Further to this matter of words

How can we do justice to the importance of words?

We speak. We listen. We write. We read. In all my teaching years I have tried to tell my students that with these deeds we can change the world.

There was a Chinese saying I often shared with those students:

I hear what you say but I see what you do.

Now this leads me towards one human category of power, politics. Politicians’ words and actions have had a vast influence on my life down the years into my eighth decade. They have inspired me, disgusted me, helped me, hurt me, led me to war, brought me brief peace, dismissed me and often flowed from kneeling figures begging for my vote.

Now have you noticed how frequently honourable members use the expression “the bottom line”? It’s an expression taken from profit and loss accounting and I believe it came into first real use c. 1967. I was alive then but, as with so many other things, it was not part of my detailed understanding. But oh my! Do I notice it now?

So many things are “monetised,” to use the YouTube category. Money is the route of all weasels. Education is not vital. The real problem is can we afford it? Same for health, including research. As for climate. Well. Old King Coal was a merry old sole (sic).

And all those weasel words are of extreme importance if you are into shady deals. We now know, for example, the terminology used by the gods of the Watergate affair. Some interesting examples: “correct endeavour,” “correctly impede,” “correct motive,” “political containment.” Each of these we can now recognise in the context of Watergate as a euphemism disguising culpable behaviour.

Another discovery from that time is the presidential coaching of accused staff for survival in the courtroom. These were some of those words: “I don’t remember;” “I can’t recall;” “do not volunteer anything;” “deal only with established facts.”

Two other expressions come into mind as well: “classified” and “business confidentiality.” I have seen “classified” countless times in my lifetime. One example will do. Information on the Phoenix Program was classified during the Vietnam War. We now know that this secretive scheme was responsible for the massacre of at least 20,000 Vietnamese civilians during that war.

What of business confidentiality? I have no real evidence here. Therefore it would be wrong of me to make unsubstantiated claims. But I feel justified in making the following comment. In the light of human misdemeanours documented throughout history, is it not reasonable to ask for something more than a label “business confidentiality” when  misbehaviour could be possible?

I feel pretty sure that some of my readers will know more clearly what I mean and even have access to tangible evidence to set the truth free . . . Ah me! Despite my advanced maturity, my glass is still half full. I just wish proof would be easier to find. Life would be far better if we could trust the powerful.

To end this little sharing of ideas,  I strongly urge you to follow this link. It has helped me better understand the bright and dark side of words. You may find it interesting.

R.

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