Life’s language: another rant

OK, lets talk about the fricking magic money tree and other hyperbole of the recent general election and modern politics, modern media and life in general.  

I am really interested in language, how we can inspire and motivate, compel and convince, twist and trick, damn and destroy.  Simple example: ex-pats, immigrants, migrants, refugees: these words are not all synonyms and not all interchangeable.

I am not indulging in some liberal intellectual rhetoric and fancy: language is what separates us from all the other mammals on this planet.  Language is fundamental to our existence.  It overrides our primal instincts, we debate and rationalise, argue and justify, it is an amazing wonder and a weapon.

A word that fascinates many of us is austerity and – I point to this Economist article which articulates things much more saliently than I could –  its many meanings and how they can be misunderstood or deliberately misused.  But that’s for another day.

I am also interested in story telling and how we compel people to listen, to who and to what.  We all have a story to tell.  Our stories are all equal in merit, although not always in excitement or intrigue, or the ease with which we can bring them to the fore, gaining connections and empathy…

Our national story tellers – the media – need to accept their responsibility to the truth and to making the little stories as accessible and engaging as possible.

I’ve been watching the BBC News channel coverage of the devastating fire at Grenfell Tower overnight and listening to the words used by the reporters and their interviewees.

Unlike the recent terror attacks, I cannot help but feel there is a difference, a reticence, in speculating over who is to blame and how that can be addressed… the simplicity of the bad radical muslim men versus the complexity of private companies fulfilling public contracts for profit, ugh, let’s turn the TV over.

Victoria Derbyshire quoted the council leader on how there’s as yet no steer on how the fire had started, and no steer on how it spread so fast.  A steer is not the same as a fact; steer implies direction, maybe (indulgently) even manipulation.  A official response that needs to be formulated, calculated, risk-assessed this is the norm now.

A reporter on the ground just described the calm, factual update from the London Fire Chief as dramatic.  No.  The situation is dramatic.

The drama is hard to ignore.  The underlying detail is as devastating, the not-so little stories that have been largely unheard until now.  From the BBC website:


This is fucking incredible.  Since when could a fire sprinkler be seen as inappropriate?

Six people died in the Camberwell fire, eight in the London Bridge attack.  A very similar number of human beings whose story became public as it ended in the most awful way, look at how differently they have been politicised and used to justify agendas.

Victoria Derbyshire has said a few times now how something had been chronically going wrong.  One word that completely colours and informs the story – over time, a long time – I’m not sure if she realises the full weight of that, literally and metaphorically, in the context of this blog post and way beyond.  I hope so.

The sloganism of the General Election was truly remarkable.  OK, sloganism is not officially a word but it damned well should be.  The party that we returned to power offered us little more than a broad “strong and stable” brush over the detail.  It was a simplistic mantra and in theory it worked.

The irony of how we rapidly hurtle towards NewSpeak alarms and amuses me.  I cannot believe how quickly the world ‘officially’ adopted the term “Brexit” – it makes me cringe every time I hear it – if “Britain’s Exit From the European Union” is too much to say, how the hell are we going to grasp the enormity of the detail that it represents?

Oh, we didn’t and still we don’t.  I don’t think many Remainers or Leavers really know what we voted for beyond a few romanticised concepts.

Contrary to the Ruddspeak, of course there is a magic money tree, at least one.  It’s called Quantitative Easing.  Simplistically, it is used to bring benefit to a weak economy: money is injected into the commercial side of things.

How about we injected that money into the social side of things…

… I don’t know.  I feel increasingly compelled to find out.  We are in the top 10 largest economies in the world, but not quite the top 20 in population, so simplistically we are doing really well.

But the awful growing social divides, the lack of investment in public services…

NO.  Wrong word.  This is half the problem.  Money put into our society for our basic quality of life in terms of infrastructure and basic public services is not an INVESTMENT.

I don’t look at my council tax as an investment.  There needs to be another word… duty?

It’s not a speculative spend involving risk and return, well, it shouldn’t be.  The concept of investment brings credence to decisions involving appropriateness about whether we need fire sprinklers in tower blocks.

We pay customs duty, perhaps we need to rephrase the nature of our spending around social duty, national duty, our human duty…

If we can better protect life, we should, always.  Why wouldn’t we?  Because there are better investments?  So very sad.



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