Monday, 10 August 2015

Language is politics

Words are the vehicles of ideas. Great art can, it is true, convey feelings and even concepts to some degree but almost always by implication. Explicit ideas require words if they are either to be articulated,  communicated and understood. Bloggers use written words; parliamentarians use speech. In whichever form, users of words have a responsibility commensurate with their position and audience. One would hope that great responsibility of this kind would be vested in those in whose hands trust is placed to manage great matters, such as running governments. How disappointing it is when, too frequently, those to whom we should look for responsibility choose words inappropriately, especially on matters of great sensitivity. In recent weeks commentators, political leaders and their messengers have seen fit to describe fellow humans as "cock-roaches", "swarms" and "marauding", as if those they refer to are lesser beings. Words like these do not belong in public discourse about innocent and often vulnerable migrants - for it was in this context that they were applied. Whatever political burden migration may place on a country, those concerned have human rights. Many are where they are because it is intolerable to be where they came from. They are all people like those who belittle and demonise them, who are more fortunate.

We should all respect them and demand similar respect of those who are fortunate enough to have a public platform. On such platforms, words should be chosen which lead to the speaker as well as the objects of their speech being respected. This applies equally to those jockeying for esteem and positions of power over others. Disrespect for opponents is becoming all too prevalent in party politics. Misusers of language who know better deserve no respect. Politicians should note, if they wish to be re-elected.
Tom Serpell

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