The meaning of words.
The political meaning of words.
Many words in common use appear to mean different things to different people and this can cause confusion, which can be used by unscrupulous political zealots, to twist and doctor public opinion.
As a simple example, which is not political, take the word “love.”
Official definition is-- to have a great attachment to and affection for. The word 'and' is significant.
Yet to “make love” is widely accepted as meaning to have sexual intercourse, which has no direct connection to emotional “love.”
Political comments, particularly on the web where there is little chance of being sued for slander or libel; often use words without defining the meaning the writer is intending. For example claiming a political view is popular. This word popular is one that most reasonable people, take to mean that the majority of the population, or a very large proportion of that total population agree with the issue. The dictionary definition is “widely favoured or admired” and also “prevailing among the general public.” But people wishing to promote their own political views, often describe a policy as popular, when they mean that the group conferring to write this article, like it. Before the last British general election, a huge amount of social media was dominated by “claims” and “reports” showing how popular the leader of the socialist party (Labour but controlled by the momentum group) was and how popular the proposed policies were. The election showed this to be a false claim. The popularity was confined to members of momentum, the general public did not find the policies “popular.”
One of the most common phrases, used by politicians all round the world; is “lessons will be learnt.”
The definition of lesson is, a single period of instruction in a subject-- or something from which useful knowledge can be learned ; and learn is; to gain knowledge or acquire skills. How many politicians actually mean they are going to study the event in question, and personally gain knowledge or skills sufficient to prevent a recurrence? May be some but most appear to simply mean they want other people to make this go away, out of the public perception.
The populations of most nations are too large and too diverse, for any political leader to be able to actively comprehend what every citizen is experiencing. They may wish to gain approval from everyone but are generally willing to settle for enough of the population to win a majority and so form a government. With the modern ability to spread news, lies and opinions, around to ( this is a guess) 60% or 70% of the population, at great speed, it has become necessary for politicians to work at minimising the number of groups they anger or get rejected by. This is where being ambiguous with words becomes important. One of the emotive election manifesto subjects is “poverty” but this puts different images into different peoples minds. To the wealthy, poverty may mean going without holidays, to the poor is may mean going hungry. To socialist politicians it means an open ended ability to claim; vote for us and we will end poverty. They are usually very careful not to define exactly what is meant by the word poverty. One meaning is having less income and material resources than the average. Under this definition, a person in a highly developed; materialistically, nation could be classed as in poverty yet the same person transferred, with they same income and resources, to a struggling nation, would be classed as wealthy. To many middle class people, that is those with average incomes and material resources, the term “in poverty” means not having a place to live or enough food. Thus when a politician makes claims about how wrong it is to have x% of the population in poverty; the average person thinks all these people are without homes and food, yet the statistics the politician is using, is the number of people with below average income etc.
Take the words progress and progressive. Progress is defined by a dictionary as movement towards a place or objective. Progressive is defined as relating to progress. So a politician claiming to be progressive but not clearly explaining what the objective is; is saying nothing of any use. A political party, or grouping, claiming to be progressive is simply claiming they are wishing to move towards an objective. The objective may not be clear. It is common for left of centre political parties to claim they represent progressive thinkers. Many compassionate middle income people will wish to associate with being progressive, since in their minds being progressive is aspirational, it is good, positive and worthwhile. The progression intended by the political group may be towards some socialist utopia of strictly controlled populations, living in a one party communist state. Which is not the same thing as the middle income people are thinking.
It is not just single words that can be distorted. Parts of history keep being re-examined in isolation; that is without revealing the wider context in which they occurred. This is the same as using words without defining the meaning intended. The trick is to then publish a sensational opinion based on the event in isolation. This can be made look like a historically factual record. Politics are behind this distortion, deliberately making history appear different from previous accounts for the furtherance of a political aim. Mr G. Orwell prophesied this rewriting of history in his novels. The media then makes short reports on the expressed opinion, without mentioning either the context or that it is an opinion. Very few people examine these reports and seek any truth that may be hidden in them.
How do we, the voters, deal with all these various meanings of common words? How can we recognise the opinions being expressed as facts? How can we spot the distortions being presented to us? How can we sort the flood of misleading “information” and find what is the reality?
We can start to question, particularly on social media, what exactly is the definition behind the words written by political activists. We can start to question main stream media wording, to establish what they mean by phrases such as; party “A” can eliminate poverty. Or party “B” represents progressive thinking. We can also start to question academic teaching, which seeks to persuade the young, to follow and accept political slogans without clear definition of actual meaning. We can start to doubt the media and all the “reports” it sends to us, cut up into small digestible bites. We can make the effort to establish where such reports of reports come from and who makes them. Then we can make the effort to find out why they are made. All this takes time, effort and energy.
Democracy is worth such effort. The very future well-being of every nation, depends on the majority of people making such efforts.