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.

Words are crucial; so study and protect them.

Words.

Loaded pistols said Sartre. Powerful drugs said Kipling.

Yes, the true meanings of words seem to vary in these recent times.  So-called “truth” constantly needs further investigation. This little piece of fiction plays around with that idea.

Dr Yorec VeilPhoto on 22-09-2016 at 7.45 AM

Doctor Veil is a former citizen of Elysium, in the Land Of Two Rivers. Born in hard times within a country where university study was mostly no more than a poverty stricken dream, he broke free of pauperdom by winning scholarships. His rise in Academia was rapid and distinguished, leading him to several teaching posts and awards.

Sadly his former university was destroyed in the Iraq invasion of 2003. Fortunately for mankind he survived and is now a distinguished staff member at Hope University in Brazil. His works and philosophy are now part of a broad canvas.

His most recent missives follow.

***

Snake Oil Sales 1Snake Oil Sales 2Snake Oil Sales 3Snake Oil Sales 4.jpg

Now Some Non-fiction From Me

Recommended Source: Don Watson weaselwords.com.au.

Weasel words are the words of the powerful, the treacherous and the unfaithful, spies, assassins and thieves. . . To speak the words the powerful speak is to obey them, or at least to give up all outward signs of freedom. Don Watson (205 p.1)

I want to share with you some weasel examples. Maybe it will help to explain my contempt.

Once, when applying for a job teaching English to migrants, I asked a CEO if there was a predominant approach to the teaching of essay writing. I needed to know if genre writing was used as well as or instead of traditional methods.

The reply was very brief: world’s best practice. Now what did that answer do for me, a professional seeking to do his job well? Did it mean: “I want to test you not me so I will tell you nothing” ? Did it mean: “I am ignorant actually, so I will use this high sounding language of emptiness to cover my tracks”? Or was that CEO simply under the influence  of Edward Bernays, trying to control me with  Bernaysian manufactured consent ?

You decide. As for me, I did not get that job and went to teach in a university where it was a little harder to cover up the truth. Not always impossible though.

When leaders fire weasel words at us we have a problem. Don Watson sums up weasel power pretty well regarding President Bush, The Younger, and Prime Minister Howard.

Our two leaders have sucked the meaning out of the words . . . They are shells of words: words from which life has gone, facsimiles, frauds, corpses. (loc.cit.)

These shells of words bring power to such rulers. The effect of this power on war and peace is disastrous and on our society catastrophic.

Look what such people have done to the proverbs I learnt as a child. Weasel words below for sale: half price.

Look before you cut and run.

He who hesitates is decruited.

All that glitters is not an accounting irregularity.

A miss is as good as change management.

Fortune favours critical success factors.

Manners maketh the self actualiser.

While there’s life there’s a mission statement.

Actions speak louder than the chattering classes.

Call a spade an action plan.

Give credit where credit is clear evidence.

A picture is worth a thousand absolutely collaborative events.

A change is as good as a capability gap.

A friend in need is a circle of strength.

A pot calling the kettle non-core.

Every dog has its global bulge bracket pedigree.

Two heads are better than a Client Infrastructure Representative (CIR).

What the eye doesn’t see the heart doesn’t disconnect.

Silence is bulletproof.

What you eat today walks and buys-in tomorrow.

As you sow, so shall you drill down.

And pop goes the weasel.

 

Principal Reference: Watson, Don. 2005. Watson’s Dictionary of Weasel Words. Sydney. Random House.