposite of real reform.

The Ayn Rand Fan Club doesn't hold a copyright on the word "reform".  Let's reclaim the word.

No comments:

Post a comment

Constructive comments, from a diversity of viewpoints, are always welcome. I reserve the right to choose which comments will be printed. I'm happy to post opinions differing from mine. Courtesy, an ecumenical attitude, and a willingness to give your name always help. A sense of humour is a definite "plus", as well.