The business side of woodworking July 2014
Kerry Knudsen

The meaning of meaning

According to Statistics Canada, municipalities issued building permits worth $6.9 billion in May, up 13.8 percent from April. This followed a 2.2 percent rise in March. The May increase resulted primarily from higher construction intentions for commercial buildings in Ontario and Manitoba, as well as multi-family dwellings in British Columbia.

The latest news from is that female students from Arizona State University can earn extra credit for going 10 weeks without shaving their armpits. Since I am neither 15 nor immature, I will not ask what’s next.

To avoid being accused of sexism, similar credit was offered to males for shaving themselves from the neck down. The initiator of the project, Women and Gender Studies Professor Breanne Fahs, said, “One guy did his shaving with a Buck knife. Male students,” she said, “tend to adopt the attitude of, ‘I’m a man; I can do what I want.’”

Pardon me if I’m wrong, but I think I’ve noticed the same characteristic in the occasional female: my wife, my mother, my mother-in-law, my daughter, my daughter-in-law, two granddaughters, about half my instructors in grade, middle, high school and university and members on about every committee I can think of. Independence of action is not a sex-linked variable.

If explained the reason for the project, I missed it. One woman’s mother complained that her daughter would be getting married with hairy armpits in a white dress, so it may have been an exercise in cutting the apron strings. I think in this project mothers did not count as real women.

The “reason” for the project would also be known as its “meaning.” What was the meaning of this project? What is the meaning of female armpit hair?

Or how about beards on men? I have heard that some cultures think a beard is a sign of manhood. To them, the meaning of a beard is manhood. I have a problem with that. I had a beard for years. To me, the meaning of a beard is that you have not shaved for a while.

This is a strange quandary. In the example of beards, the meaning of NOT taking a sharp blade and slicing off hair is a sign of manhood to some, but to a gender studies student it is a sign of ... let’s have one tell us. One of the participants in the Fahs project, Jaqueline Gonzalez said: “The experience helped me better understand how pervasive gendered socialization is in our culture. Furthermore, by doing this kind of activist project I was no longer an armchair activist theorizing in the classroom. So much is learned by actually taking part in the theory or idea we learn in the classroom, and we could benefit from this type of pedagogy being taken up by similar classes.”

Similar classes....

Universities need head count. In order to get head count, universities must stimulate and attract the market. People were drilled in the late 20th century to believe reading, writing and arithmetic were boring and would not be attractive disciplines. So, like the sun rising over the monolith in 2001 A Space Odyssey, Gender Studies was birthed and Breanne Fahs got to publish a university text called Performing Sex.

I hate to break this to academia, but it’s been done. Gender Studies has been done. Performing Sex has been done. Nothing new under the sun. The realms of reading, writing and arithmetic, however, are still in their infancy. Renaissance literature calls the distinction between emotion and discipline art on the discipline side and farce on the reproductive/potty humour side. Civilized versus vulgar. Class or trash. Not that I would call performing sex vulgar, just the woman that named her book that.

This brings me to a point. The most newsworthy achievements of universities in the second decade of the 21st century are the proof that academics are weak-minded.

Note: I did not say academics are weak-minded. I said the news being reported is of the achievements of the weak-minded. There is some really great stuff being done in universities; it is not being reported.

What is the meaning of being weak-minded? It does not mean stupid, incapable of learning, untrained or lacking in communication or other skills. It means a lack of discipline that strengthens the mind. That weakness allows academics thus afflicted to believe absolutely anything, and, in the believing, to be superior to others. Weak-minded academics believe in space aliens, that Jews attacked the U.S. Twin Towers, that children should be worshiped rather than loved, and, yes, that there are no differences between men and women.

There are differences. Don’t blame me. Look at the news. In the July 4 Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest in New York, Joey "Jaws" Chestnut, ate 61 hot dogs and buns in 10 minutes. His closest competitor, Matt Stone, ate 56. In the women's division, Miki Sudo huffed down 34 wieners and buns.

Men 61; women 34. Deal with it.

The world of meaning is outrageously complicated. Take academics, since it’s on the table.

Linguistics is the study of meaning. I studied linguistics in graduate school. Famed charlatan linguist Noam Chomsky penned the entire theory of generative-transformational grammar to support his childhood philosophy of anarcho-syndicalism – the theory of anarchy that sees trade unions as a method for workers in a capitalist society to gain control of the economy. In other words, Chomsky teaches union terrorism as a way to take over your business. Don’t take my word for it. Use Google and type in Chomsky, communist, Vancouver, Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto and, if you are adventurous, “occupy Wall Street.”

In typical, weak-minded academic form, anarcho-syndicalists miss the fact that attempting control of an economy is not anarchy. It is war.

My mentor in grad school was Professor Andreas Koutsoudas, a bearded, wild-eyed, frothing-at-the-mouth Egyptian abuser of the young – me. He would ask a fierce question of the class and glare over his half-glasses, daring anyone to move. Invariably, I moved by raising my hand.

“OH!!!” Koutsoudas would say, panning his gaze from left to right in mock search for a supporter. “Mr. Koonoosan thinks he knows the answer. That is because Mr. Koonoosan went to an ice-cream school where everybody knows the answer. Is that right, Mr. Koonoosan?”

I never said “the name is Knudsen.” I hated and feared the bastard, but I refused to be intimidated.

One day, it was time for me to go. A divorce had killed my goals for that time, and I had to get a job. I went to Koutsoudas to tell him. “That makes me very sad, Mr. Koonoosan,” he said. “All my life I wait for a student to come along that can understand what I teach. You are the only one in the whole bunch that is worth teaching.”

I never did know what it meant to be from an ice-cream school, but I know from long experience what Koutsoudas was teaching. The details were his field, but the teaching, as with martial arts, violin, Formula I or fly fishing, was discipline and excellence. Nothing short. Beards, politeness and sex had nothing to do with it.

Koutsoudas detested Chomsky as weak-minded. Linguistic mano-a-mano. Discipline versus fantasy. Koutsoudas proved scientifically there is no “passive transformation” in English, and Chomsky’s entire theory bit the scientific dust.

Yet Chomsky’s zombie followers trudge on. Why bother with the facts, when you have a principle? In Occupy, in the media, in the universities and in the government, the idea advances that unions can manage businesses and that taking things away from people that make them is compassionate. Even Chomsky is not a leader, but a follower – a useful idiot in some weird design that has people speaking in code (cisgender?), punished for religion, taxed for producing and mocked for not believing in space aliens or the Power of Stonehenge. Whatever the power of Stonehenge was, its adherents are dead and their culture dissolved.

Pop culture is demanding of us that we let “them” or “it” define meaning for us. We are asked to accept such improbable constructions as “environmental justice” and “anarcho-syndicalism.” Worse, as linguistic mumbo-jumbo sweeps into the universities on the heels of all the students that did not to go to an ice-cream school (still not knowing the meaning of that, but fond of ice cream), it is increasingly clear that the segment of society that produces stuff has to look elsewhere for training, for skill, for production and for meaning. In large part, the universities are generating graduates that walk in lines, like ducks. The slightest variation from group-think earns banishment. They are useless except for repetition drills. There is no doubt the economic future of Canada will rely on leadership from the trades or suffer the ravages of work with no meaning.

The academics have abandoned us. They would have us reduced to selling nothing while we are invited by every social and commercial medium to look at the pretty-boys-du-jour after their latest photographic selfie triumphs, and remark how nicely they are coifed and how you could never get a shave that smooth with a Buck knife.

I would love to meet the guy that did that in a feminist class, by the way. Sounds like a 70+ hot dog kind of guy.

Editor’s Note: As you know, Professor Paul Epp is an integral part of this magazine, in addition to his duties as chair of the Industrial Design department at OCAD University. We are also friends, and we discuss this issue. Epp is an educator; I am a publisher. I see Epp as a kind of latter-day Koutsoudas, but nice, and disinclined to froth at the mouth. Paul knows and I know there is no stronger proponent of education than I. We can go nowhere without it. Further, we have some great training grounds for our young people and people seeking a new path in life. Those include OCAD, and others that graduate students with skills and direction.

The problem is, our federal and provincial budgets are being used to fund organized and directed enemies of business. In addition to Chomsky, Canada imports dozens of other instigators as university lecturers every year. We also saw the implementation of a union-driven slowdown of the economy by Canada Post a few years ago, and I am trying to discover how many businesses were put under in that effort. These are all facts.

You can also buy Chomsky lectures on CD from Canadian Dimension, a “non-Leninist” magazine in Manitoba that is funded in part by the federal and provincial governments, as well as CUPE and CAW.

These columns are not a call to rise against education or our colleges. However, if you see the foolishness in training young people in radicalism while paying for the privilege, you could send this column to your MP and MPP and ask what his or her view is. There was a time when a school, a province, a nation or a culture was known by its discipline and its excellence. That time has not passed, and the era of wars is not done. Cultures that languish will also fade. I would say to ask the founders of Stonehenge, but you can’t. It seems as if they were very advanced for their time, though.

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