“Apparently, a concern for others is self-love at its least attractive, while greed is now a sign of the highest altruism. But then to reverse, periodically, the meanings of words is a very small price to pay for our vast freedom not only to conform but to consume” — Gore Vidal
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In this quote, Gore Vidal is satirically commenting on societal values and the manipulation of language. He notes that traditionally, caring about others was seen as a positive trait while greed was viewed negatively. However, Vidal suggests these meanings have been reversed in society, with greed now masquerading as altruism through corporate social responsibility programs.
Vidal then states that occasionally reversing the definitions of words is a very small price to pay for the “freedom” people now have both to blindly conform to consumerism and mass consumption. He implies that language is being deliberately distorted to reinforce consumerist ideology and make greed seem virtuous.
Overall, the quote critically examines how semantics and terminology have been adjusted to frame self-interested consumer behavior as socially beneficial, while redefining concern for others negatively. Vidal sees this twisting of meanings as a small cost for enabling the unfettered ability to both conform to corporate messaging and engage in rampant consumption. It satirizes how language is sometimes manipulated to support commercial interests.