On relevance

January 22, 2009

A slogan is not relevant if people

  • don’t care for it;
  • don’t believe in it;
  • don’t understand it

… perhaps among other things.

Understanding a slogan is important. Here we need to discuss syntax and semantics. Syntax is the language that the slogan is written in. Semantics is the meaning of the slogan. Historically, many slogans were Latin. That was fine and dandy back in the day when (some) people actually spoke (some?) Latin. My grandfather spoke Latin among numerous other languages; but I can’t think of another person I know that speaks Latin. Fortunately, British Columbia’s slogan, “The Best Place on Earth“, is written in English. At least we can read it. That’s one out of the two criteria of understanding. Unfortunately, the second criteria, the semantics (the meaning) is where it fails. This slogan happens to be *way* out there, so “understanding” it is a philosophical challenge in its own right; and perhaps the reason why so many people find it so revolting.

Believing in a slogan is important. It’s one thing to understand the meaning, and another to believe in it. Believing in a slogan means agreeing with its semantics.

It seems that a good slogan can be semantically described as either  factual or motivating, or both. An example of a factual slogan, is Canada’s “A Mari Usque Ad Mare” (translation: “From Sea to Sea“); indeed Canada spans from sea to sea… well, if you must, it spans from ocean to ocean to ocean (…to border-near-49th-parallel), but let’s not get silly — poetry is at stake! An example of a motivating slogan is the 2008 presidential campaign slogan of Barack Obama, “Yes We Can”. An example of a slogan that can be considered both factual and motivating is McGill University’s “Grandescunt Aucta Labore” (translation: “By hard work, all things increase and grow”). In the context of education, it’s hard to dispute that from hard work all things increase and grow — clearly the context here is knowledge, minds, etc. — so that is the factually oriented side, and certainly if you’re a student, you will be motivated to increase your knowledge via hard work.

In the BC Government’s own words, the slogan is a mix of both fact and motivation:

Many British Columbians have gone one step further and believe that B.C. is, in fact, “The Best Place on Earth”. For others, the words can be seen as a kind of challenge to come up with solutions so that we can be the best.

Unfortunately, the “factual” component is nearer a ludicrous claim than anything else. The slogan is vague and mostly meaningless because the criteria for such a claim are highly subjective (and undisclosed). The motivational (“challenge”) component is absurd because it presents an impossible goalas was explained in my previous blog post.

Caring for a slogan is important. Caring for a slogan supports its existence. Caring for a slogan (i.e. liking it) is actually dependent on believing in it, which in turn is dependent on understanding it. You could say then, that caring is believing is understanding. If you care about a slogan, you will carry it with you. You will think of it once in a while; after all, by definition, and in short, a slogan is a memorable phrase… a memorable belief or ideal that guides the people.

This also brings up another point. For whom is BC The Best Place on Earth? Perhaps there is a minority living in lala land, completely unawares. Indeed, ignorance is bliss. But even if — EVEN IF — the majority believed in this pretentious slogan, what is to be said for the thousands of homeless, thousands of malnourished, thousands disregarded? Shame on that majority! A chain is only as strong as its weakest link. If there are homeless people in BC, BC is NOT the best place on Earth. If there are hungry people in BC, BC is NOT the best place on Earth.

Q.E.D.

In light of reality, BC’s slogan, The Best Place on Earth, is NOT relevant.

If you disagree with BC’s slogan, The Best Place on Earth, please sign the petition asking for it to be changed:

http://www.petitiononline.com/bcslogan/

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