Monday, December 18, 2006
IN MY OPINION (Column)
We Don’t Need This Orwellian Double-Speak Country
By TED RUHIG
In this pre-Christmas period, our thoughts are permeated with happiness and good cheer as we look forward to Santa Clause, gift exchanging and all those other holiday excitements. The season makes it most difficult to stay focused on the politics-as-usual world in which we live.
George Orwell, the gifted political philosopher, once cynically observed: “In our age there is no such thing as ‘keeping out of politics.’ All issues are political issues, and politics itself is a mass of lies, evasions, folly hatred and schizophrenia.” This quote came from Orwell’s book “Politics and the English Language.”
Another famous Orwellian observation illustrates how language is used and twisted to cover-up reality in the world. He makes his point in the following sentences: “War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength.”
Twisting the meaning of words in this manner makes it very difficult to critically analyze the overriding issues of the day. This is particularly true when words are deviously corrupted on a day-to-day basis from their ordinary meaning by President Bush.
Even the very folks who initially promoted the war in Iraq have turned against Bush’s double-speak agenda. They are beginning to acknowledge that what we now have in Iraq is a civil war.
Bush refuses to call what is going on in Iraq a civil war, thus obfuscating an understanding of what is happening over there. Some of Bush’s former cronies are even writing books about the Iraq “misadventure.” They are doing this because they’re deeply concerned about Bush’s lack of leadership as expressed in his description of events and his inability to change course in either word or deed, even when events are turning out to be disastrous.
The titles of these books speak for themselves. Larry Diamond is author of “Squandered Victory” and David L. Phillips has written “Losing Iraq.”
Of particular interest to seniors are Bush’s continuing attempts to discuss the privatization of Social Security as “reform” of the social security system. To this end — to this very day — Bush still expresses his wish for “reform” to protect the system from “insolvency,” even as his congressional allies have either been defeated in the recent mid-term elections or become disillusioned by their loss of control of Congress.
The Economist uses similar words by stating in its November 25th issue: “America’s public pension scheme is shuffling towards insolvency as the population ages.”
The Economist concludes: “Any plausible fix will involve pain — higher taxes, a cut in future benefits or both.”
This conclusion is not totally accurate. Instead of focusing on negative words and the negative solutions they represent such as “higher taxes” or “cuts in benefits,” the politicians could talk in a positive way about increasing the payroll tax ceiling. It is now set at an extremely low rate of $94,200. Raising that ceiling higher and applying it to the incomes of the thousands of the rich and super rich would be most satisfactory to 90 percent of the population and would also solve any possible threat to the future solvency of Social Security.
A discussion of this solution would not have to be framed around such bogeyman words such as “insolvency,” but around such positive ideas as increasing societal solidarity and positively attacking the growing income disparities existing at the present time.
It is the uses of Orwell’s double-speak that are really responsible for this state of affairs, frightening the boomer generation as it faces retirement. What matters most is to not give in to this pervasive use of double speak; the same kind of scare word use focusing on frightening images and “weapons of mass destruction” brought on the war in Iraq.
We don’t need this kind of Orwellian double thinking to rupture our society. We should always keep in mind the words and ideas that represent positive solutions to life’s challenges and be defiant against the double-speak words and ideas that are used to frighten us.
For our children’s sake — for our own sake — we need to be passionate about expressing ourselves freely, clearly and positively about our future.
— Capitol News Service
Copyright 2006, Metropolitan News Company