The English language has changed so much in 700 years that we have to "translate"
Chaucer's stories rather than "read" them. Since his
stories were poems that rhyme, this creates a dilemma. If we merely
translate the words, some of the words will no longer rhyme. If we want
his poems to rhyme, we have to rewrite some sections.
The appearance of the English alphabet
has also changed since the United States was created. For
example, in 1776,
people were using two different forms of the letter S. The image
to the right shows the portion of the Declaration of Independence
"it becomes necessary for". The "long S" in
"necessary" looks like our
modern, cursive f.
We no longer use the long
and cursive writing
is slowly vanishing, also. The German language is still using the long S, however,
We encourage the abuse of language
Our languages change through time because
no society yet promotes the theory that we should use language as
precisely as musicians use music notes, and as people use Morse code.
Instead, our schools are teaching the detrimental attitude that our
writing should be entertaining. Students are not
taught to be precise; rather, they are taught to be clever, amusing,
stimulating, impressive, or funny. For example, in an article about
Mars, a journalist wrote:
There's no doubt that
ancient Mars was different than the Red Planet seen today.
Schools teach us that rather than repeat a word, we
should try to find a different word with the same meaning. The
journalists who follow this technique may describe snow as "the white
stuff", and spiders as "eight legged creatures".
The free enterprise system is also causing our languages to change
because the authors and journalists are in competition with each other
to attract our attention, and so they deliberately use language in
nonstandard manners in
order to titillate us. This is most noticeable with the documents
intended for the "ordinary" people.
For some examples, journalists describe a lot of different things as "this
bad boy", and the title for an article about Lady Gaga's new
hairstyle might be: "Massive star rocks new 'do". A
popular video might be described as "going viral", and Thanksgiving
might be referred to as "Turkey Day". One journalist might
describe a product as "cool", while another journalist describes the
same product as "hot", "killer", "kick ass", or "bad ass".
Although the misuse of words can be entertaining, it can also be
irritating and confusing, especially to foreigners and computers, and
it can cause children to pick up a slightly different version of our
example: the Second Amendment
I discussed the Second Amendment in this previous document, but
this time I want to point out that an understanding of how language can
transfer thoughts is necessary in order to understand the Second
Amendment, and to adequately create and understand other legal
documents, laws, and social technology.
The Second Amendment was written after a group of people had gotten
together to discuss what rights they wanted to provide the citizens.
They eventually compromised on a policy, and they encoded it into a
sequence of 27 words:
well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free
State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be
When we read those words, we should
decode them into the exact same concept that the authors had inside
their mind, and there should be no disagreements between us on what
that sequence decodes into. Since there are lots of
disagreements between us, that means that we are not only decoding the
words differently from one another, we are also
decoding the words differently from the authors.
first dictionaries were crude
In order to accurately decode any type of
code, regardless of whether it is music notes, Morse code, or the words
in the Second Amendment, we must decode the symbols with the
definitions that the authors were using when they
encoded the information. You might assume that we could look in dictionaries
of 1780 to understand the Second Amendment, but dictionaries give only
summaries of the meanings of words. Dictionaries are useful
to show us the spelling of a word and to give us an idea of what a word
means, but not for learning a language.
To make the situation worse, there is still no society that has the
attitude that we
need an authority of language, and so dictionaries are not
an authority. Rather, the authors of dictionaries are in
the role of passive observers who merely provide
us with a snapshot of how people are using words at a particular moment
in time. If people use certain words in confusing manners, then the
dictionary will give us those confusing uses rather than provide us
Furthermore, there was nothing we would recognize as an
English-language dictionary until 1755. During Chaucer's era, many
people throughout Europe, especially in the
Catholic Church, were still regarding Latin as the proper language
for documents. In 1286 a dictionary of Latin words was
created. Chaucer was
among a small number of people to produce documents in the English
language, and he was on his own to figure out how to spell words. There
was no dictionary for him to look in.
The first useful English dictionary was published in 1755, but it does
not help us understand the Second Amendment. The image below shows its
definition for militia (most of the letters that looks like f
are actually an s):
n.s. [Latin.] The trainbands; the standing force of a nation.
Let any prince think soberly of his
forces, except his militia be good and valiant
soldiers. Bacon's Essays, No.
The militia was so settled by law, that a sudden
army could be drawn together. Clarendon.
Unnumbered spirits round thee fly,
The light militia of the lower sky. Pope's
Rape of the Lock.
Update: I had assumed that the dictionary did not have an entry for the word "trainbands",
but it turns out that the dictionaries search function does not find the word, but it is in the scanned image of the dictionary.
must imagine yourself living in 1780
As I described in a previous series of
articles, a dictionary definition is a very short summary
of what a word represents. Many words represent concepts that are so
complex that the definition would have to be several volumes in order
to adequately explain it.
We cannot use the dictionary to help us understand the second
amendment, so what do we do? If you understand that every word
represents a set of memories in our mind, then a
sensible way to guess at how people in 1780 were using words is to try
to imagine ourselves living in that era, and try to guess at what
sort of memories we would have accumulated for the words in the second
Many words, such as frog, rock, and clouds, would provide us with the
same set of memories in 1780 as we have today because those words
represent things that have not changed. However, human life and
technology has changed significantly, so the people who grew up in 1780
had a significantly different set of memories for such words as home,
farm, sheriff, militia, school, and transportation.
departments did not
exist in 1700
The attitude towards crime prevention was
significantly different in the 1700s compared to our cities
The towns did not have police departments like we
do today. Some towns
had a Sheriff, but when the Sheriff needed to arrest somebody, he would
often ask for volunteers to assist him. This is where the phrase "Posse
comitatus", and the word "posse" came from. The British
version of this concept was referred to as "Hue and cry"
Hollywood movies distort history to titillate us, so you might have a
distorted view on what a posse was, but the truth was more boring; a
posse was just a group of men who were assisting the sheriff.
Although a lot of men would volunteer to help the sheriff, and they
would volunteer to help defend their community from attacks, there were
situations in which there were not enough volunteers. The lack of
volunteers resulted in the concept of forcing people to assist the
sheriff, or forcing them to help with the defense of their community.
This concept developed into what became known as a "military draft" or "conscription",
in which every young man is required to join the military to give him
some training with weapons and military tactics.
It is also important to realize that centuries ago the government did
not have large stockpiles of weapons. Manufacturing technology was
crude. Iron was difficult to produce and process. Knives, guns, spears,
and armor were expensive and rare. When a sheriff needed a group of men
to help him, he could not provide the men with clothing, tools, guns,
horses, saddles, or gunpowder. The men had to bring their own equipment
You might wonder why a sheriff would need volunteers to help him arrest
a criminal. The main reason was because the guns of centuries ago were
not much more useful than a knife. When the Second Amendment was
written, the only guns were flintlock
muskets, rifles, and pistols. There was no such
thing as a revolver or
a bullet. The flintlock guns were inaccurate, difficult to use, and
not very dangerous except at extremely close distances. When a man was
taught how to use a flintlock musket, he was advised that he should not
shoot at a person until he could see the whites of his eyes.
The police today have such high quality pistols and rifles that they
can remain at quite a distance from a criminal and demand that he get
on the ground and put his hands behind his back. Very few people are
foolish enough to risk being shot at by a modern gun. However, in the
1780s, the flintlock guns were so inaccurate and crude that people
were not nearly as frightened of being shot at. Shooting at a person
with a flintlock musket was not much more dangerous than throwing a rock
at him. It is possible that more people died from the infection that
resulted from being shot rather than from the projectile itself.
This is the reason that the Native Americans, with bows and arrows,
could often defeat groups of people with flintlock muskets.
It is possible that if a group of ordinary soldiers with flintlock muskets
had to battle a group of professional baseball pitchers who are throwing rocks,
that the baseball pitchers would win.
Because the flintlock muskets had so little value,
a line of soldiers would fire their
muskets at the same time so that they
created a shower of projectiles, which significantly increased the chances that
somebody would be injured, killed, or frightened enough
to run away.
Furthermore, it took so long to reload a flintlock gun that a sheriff
would effectively have only one shot because by the time he reloaded
his gun, the criminal would have either escaped, or he could have
rushed over to the sheriff and attacked him.
Because the flintlock guns were so ineffective, the fights between
criminals, and the fights between groups of soldiers, involved a lot of
hand-to-hand combat compared to today. Many of the guns had a knife
at the end of the barrel because knives were almost as effective as
rifles. A sheriff wanted assistance in capturing criminals because the
weapons in those days were so crude.
sheriff did not investigate crimes
Incidentally, one reason that the Sheriff
could depend upon some ignorant farmers to help him with criminals is
because there was no significant investigation of crimes in that era.
They did not bother to preserve crime scenes, for example, and so it
was acceptable for a group of men and a sheriff to trample a
In the 1700s, there was nothing that we would recognize as forensic
science. They did not analyze crime scenes for fingerprints
until the late 1800s. Arthur Doyle supposedly wrote the Sherlock Holmes
stories in the 1880s as a way of encouraging the police to investigate
crimes. A sheriff in the 1700s was more like a modern bouncer at a
nightclub than a modern policeman or detective.
militias were the only defensive force
When the 13 colonies were under the
control of England, many of the
communities had a militia to protect the community from Native
Americans, and to assist the sheriff in dealing with criminals. It is
important to note that the militias were not
government agencies. They were just groups of citizens, mostly farmers,
since almost all of the men in that era were farmers. The men in the
militias would get together once in a while in their leisure time to
learn about flintlock guns and military procedures, and the reason
was so that they would be ready and able to defend their community and
assist the sheriff.
When the colonies announced their independence, the newly formed nation
of the United States did not have much of an army. Our history books
tell us that the "United States army" fought the British troops, and
that George Washington was a "General" in
this army. However, the word "army" had a different meaning to people
in 1776 compared to today. When we decode the word army,
we find lots of images of professional soldiers who are living in Army
barracks, and who are supported by tax money. However, in 1776, the
United States Army was essentially just a few people, such as George
Washington. Militias from the 13 colonies sent men to fight the British
under the leadership of people such as Washington. The United States
Army was a gathering of militias.
The creators of United States did not want the nation to have
a large, professional army. The reason was because they not only feared
government, they also feared a military. They wanted the militias to be
the only security force for the
nation. They assumed that if the government had its own military force,
then the government might start senseless wars rather than use the
military for defensive purposes only, and the government might use the
military to eliminate their competitors. They assumed that the citizens
would be safer from government abuse if the government had to ask the
militias for troops. This gave the militias, and therefore the
citizens, the final authority over whether they will get involved with
Unfortunately, the concept of using militias for defense quickly turned
out to be unrealistic for lots of reasons, such as:
• The ordinary
citizens cannot handle such a responsibility. It is unrealistic to
expect thousands of independent citizens who are scattered around the
country to deal with the defense of a nation.
was making weapons so complex and expensive that it was soon
impractical for militias to properly train people on using
• The militias could not be stop pirates in the Caribbean; a
Navy was needed for that.
• Medical technology was becoming increasingly advanced, and militias
could not provide adequate medical training.
In 1791 the government began the slow process of developing a
professional military. The concept of a militia, i.e., of ordinary
citizens practicing with weapons in their leisure time to help the
community during times of trouble, evolved into the National
Guard, and the men who resisted the changes and continued to
participate in independent militias eventually became ignored and unwanted.
As of 2016, the United States still has hundreds of groups of men who
refer to themselves as "militias". Just as the militias did centuries
ago, these men get together in their leisure time to practice with
rifles and prepare for the day when they are needed to defend the
nation and assist the sheriff. However, there is a significant
difference between the militias of today and the militias that the
authors of the Second Amendment were referring to. The most significant
difference is that the militias in 1780 were the nation's only
defense force, and the sheriffs depended on them, also. Today the
nation does not want or need the militias. Today we use the National
Guard to assist with domestic problems, and we use a professional
military for the defense of the nation. Nobody calls on the militias
for assistance with anything.
The men in the militias are refusing to face the fact
life has changed dramatically during the
past few centuries. They believe that they are
preparing themselves for the day they will be able to protect the
nation, but they are just wasting their time and resources.
I suspect that all of the men who join a militia would refer to
themselves as "conservatives". The reason I say this
is because they follow
their ancestors and resist critical analysis of themselves. They
consider themselves to be brave and courageous, but they are terrified
to explore the unknown or look critically at themselves. They follow
one another like sheep. They have the courage to
defend their community, but every animal is willing to
defend itself. There is nothing special about a man who defends
himself. We need men to do more than that. We need men who
can ask themselves such questions as, "Where are we going?" We especially need men with the courage to wander off the
form spontaneous, temporary militias
How did militias become a part of human
culture? Why is there so much resistance to eliminating them? Why do so
many men want to be a member of a militia? I think the only way to
understand this issue is to look at how animals
When a group of wolves, monkeys, and certain other social animals
encounters a threat from predators or other groups of
animals, the males tend to react by trying to protect the
group, and the females tend to react by trying to protect the
children. The male animals that fight with the threatening animals
could be described as behaving like a "militia".
The difference between what animals do and what humans do is that
animals create militias spontaneously when they are needed, the
militias are unorganized, and
the militias dissolve when the danger is gone, whereas humans
create militias before they are needed so that they can train
and the militias persist for years.
If we could go back in time millions of years, we would find that the
monkeys that were evolving into humans were
forming unorganized, temporary militias every
time they faced a predator or a fight from a neighboring tribe.
It is important to realize that when animals defend their
community from danger, they are behaving as selfish
individuals who are doing what they want to do,
as opposed to being members of a team who are following orders from a
supervisor, or who are thinking about what is best for the community.
Each of the animals is his own boss, and each animal is trying to
please himself, not to
help the community. The animals are not thinking
about what is the best for their community. They are simply trying to
satisfy their cravings to intimidate and chase away the animals that
threaten them. Each animal fights whichever animal he wants to fight,
and in whatever manner he wants to fight.
It might be easier for you to understand
this concept if you look at
how dogs will bark at vacuum cleaners and automobiles. The dogs that do
this are not following orders to defend their community. Rather, the
inanimate object has triggered their emotions to defend their
community, and they react by trying to intimidate and chase away the "enemy".
When animals encounter a threatening animal, the emotions of the male
animals are triggered, and that causes them to chase away the
threatening animal. The animals do not realize that they are providing
protection for their community. From their point of view, they are
simply "having fun" and doing what they want to do.
The male animals provide protection for their group without any
understanding of what they are doing, and without any supervisor to
give them orders. Although a leaderless group of animals is an
ineffective fighting force, all other animals have exactly the same
emotions, so they are leaderless, also, which makes them equal.
As monkeys developed the ability to communicate and work together
in teams, the situation changed dramatically. An organized
team of humans can easily defeat a leaderless group of animals. As
humans became more organized and better able to communicate, they
became more successful in battles with animals, and this allowed them
to defeat groups of animals that were much larger and stronger,
which allowed humans to dominate any territory they pleased.
be restricted to a small area of the planet, they soon dominated every
area they were interested in.
When people began settling down into permanent settlements, the men
continued to react to threatening neighbors by grabbing sticks, rocks,
or whatever weapons they had available, and trying to intimidate and
chase away the neighbors. As with animals, those men were not part of an
organized police force or military unit. They were defending their
community simply because male animals have a craving to intimidate and
fight with anything that they regard as a threat.
Eventually somebody realized that the men can do a better job of
defending their community when they practice fighting before
there is a threat rather than waiting until they are attacked.
Animals do not train for fights, but humans eventually discovered that
training and practice will make them better fighters. It was the
beginning of what would become the concept of a militia, a police
department, and a military. By the time the United States Constitution
was written, most of the larger communities had a militia.
participated in society in 1780
We are still using the word "militia"
today, but the word militia does not decode into the same mental images
to us as it would have to the people in 1700s. One reason there is a
difference is because there is a significant difference in the
attitudes between people today and people in 1780. Specifically, people
today are much more passive than they were
Children in our era are taught to be passive. We are taught that when a
problem occurs, such as a fire, medical problem, or crime, we should
call the police, fire department, medical personnel, or government
officials. We are told to wait for professionals to
deal with the problem rather than try to deal with the problem
ourselves. We are taught that we do not have the experience, knowledge,
equipment, or supplies to deal with medical problems, and we do not
have the authority to deal with crimes or fires.
By comparison, people centuries ago had to be self-sufficient, and they
had to deal with problems even if they knew nothing about how to solve
them. For example, if a person in a small community was having some
type of medical problem, the other people in the community could not
call paramedics or ambulances because there were no such services, and
there were no telephones. The people in the immediate vicinity had to
make a decision about whether they should try to help the person, even
if they had no understanding of medical issues. There was no option of
calling for professional help.
Furthermore, the doctors and sheriffs did not know much more than
the ordinary people about medical issues or crime. Therefore, even if a
doctor or sheriff was in the area, he would not necessarily have been
any more useful in dealing with the problem than an ordinary person.
Our ancestors had a different attitude towards life than we do today.
Our ancestors had to take care of themselves and each other. When a
problem occurred centuries ago, whoever was interested in dealing with
the problem would do something, even if he did not know much about what
he was doing.
If a rainstorm destroyed a house or bridge, some of the people would
get together to help rebuild the structure, even if they didn't know
much about construction techniques. The people centuries ago also
made more items for themselves, such as bread, clothing, furniture, and
tools. Some of them made their own soap, built their own homes, or
spun their own thread from wool that
they cut off of their sheep. Today we purchase almost everything we
were the only security force
The men who wrote the Second Amendment
had a very specific image in their mind, and when we read the words
they wrote, we should decode those words into the exact same mental image.
However, unless we understand what the words meant to people in 1780,
we will not be able to decode their words accurately. For example, the
Second Amendment refers to "arms".
To us, an "arm" is pistols, AK-47s, and shotguns, but to the
people who wrote the Second Amendment, it was mainly flintlock
muskets. They did not even have stainless steel
knives. Therefore, we could rewrite the Second Amendment like this:
A well regulated Militia, being
necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to
have flintlock guns, shall not be infringed.
The word "militia" also had a specific
meaning to them. In their mind, the word "militia" decoded into a
detailed animation of farmers, blacksmiths, bakers,
and other people volunteering to get together to defend their community
or help arrest a criminal, similar to the image to the right, but as an
animation rather than a fixed image.
Furthermore, the word militia stimulated
their emotions. To the people in 1780, the militia was their only
defense force, and that would cause the people to have an emotional
attraction to the word militia. To them, a militia was a valuable and
necessary security force.
Since the militias consisted of their fathers, brothers, cousins, and
neighbors, everybody knew somebody in a militia. The word militia
decoded into images of people that they knew, trusted, and respected, not
strangers that they were suspicious of.
By comparison, to most of us, the word militia does not evoke any
emotional feelings because most of us do not know anybody in a militia,
and because we do not regard the militia as vital to our security. Even
worse, for the fools who have been convinced by the
media that militias are dangerous, "right wing extremists", the word
militia will evoke fear.
If we had grown up in 1780, the word militia would decode into the same
images and emotional feelings as in the minds of the authors of the
Second Amendment. We would not be frightened of the militia. Rather, we
would be proud of the militia. The word militia would evoke pleasant
memories because it would decode into lots of images of people in our
community getting together to protect us and help the sheriff.
In order to truly understand the Second Amendment, we need to use the
definitions that the authors used. A dictionary cannot help us to
understand the Second Amendment because a dictionary provides only a
very brief summary of the meaning of a word. The true meaning of a word
may be thousands of memories, animations, and emotional feelings.
I don't think many people are decoding
the word "militia" into the type of animation implied by the
illustration above, and nobody seems to be decoding "arms" into
Almost everybody seems to be decoding the second amendment into some
other animation, such as a burglar who is climbing through their
window, and who they are shooting at with several types of modern guns.
Most people are creating an animation that is similar to the game on
the Internet called Whack
the Burglar. I have not played the game, but screen images of
the game seem to be what most people are visualizing when they decode
the Second Amendment.
Most people don't realize that they are decoding the words in the
Second Amendment with modern definitions. They should be trying to
figure out what those words meant to the authors.
were more powerful than the government
Another significant difference between
life in 1780 and life today is that the militias in 1780 were more
powerful than the government. The reason was because the government at
that time did not have police departments or any significant military.
The government depended upon the militias for soldiers, and the sheriff
depended upon the militias for assistance. Therefore, the militias were
the most powerful force in the nation. The militias were capable of
standing up to corrupt government officials.
The situation has completely reversed itself since then. Even if a
modern militia has thousands of members, it is impossible for them to
arrest corrupt government officials because the government now has
large police departments and a gigantic military to protect them. For
example, in January 2016, Ammon Bundy led a group of militias in Oregon
to stand up to the federal government, but the police departments put
an end to their rebellion
without much trouble.
It does not matter whether those militias were doing something useful
for the nation. They would be treated as criminals no matter what they
were fighting for. For example, they would have been attacked by the
police departments, FBI, and military even if they had been doing
something as sensible as arresting Larry Silverstein and
Michael Chertoff for their role in the 9/11 attack.
The militias today are worthless organizations. The people who are
joining them are fooling themselves into believing that they are
members of an important defense organization. They are analogous to the
people who dress up in Star Trek costumes, but instead of imagining
themselves living in the future, they are imagining
themselves in the past.