Continuing from my earlier discussion about the corruption of language in the modern world, a few more thoughts occurred to me.
"Authority" is a word that has not only lost its meaning (the reality of power joined to the legitimacy of its exercise -- the union of might and right) but has acquired a sinister connotation. To speak of authority is to conjure up not memories of one's parents or beloved school teachers but nightmare-images of Big Brother and police brutality. Accordingly, the idea that one ought to submit to authority is regarded as cowardice and unreason. Nearly everyone has "issues with authority," to the point that "rebellion" (especially by the young) has become normative.
The idea of "orthodoxy," too, has had its meaning tainted by modernity, as G. K. Chesterton illustrated in the introduction to Heretics:
In former days the heretic was proud of not being a heretic. It was the kingdoms of the world and the police and the judges who were heretics. He was orthodox. He had no pride in having rebelled against them; they had rebelled against him. ... All the tortures torn out of forgotten hells could not make him admit that he was heretical. But a few modern phrases have made him boast of it. He says, with a conscious laugh, 'I suppose I am very heretical,' and looks round for applause. The word 'heresy' not only means no longer being wrong; it practically means being clear-headed and courageous. The word 'orthodoxy' not only no longer means being right; it practically means being wrong.
As commenter Bill noted in my earlier discussion of this issue, the language of emotion has become especially confused, so that love no longer refers to an act of goodwill but mere goopy sentimentalism, hate no longer refers to the willing of someone's misfortune but to pronounced dislike; conversely, charity has come to mean not an attribution of good faith but the act of giving money (oh, the wages of materialism!); and so on.
Bill also noted the corruption of the term "dogma," but the converse is the corruption of "reason," which has come to mean merely positivism -- the notion that nothing can be known that isn't experienced. Hence, atheists always assert a claim to superior reason over theists, who, by all accounts, have a longer and richer tradition of rational thought. Where is the atheist Aquinas, after all? Who the atheist Augustine? Who their John Paul II?
I mentioned in the earlier post that "modernity" itself was a strange thing. And why shouldn't it be? Time has not imbued atheism, utilitarianism, or liberalism with any more truth than they had 1,000 years ago; yet we're to believe ideas that are "modern" are good by virtue of their association with modernity. To be outdated is the one of the only sins left to the modern world (besides the sins of hypocrisy and judgmentalism). Modernity is a terrible word for the darkness that's befallen the world. Properly understood, it ought to mean merely "nowness," the present age; what it, in fact, entails, is this particular kind of nowness, the present age that was the subject of Kierkegaard's scorn. I sometimes wonder if the people who approve of modernity (more specifically, the people who approve of calling it modernity) do so to hide its true nature, to hide the fact that it is not the product of the inexorable march of history but the culmination of a long series of errors, any (and all) of which can be fought and reversed. To call this darkness modernity is therefore to lie about what it is and what it means.
(Really, someone needs to write a very clear and simple book about modernity, and the muddling of language ought to be one of the central chapters of it. As I mentioned before, nearly everyone who writes about modernity approvingly does so in the most indecipherable language possible, as if they're deliberately endeavoring to conceal their beliefs from the world for fear that full knowledge of the evil they represent would expose all their works to ruin).