Translating is good for the man of letters. For example: once, in the text of a conservative who mentioned a novel, the word “impoverished” appeared – literally: impoverished – to refer to a character who, by the context, seemed have been poor from birth. If I translate as “impoverished”, the Lusophone reader will think of someone who was born above poverty and fell into it. In Portuguese, poor is poor; no euphemism for poor. However, it was enough to check the summary of the novel to see that the character was born poor.
It remains to conclude that the Anglophones created a politically correct euphemism for “poor”, “impoverished”, in the same vein as what a beautiful people does now in Portuguese with “escravo”. You can no longer say “slave” because that would naturalize slavery, so you have to put it in the passive voice: “slaved”. As political correctness is an Anglophone invention, this novelty is a copy of there: instead of slave, they say enslaved now.
It turns out, however, that there is an atrocious difference between being born in captivity and having lived in freedom until captured by slavers. Furthermore, if I infer that there are “slaves by nature” just by not using the passive form, then I must infer that journalists, doctors, engineers, are what they are by nature; otherwise, they would be journalistized, medicized, engineered. And if no one is born a woman, we should say “womanized” instead of “woman” in order to combat cis-heteronormativity.
But the poor/impoverished situation is even more foolish than slave/enslaved. The Western Judeo-Christian tradition does indeed hold that man is born free; from this, it is argued that slavery is illegitimate. On the other hand, I know of no deep grounds for the claim that no man is born poor. Every man is born naked and hungry. If some are born heirs, this is indeed a social construction – just as the fact that some were born slaves was a social construction. Plenty, abundance, the possession of a lot of money, all this is the result of continued social construction, passed from father to son through the millennia. It is true that poverty and misery can also be manufactured, but the fact is that, given over to nature, man is poor.
On the other hand, there is no millenary doctrine that affirms that men are born rich. What is most consolidated in this line is only a few 300 years old. It is Rousseau’s speech that men are born equal and society produces inequality.
In the end, therefore, the conservative who writes “impoverished ” instead of “poor” adheres to a vocabulary that only makes sense within a Rousseauianism to which it does not adhere. In this he misses a word – poor – and, along with it, the distinction between being poor from birth and having been impoverished. Shakespeare’s language has a golden cradle, but it is depleted, impoverished.
This impoverishment must have been imposed to Anglophones before English took the place of French as a lingua franca; therefore, the pressure not to say “poor” must not have reached us. Or maybe there is even a cultural difference that makes Brazilians in fact not see the poor as morally reprehensible, and the euphemistic pressure has turned, here, against the word “beggar”, since beggars are morally condemned by part of the population, especially since the spread of crack. This is where the “people on the street” comes in. In any case, it is a restricted jargon, with no chance of falling into common usage and ending up in the writing of a conservative.
But another linguistic corruption that has become so ingrained in the English language , and which I see infiltrating Portuguese, is the misrepresentation of the meaning of “representative of minorities”.
Although both are confused, representation is one thing; representation, another. In the legal and political world, we can choose our representation: I hire a lawyer to represent me; I vote for a politician to represent me. In both cases, it is the very traditional notion of representation – and in both cases the represented is free to choose who will represent him. In the politically correct notion of representativeness, however, we choose nobody. It is postulated as a dogma that women represent women, blacks represent blacks, etc. If I am a woman, it is up to me to sit passively, waiting for a woman – in theory, any woman – to appear to represent me. Represent me how? Being a woman. Just stand there looking like a landscape. There where? Anywhere or in any context: on a TV stand, in an IT company, in a doctor’s office, in Congress. Representativeness is inserted in all areas of social life. If I turn on the TV and see Dani Calabresa, I must see my representative there in humor, because I am a woman and so is she. Representativeness is free and compulsory. But why do I want a representative in humor?! When I watch a comedy show, I just want to see good jokes, I don’t want to be represented.
The rights of women minorities to representation is sacred in democracies. Identitarianism does away with this in two ways: by distorting the notion of representative, linking it to “representativeness”, and by confusing the notion of minority. Now, in politics, the minority is the defeated vote, it is the dissident. A parliament ceases to make sense when the victorious wing (the majority) takes away the rights of the losing wing (the minority). Congresses have opposition and situation. In the early days of democracy in Europe, the minority and the opposition were white men. Today, in English-speaking countries, whites cannot be a minority because they are a majority in the demographic sense. The natural consequence of this distortion is to end the right to dissent in politics. And along with that comes the idea that no one needs to get a vote to be a representative; just exist.
The sow twists her tail on another very important matter. In this text here, we are alerted to the problem of mechanisms designed to artificially increase “black representation” in medicine, that is, the number of black doctors. It is not correct to speak of black representation in a context other than politics or, come on, art (for example: “the black is represented like that in the work of So-and-so”). The patient does not go to the office to find a mandatory representative; he goes to the office to find someone who knows how to treat him. By the way the carriage ride in the US, black patients can only go to black doctors. If blacks in the US have a culture averse to studies, colleges must push bad black students forward in order to have “representativeness”. In the end, representation forces poor ethnic minorities to have butcher doctors. It reeks of social Darwinism.
The only important representation in political debate is political representation. This must be free, except in case of minority or mental incapacity. If it is compulsory, it is not political representation.
If an individual is a dwarf and albino at the same time, this does not make him a political minority enjoying special rights; makes him just a statistically rare individual. Being black or female is not a political issue. There are women and blacks who are supporters of various political ideas, and each one has the right to choose a representative according to these ideas. “Woman” is not a political idea, and no politician has the right to claim to represent me if I have not voted for her. Jean Wyllys never represented gays; he represented a portion of the carioca electorate.