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2016年8月8日 星期一

Doublespeak (巧言/謊言)

Our world is in deep trouble. The terrorists are striking everywhere: in Europe, in Pakistan, in Afghanistan, in Turkey, in China. When people are not busy killing others, they are busy killing themselves, like in Hong Kong. And mad men are on a rampage of mass killings in Japan, in France and in America. 

Of course, there are lots of reason why people do what they do. But I'm sure that one of the reasons may be that people are now systematically trained, for the purposes of easier control and manipulation by those in power NOT to look at reality in the face and to call a spade a spade. We are now flooded and swamped daily by words that don't really "mean" what they say, by what some have called "doublespeak". An even simpler word for that kind of talk is "lies".

As far back as the 1940's , a famous English writer has already noticed the increasing trend of dishonesty the language of politics. He's George Orwell. He says In his essay "Politics and the English Language" (1946):
"In our time, political speech and writing are largely the defence of the indefensible… Thus political language has to consist largely of euphemism, question-begging and sheer cloudy vagueness… the great enemy of clear language is insincerity. Where there is a gap between one's real and one's declared aims, one turns as it were instinctively to long words and exhausted idioms" And in 1954, the German philosopher Martin Heidegger wrote about the crisis facing human beings in the contemporary world in his famous essay "The Question Concerning Technology". There he opined that in the modern world, everything has become  subordinated to the needs of technology and the economic system under which they will be looked at merely as different kinds of "resources" for the continuing and efficient running of such systems. Flesh and blood human beings, existing in all their subjectivity in their concrete day to day interactions, each with their own different thoughts, feelings, intentions and projects, what another existential philosopher Martin Buber called "I and Thou", no longer matter very much: they have been transformed through the abstract and impersonal logic of a technological civilization into little more than part of the available "human resources", some shadowy figures to be dealt with, managed and exploited for the purposes of the firm, the company or institution by the "human resources department". In short, man has been dehumanized. He is no longer himself. He has become merely one "item" under the heading of "human capital/human resources" in the company's balance sheet, to be duped and "utilized" at the  pleasure of those in power.

The killing of innocent civilians in a war is now called "collateral damage" and killing our enemies has now become "neutralization of our enemies" and a war is not longer called a "war". It's become "hostility". And the ending of a war is now called "cessation of hostilities".

That trend has now spread to talks about our economics. A slump in the market or in the economy is called first a "depression" or a "recession". And now it's called "growth", except that it's "negative economic growth".

The trend has spread to jargons about psychological and medical problems as well. People now no longer have a simple "nervous shock" after some particularly nasty and unexpected accident. They have a "post-traumatic stress disorder".  And people are no longer treated for their illnesses. They are said to be "receiving medical attention" or "undergoing a medical procedure".

Comedians are not slow to notice the trend. The following video by George Carlin speaks for itself.




Is it any wonder that people can't bear any more any form of what would previously have been considered the ordinary wear and tear of life and break out in spurts of unpredictable violence either against others or against themselves and sometimes first against others and then against themselves?