When I hear someone use these two words I know they are lying, but wish to sound credible: Existential and Systemic.
They are overused and thus, their meanings have been prostituted simply to serve as an exaggerated form of expression. Oftentimes they carry a charge which seem to give undue credibility to the person using them.
For example when someone says there is systemic racism that we must address, I am curious to identify which system they are referring to. There are many systems. Which systems are racist? the judicial system? the social security system? Are these institutional systems overtly racist because the individuals who run them are racist?
Are police departments racist, the federal government, the post office, these are systems. Which system is racist? The school system? the library or prison system? Is it because individuals who runs these institutions hate minorities? Explain to me what is meant by “systemic racism.” Unless of course your implication is that people who do well or have had a better life have done so by creating a rigged system that has racism baked in, one should be prepared to explain that process as well. How was racism baked in? Did they teach it in school, in the home, whose home? My home? How do you know? These are serious charges.
If Vice President Harris claims there is systemic racism, she is the system, and she has risen to become vice president, how then, is the system racist if she is now a leader of the system?
Clearly the charge of systemic racism requires a great deal of evidence, or in the least, clarification. Those who insist on using the term cast a broad net over many people, which by definition, portends to being systemically bigoted.
The word Existential is a wonderful word. It has many uses, it can mean ‘the whole enchilada,’ or it can mean ‘everything,’ and it can even mean non-physical, as in “existential purpose.”
Its most often usage comes when connected to the subject of Climate Change or when describing a crisis of epic proportions. But is also discloses a need to apply urgency, as in “we are facing an existential crisis.” But like the word systemic, people tend to over-exaggerate, and in doing do, undermine their own credibility.
When someone says :we are facing an existential crisis,” I think in terms of a tsunami that is a few meters away and I need to run for the hills NOW. What I don’t think of as existential is something that may not happen for one hundred years from now. How is an event that occurs when I am dead existential to me or anyone else who will hardly be around when it occurs, having faced a certain existential crisis beforehand, namely, our death?
Driving to work can be an existential crisis because I could die getting there. Eating a piece of chicken poses a similar risk if I, perchance, choke on a chicken bone. Is chicken an existential threat to my existence? Yes, it is.
The fact is everything is existential to existence. Using the term doesn’t make one problem any worse than another, especially if the problem requires me to live a hundred years in order to verify the claim of it being existential.
My parting words are that if you want to enjoy life a little more, know that when systemic and existential are being uttered, you are in for a treat. You get to watch someone lie to you, and they think big, clever-soudning words will make them more convincing, except that now you know better, don’t you?