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  • Writer's pictureDeric Hollings

Perverse Qualifiers


Perverse qualifiers


Have you heard terms such as “our democracy,” “the science,” “hate crime,” or other rhetorical references which may appear somewhat ambiguous? If asked to properly define these phrases, could you do so?


It can be difficult enough to adequately explain nebulous terms such as “love,” “happiness,” “equity,” and other common concepts, let alone those which maintain perverse qualifiers. And no, perversion of this sort has nothing to do with sexuality.


When discussing “perverse,” I’m refereeing to an action showing a deliberate and obstinate desire to function in a way that is unreasonable or unacceptable, often in spite of the consequences or expected standard or practice. As an example, a perverse use of a ballpoint pen may relate to gouging out someone’s eye with the writing instrument.


When referring to a “qualifier,” I’m speaking of a word or phrase, especially an adjective, used to attribute a quality to another word, especially a noun. For instance, comic book hero Superman is a super (qualifier in the form of an adjective) man (noun). This imagined extraordinary adult human male is thus understood to be set apart from average humans.


Democracy, science, and crime


Now that I’ve defined terms related to the current blogpost, I think it’s worth addressing how perverse qualifiers may be used for rhetorical or linguistic manipulative purposes. Although use of these terms may be disputed by those who choose to manipulate other people, herein is my interpretation of these phrases.


“Our democracy”


On July 6, 2022, I posted a blogpost entitled Disturbing Democracy that referenced a growing trend whereby many people in the United States (U.S.) have used the Orwellian term “our democracy” when referring to the democratic process.


For context, “democracy” may be defined as a system of government by the whole population or all the eligible members of a state, typically through elected representatives. For further clarity, one source expands:


By definition, a republic is a representative form of government that is ruled according to a charter, or constitution, and a democracy is a government that is ruled according to the will of the majority. Although these forms of government are often confused, they are quite different. The main difference between a republic and a democracy is the charter or constitution that limits power in a republic, often to protect the individual’s rights against the desires of the majority.


Consider that in an example of a direct democracy, 100 people vote about whether or not to seize the property of those who earn in the top ten percent range of the group. 80 people vote to move forward with the option and 20 individuals vote to oppose the motion.


In a direct democracy, 10 of those people will have their property seized by the majority. This process is antithetical to the founding ethos of the U.S. Therefore, the framers of this nation’s establishing documentation supported a constitutional republic.


However, it appears as though many people now irrationally believe that when the majority of a population votes for an option the will of the many should, must, or ought to excel beyond the will of the few. One could argue that this constitutes a mob—a large crowd of people, especially one that is disorderly and intent on or guilty of causing trouble or violence.


If the mob perceives its aims as righteous and it’s being denied that to which it’s supposedly entitled through means of a democratic process, trouble or violence aren’t implausible outcomes. Therefore, the term “our democracy” is a farce of a term in regards to a civil society.


The word “our” is possessive. Who is it that owns democracy? Is it the U.S., our allies, our foes, or perhaps neutral parties? If for instance Russia holds a democratic election and the elected official opposes interests of the U.S., is this action representative of “our democracy”?


Using an example closer to home, if Donald Trump wins the 2024 presidential election, will his political opponents accept the outcome of constitutional republicanism which is supported by the democratic process? Or, will the actions of a possessive democracy comprised of a disgruntled opposition party result in trouble or violence?


I have no way of knowing, so time will reveal the answer. What I do maintain is that knowledge, wisdom, and understanding about perverse qualifiers of terms—such as “our democracy”—is necessary for rational living.


When practicing Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT) in my personal and professional life, I seek truth and try not to violate the is-ought problem—the notion that rather than unconditionally accepting what is, people tend to rigidly demand what ought to instead result.


Consider that people disturb themselves when using demandingness (e.g., only the political party for which I vote should retain power). Rather than advocating consequences of unproductive beliefs in such a way, I dispute unhelpful assumptions.


It isn’t necessarily healthy to upset oneself simply because one’s preferred political party doesn’t prevail. Therefore, removal of the unfavorable possessive word “our” from the perceivably innocuous though unrealistic term “our democracy” is a rational step in a healthy direction.


“The science”


Another perverse qualifier that can lead to self-disturbance is use of “the” as a definite article that refers to the common noun “science”—the systematic study of the structure and behavior of the physical and natural world through observation, experimentation, and the testing of theories against the evidence obtained.


In a blogpost entitled The Science, I stated, “[T]he framework of the science may be considered moralistic—elaborating on what is good, bad, right, wrong, or otherwise. A practitioner of the science may say, ‘It is bad for your health to handle prairie rattlers, so you should leave them alone.”


Science isn’t a process in which one is told that handling of prairie rattlers is a bad idea. This is important to understand, because the perverse qualifier encapsulated in “the science” was one of the main reasons so much of the COVID-19 pandemic response was mishandled, in my opinion.


Scientific examination was arguably set aside for “the science.” This was neither a rational nor healthy action. Therefore, the standards for rational living are improved upon when people place aside emotional appeals regarding “the science” and actually practice science—which can be dangerous.


“Hate crime”


The last perverse qualifier worthy of addressing is the designation of “hate” in relation to crime. Hate can be used as a noun, verb, or adjective. For example: “Hate is wrong” (noun), “I hate clowns” (verb), and, “A client of mine received hate messages” (adjective).


Regarding hate crime, “hate” is used as a perverse qualifier in the form of an adjective. What is the utility of this description? Is it even necessary?


Suppose suspect X unlawfully takes the life of victim Y. Does homicide of this sort need unique designation related to the egregiousness of the offense, or is the fact that victim Y was murdered the actual problem worthy of justice?


If suspect X slayed victim Y, because the suspect loved the deceased, though victim Y was found to have been cheating, some U.S. districts may call this a “crime of passion.” However, it’s a crime nonetheless. Why the need for a perverse qualifier?


Perhaps suspect X slayed victim Y, because the suspect hated the deceased for having cheated. Would this be declared a “hate crime”—a crime, typically one involving violence, that is motivated by prejudice on the basis of race, religion, sexual orientation, or similar grounds ?


No. Why not, if hate was involved in the slaying? Perverse qualifiers such as “hate crime” and “hate speech” provide an opportunity to judge the thoughts, beliefs, and motivations of people who perpetrate certain acts. Though is it necessary to do so?


While we still have the ability to freely express ourselves in the U.S., suspect X can essentially be tried for undesirable beliefs which contribute to what was already a crime in the first place: homicide. Is this the sort of behavior exhibited by a civil society or through rational living?


Regarding this matter, I recently re-watched The Trial of the Chicago 7 in which there’s a scene depicting cross-examination of Abbie Hoffman’s character on the witness stand. The scene unfolds thusly:


Prosecutor: When you came to Chicago, were you hoping for a confrontation with the police?


Hoffman’s character: [long pause]


Prosecutor: I’m concerned you have to think about it.


Hoffman’s character: Give me a moment, would you, friend? I’ve never been on trial for my thoughts before.


Who’s ever heard of a hope crime? As ridiculous as a thought crime may seem, I reason that similar absurdity relates to “hate crime.” Crime is merely crime and needs no perverse qualifier to rationalize it or emphasize its merits.




Although the banality of terms like “our democracy,” “the science,” “hate crime,” or other rhetorical references may mean little to some people, I think the words we use matter. Therefore, perverse qualifiers regarding linguistic manipulation isn’t a meaningless topic in the slightest.


Through my practice of REBT, I unconditionally accept that people will intentionally misuse language to deceive, confuse, or control people. All the same, I use REBT in my personal and professional life to help people from disturbing themselves over seemingly insipid terms which may have serious real-life consequences.


I suspect that without rational living, many people will disturb themselves in 2024, especially because this is a presidential election year. Perhaps they will take to the streets and march, protest, or riot when perverse qualifiers to irrational demands go unmet (e.g., social justice).


While I have little doubt that some people will disagree with my perspective expressed herein, I remain open to challenge of my thoughts, beliefs, and positions. Do you? If not, and your inflexibility is getting in the way of you leading a healthy life, I may be able to help.


If you’re looking for a provider who works to help you understand how thinking impacts physical, mental, emotional, and behavioral elements of your life—helping you to sharpen your critical thinking skills, I invite you to reach out today by using the contact widget on my website.


As a psychotherapist, I’m pleased to help people with an assortment of issues ranging from anger (hostility, rage, and aggression) to relational issues, adjustment matters, trauma experience, justice involvement, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, anxiety and depression, and other mood or personality-related matters.


At Hollings Therapy, LLC, serving all of Texas, I aim to treat clients with dignity and respect while offering a multi-lensed approach to the practice of psychotherapy and life coaching. My mission includes: Prioritizing the cognitive and emotive needs of clients, an overall reduction in client suffering, and supporting sustainable growth for the clients I serve. Rather than simply helping you to feel better, I want to help you get better!



Deric Hollings, LPC, LCSW





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