I’m going to take you back in history a wee bit to help explain the definitions of today’s words. First, we’ll go back to the 18th century. During the Industrial Revolution, textile machines were introduced into wool and cotton mills. The workers were unhappy because they felt their employment was in jeopardy. So, those unhappy chaps destroyed the new inventions and burned down the mills in protest. These protestors were called Luddites – named so after Ned Ludd, an English laborer who destroyed weaving machinery.
Now, the term Luddite ([luhd-ahyt) is used to describe anyone who opposes technology. If someone would rather use a typewriter instead of a computer to type documents, that person could be referred to as a Luddite. If Great-Aunt Matilda refuses to learn how to use the remote control for the VCR or doesn’t use the cell phone her children got her for Christmas, she could be considered a Luddite.
Now, let’s meander through the years all the way back to 621 B.C. There was a politician in Athens, named Draco, who made changes to many of the laws. These changes were very unpopular because they were extremely severe. For example, the punishment for minor offenses was death. Or, if a debtor’s status was lower than that of his creditor, the debtor was forced into slavery. Draco’s purpose behind these severe punishments was to prevent minor crimes.
So Draconian (drey-koh-nee-uhn) is an adjective that describes actions that are unreasonably severe, going beyond what is right or necessary– actions that are rigorous, harsh, severe, cruel. When you read in the paper of parents chaining an adoptive child to a bathtub and forcing him to stay there for weeks at a time because he wets the bed, that is Draconian punishment. Or, when a mother throws her children off the Golden Gate Bridge because the children are ‘evil,’ that is Draconian behavior.
The names of these two people have become part of our vocabulary because their names have become synonymous with their actions. When you know the person’s history, you know the definition of the word.
If you are reading this blog and/or listening to my podcast, you are definitely NOT a Luddite! And, I certainly hope that none of your actions would label you Draconian!