On Sunday mornings, fresh from my faith-based institution, I stop at the community-based deli for a caffeine-based beverage. After a thought-based interlude, I select an information-based publication from the rack, and the knowledge-based attendant accepts an income-based emolument in exchange for his customer-based service. I return to my home base wishing I could de-BASE this language for good. But in at least one sense, it is already as debased as it can be.

Where did all these -BASES come from? When did things cease to have qualities of their own and start being merely based on other things? In the field of urban development, there was once such a thing as a community development corporation. Now they’re all community-based development corporations.

Groups of very smart people used to be proud of being learned or expert; now they hide their diplomas behind the lifeless claim of being “knowledge-based.” Why are synagogues, churches, and mosques not fighting to regain their sacred charter as religious institutions? Are they content to have it said that they are merely based on faith-perhaps the way Velveeta is based on cheese-and not aflame with the genuine article? Why are the clergy not marching on Washington over this? Where is the outrage?

The answer is that this dodgy game of base-running is actually useful in the sneaky political realms where such coinages proliferate. The Constitution may look askance at alliances between government and religion, but it might be said to be silent on faith-based activities. Community organizations might be expected to demonstrate actual support from their neighbors-something many of them enjoy, but not all. Yet if they’re community-based… well, all they really have to do is be based there.

Leave a Reply