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Old Monday, October 19, 2015
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Default Can Meaning be Fixed? Feedback required

Hey everyone,
I'd be obliged if you could critique my essay and suggest any improvements it might require. Thanks.

Can Meaning be fixed?

Outline:
1) Introduction
Thesis statement: Although, meaning can be fixed by way of sanctioning free thinking or creating a consensus for the purposes of solidarity, but meaning cannot remain fixed forever. It is not static and changes overtime as people change, cultures evolve and societies undergo transformation economically, culturally and so forth.

2) Body
A. Individual actions tend to elicit varied responses from different people.
1. The subjective interpretation of social issues
a. Death Penalty in Pakistan
2. Social groups and their experiences
b. human rights activist vs. a soldier

B. Meaning is not only created through debate and discussion, the free exchange of ideas and free enquiry but also by the manipulation of those with vested interests.
1. Propagandists and religious fascism
a. Nazism in Germany
2. Repressive societies and state sanctioned discourse
b. North Korea

C. State sanctioned discourses, repressive societies, governments and their leaders, powerful corporations and their agendas, fascist ideologies along with their ideologues etc. may define and orient people to follow the meanings they advocate of their actions. However, this is a transitory state of affairs because meaning cannot be fixed forever.
1. the re defining of the once glorified ideology of Nazism

D. Meaning is created and destroyed, and therefore it can be deemed a dynamic process.
1. The Enlightenment Period
2. Academic disciplines and the creation of new meaning
3. Technological feats
a. Bill Gates and Steve Jobs

E. However, one must not forget that there may be certain downsides to meaning that cannot be fixed.
1. The importance of fixed meaning: consensus building in society

F. We live in a fast-changing time; some have even called it a borderless world.
1. Globalization and social media: the difficulty of fixing meaning

3) Conclusion
It is our pursuit for meaning that can be said to create a meaningful life. The task at hand is to find a balance in this pursuit as questioning everything may in itself lead to instability.


Life is filled with meaning, be it the meaning we give to our individual endeavors or the meaning ascribed to our actions by society. It may be found in the most common of things or tasks or may never be found at all for some. Thus, the pursuit of meaning may be deemed a subjective enterprise and open to interpretation.
Some may argue that life or our individual pursuits in general, lack any meaning. By conforming to what society deems right and worth wile, our actions lose meaning as we no longer seek meaning for ourselves. Hence, one may argue that our endeavors must be geared towards creating and finding meaning for ourselves by ourselves.

Human beings are curious creatures, we tend to seek out truths, question our surroundings and search for meaning. Free enquiry has overtime led to some truly remarkable discoveries by scientists, sociologists, historians etc. and many a times new meanings displaced old meanings; Copernicus’ discovery that the earth and the planets orbited the sun and not the other way round revolutionized science.
However, meaning can be fixed as witnessed in history and contemporary times when states sanction free thinking and dictate what the right way of thinking is. Whether creating a consensus in society in an effort to build solidarity is a required undertaking or not is debatable, nevertheless, it is a means by which meaning can be fixed.
Although, meaning can be fixed by way of sanctioning free thinking or creating a consensus for the purposes of solidarity, but meaning cannot remain fixed forever. It is not static and changes overtime as people change, cultures evolve and societies undergo transformation economically, culturally and so forth.

Individual actions tend to elicit varied responses from different people. As an example, the death penalty is a highly debated topic worldwide and in Pakistan presently. It is one measure by which the state is trying to curb terrorism within the country. It is a measure intended to impart justice and create an environment of accountability. Basically, a clear message is being sent to perpetrators of militant extremism, that they will be punished. Society is divided on this issue; there are those who support the government’s efforts at criminalizing militant extremism on one side and there are human rights advocates who argue that this is a short term fix, one that does not reach to the root of the problem of extremism. They argue that not only is the death penalty a violation of the right to life but also a measure with severe long term repercussions. The purpose of this example is to illustrate the different meanings that can be associated with a social issue and how meaning is subjective in nature. In a similar vein, one may analyze social issues such as rape, domestic violence, drug abuse, domestic abuse etc. and find numerous varied interpretations of each.
Individual actors contextualize their meanings in terms of their social position, biases, culture, values, norms, knowledge etc. and accordingly take sides on the issue. Thus, for a human rights activist the implication of the death penalty will be different from that of a battle hardened soldier fighting against terrorists in the field. Both have different experiences and their context defines their position on the issue to a certain extent.

Meaning is not only created through debate and discussion, the free exchange of ideas and free enquiry but also manipulation by those with vested interests. Propagandists are the best manipulators of meaning one can find. Religious fascists, powerful corporations for instance are notorious for weaving webs of knowledge which suit their hidden agendas. Individuals are susceptible to accepting different versions of stories, especially if they do not seek meaning for themselves or audit the information they receive.
One may argue that meaning can be fixed when we accept things as they are without questioning and debating knowledge.
Nazism, a form of religious fascism is a pertinent example of the dark side of conformity. It is a reminder for generations to come and people of today of the extent to which individuals are capable of being brainwashed into accepting a reality. Nazism’s preliminary premise rested on the assertion that the Germans were a superior race, they were Aryans and by virtue of this racial superiority the massacre of the Jewish population was systematically undertaken.
One may question how rational individuals can be taken over by such fascist propagandas that they can commit acts of barbarism and murder. One possible answer may be that when those in power brainwash and systematically entrench a belief in society it acquires a fixed meaning, one that can no longer be challenged.
Repressive societies and their leaders cement their power by creating fixed meanings of discourses that they advocate and support. North Korea is a relevant example of a repressive society in today’s day and age. The people of North Korea live disconnected lives from the rest of the world owing to the numerous bans on internet usage and communication with the outside world. They worshipped their deceased leader Kim Jong Il out of fear and devotion who was referred to as the “supreme leader” of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK). The human rights record of the country is one of the bleakest with reports of concentration camps in operation. Some of the prisoners of these camps include those who are caught in their attempts to defect to South Korea and if one does defect successfully but leaves members of his family behind, they have to pay the price of his defection as prisoners in concentration camps.
North Korea is an example of a state where the state sanctions free thinking and curbs any deviation of opinion from the state sponsored discourse. Its leaders and political institutions thrive and establish legitimacy because they have given a fixed meaning to their existence. The people are made to believe that the state sanctioned discourse and way of life is for their benefit.

State sanctioned discourses, repressive societies, governments and their leaders, powerful corporations and their agendas, fascist ideologies along with their ideologues etc. may define and orient people to follow the meanings they advocate of their actions. However, this is a transitory state of affairs because meaning cannot be fixed forever. People change, societies change, cultures evolve and discourses change with the passage of time. For example, Nazism was once hailed by Germany as its ideology and followed by its people, yet after the Second World War following the defeat of the Allied forces, new meaning was given to Nazism; it became one of the worst time periods of history. Germany has come a long way since the Holocaust and has accepted its mistakes.

Meaning is created and destroyed, and therefore it can be deemed a dynamic process. The Enlightenment Period marked the beginning of a new era in intellectual thinking; it paved the way for a rational, utilitarian and modern individual. It was a break from traditional beliefs and people began to question whether an aristocracy built on the premise of a birth right to rule was a legitimate reason for individuals to acquire power. Enlightenment theorists such as Jean Jacques Rousseau, Thomas Hobbes, John Locke etc. postulated theories on the rights of man, his relation to the state and what defined and created a state. New meaning was created and found in their writings.

Science, social sciences, arts and disciplines in general have created new meaning time and again. Individuals in general search for a new meaning continuously in their lives. This pursuit for new meanings has led to remarkable discoveries and most importantly the creation of new knowledge. The technological feats that we have accomplished today can be attributed to the persistent efforts of individuals in search for a more efficient and superior creation. It is the thirst for new knowledge, new meaning that led entrepreneurs such as Bill Gates and Steve Jobs to revolutionize computer technology.

However, one must not forget that there may be certain downsides to meaning that cannot be fixed. Critical thinking and debate and discussion are one of the hallmarks of a democratic society, yet, meaning that cannot be fixed hinders consensus making in society. One may argue that in order to create solidarity amongst citizens, state sanctioned discourse is needed, provided that the discourse is not propagandist or fascist in nature. Moreover, the norms of society or its shared culture helps reinforce stability in society.

We live in a fast-changing time; some have even called it a borderless world. Globalization has led to multiculturalism and increased access to different cultures of the world, their lifestyles etc. Social media has given an open window into new cultures and information regarding different people all over the world. In this evolving world, one may find it difficult to fix meaning even if one desired because the free flow of information and culture has created a global discourse. One does not have to travel thousands of miles the way explorers such as Vasco de Gama did in order to reach the subcontinent and discover new cultures and their ways of life. It is just a mouse click away. Countries are no longer isolated geographically as they once were and this has contributed to new knowledge and meaning being created.

Meaning is subjective in nature; everybody interprets in his or her own way. The rightness or wrongness of that meaning is further debatable. To sanction meaning and to assign a certain way of thinking and interpreting may create uniformity and inhibit deviance in society, yet as history shows us the excesses of this endeavor can be horrific. There should always be room for debate and questioning. This creates new meaning, new knowledge that has led to remarkable discoveries and continues to do so.
It is our pursuit for meaning that can be said to create a meaningful life. The task at hand is to find a balance in this pursuit as questioning everything may in itself lead to instability.
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