06 April 2008

Not like Waco

A police raid on a religious/polygamist community in Texas yesterday seems to have come off without killing anybody.

But it did send me down memory lane, to the infamous attack on the Branch Davidian compound on February 28, 1993 resulted in 76 deaths. Twenty-one of the deceased were children.

I wrote "compound" in the above sentence because the term has become customary, and I'll leave it in. But I note that I might as easily have written the "Branch Davidian property" or the "Branch Davidian community." When is such an area a "compound"? Is the term generally used to demonize those who live there, thus assisting those who wish to justify their violence directed as "compounds"?

It's my understanding that the term "compound" in the sense of several buildings clustered together originated in the Far East in colonial days, when the westerners would live in groups -- the better to enable them to put up a co-ordinated defense in the case of hosility by the locals. Since David Koresh's followers may have thought of themselves as in an analogous situation, perhaps the word is fair.

Or perhaps not. Did the Davidians ever refer to their home as a compound, or was it a term foisted upon them on others? Somebody should put Nexis to use to straighten this out.

The story to which I linked you above, by the way, refers to the property occupied by the religious sect in question as a "ranch" for the most part. I see one use of "compound" in the fifth graf.

Why do I make such semantic points? After all, didn't Juliet say that a rose by any other name would smell as sweet?

Yes, she did. But her story didn't end happily. Because names, like Capulet or Montague, can't be so easily set aside as youthful naivete may hope.

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Knowledge is warranted belief -- it is the body of belief that we build up because, while living in this world, we've developed good reasons for believing it. What we know, then, is what works -- and it is, necessarily, what has worked for us, each of us individually, as a first approximation. For my other blog, on the struggles for control in the corporate suites, see www.proxypartisans.blogspot.com.