Not only we think in a language, but the language is thinking with us, even “For” us. In times of “Dictatorships” and “Authoritarian Rule” you’ll always find that confident and smiling face of the “Minister Of Propaganda” (in modern times named “Minister of Culture and Information”, or as George ORWELL calls “Minister Of TRUTH”) whose main job task is to forge a language that would influence consciences, lull and put to sleep the resistance and promote the “Unique Uniform Thought”.
Yet, for a self respected mind, it is difficult to deny that the language, as used by politicians and repeatedly amplified by all means of mass communication, revolves around expressions, words and phrases which circulate more and more to form “The Common Sense”, thus becoming widely heard but certainly not deeply investigated or understood.
Same wisdom we detect in the Classic Arab Logic saying: “What’s repeated is decided”. Meaning: whatever is continuously repeated, false or true may it be, is destined to become collectively accepted and decided.
In his most valuable book: “About Language of our present time”, Dr. Gustavo Zagrebelsky, the retired Italian Constitutional Court President says:
“The uniformity of language, the displacement of words from one context to another and their continuous repetitiveness are the sign of the degenerative pathology of our present time public life while expressing itself, as always in such cases, through a stereotype and “kitsch” linguistic terminology, and precisely for that, it becomes largely diffused, well learned and easily adopted”.
Let us try to follow his stream of thoughts to understand what he means, and to discover how words could be used, misused and even abused, in certain ways to deviate or distort their original significance imprinted in our minds, and impose upon society’s collective conscience new ones to serve precise and pre-conceived purposes and interests of whomever is, or aims to be, in command.
Having Italy for a case sample, and analyzing how its political vernacular mutated demagogically throughout the past twenty years, from the Craxian social government’s dictatorship through Berlusconi’s famous “Descent to Politics(*)” from 1994 until now, Dr. Zagrebelsky chose to objectively, yet provokingly, put under his sharp scalpel the words, terms and phrases as used by politicians and public figures; and, as a sound linguist coroner performing an accurate and detailed vocabulary autopsy, he guides us to think before accepting, trusting, repeating and taking for true whatever mumblings politicians (public figures, intellectuals, media and news signatures) may pronounce.
Examine for instance, a commonly used word like “Absolutely”. According to Dr. Zagrebelsky, an adverb and an adjective apparently innocent, yet for some time, are seasoning our talk in the most pervasive way that we “absolutely” can’t notice anymore: they are precisely “Absolutely” and “Absolute”.
Everything is absolutely, everything is absolute. Not even the “yes” and the “no” are subtracted from the dictatorship of the absolute: “absolutely yes”, “absolutely no”. Could it be the Paw of the Evil One as per the evangelical warning? Or the Whispers of Satan as per the Islamic teachings?
Maybe it’s not a demonic matter at all, but simply it is gradually becoming a customary adaptation of a way of reasoning to express, presumptuously and pervasively, either greater and morally more demanding issues (like being “absolutely” loyal to a duty that does not admit exceptions), or smaller and even most irrelevant ones (as the imperatives to following the latest clothing fashions which became absolute).
The division, brought along with the rescuing “Descent” into politics, needs such extreme use of language. It is the exasperation language: there is no “laity” but “laicism”; not “justice” but “executionalism”; the “critical information” or the “journalistic investigation” become “media persecutory slander”; also “debatable political choices” turns out to be “epoch-making reforms”. No more multiple possible choices, only one unique certainty without “if” and without “but”.
Continuing in his elegant piercing style, Dr. Zagrebelsky points out that the predecessor of “absolute” was the “categorical” of a time when there was no room for nuances and doubts, sons of defeatism; just space for solid convictions and granite beliefs in the “categorical imperatives” taken from moral philosophy and thrown into the arena of political competition. Today’s “absolute” is probably an Anglo-Saxon business world communication style.
In any way, what absolute excludes is the “relative”. While the relative imposes confrontation and induces to thinking, instead we find the absolute that commands and pretends obedience, absolutely. The relative properly is for the weak being problematic; the absolute is strong because, together with doubts, exclude the possibility of coming together to relativise the absolutes, to search for accords and establish compromises with whom not sharing our certainties.
Dr. Zagrebelsky reveals the close parental relationship binding “absolute” to “fanatic”. In a way, he explains, both terms belong to the wartime mode of perceiving the relations between human beings, and conceiving social and political life.
Either here or there.
The need to take side and line up “absolutely” and “categorically”.
Who’s not with me is against me, is the consequential effect to the “Descent” in the “field” of politics. (Notice the use of the term “Field”: firstly used to define the battle field, then used to identify the sports field; both images inducing to divide not to unify; to divide into “Rival Fanatic Categories” just like opposing soldiers in the battle field, or ultras fans for rival sporting clubs).
Terms and words that became currently used and repeated to the point of irritatingly trivialise our daily speech. A sad aspect which only proves the scarcity, even lack, of critical spirit and the collective “molding” into new habits and practices favouring the fast advancing trend of the “reigning superficiality of the barbaric culture”.
(*) As per Meesrs.: Sartori, Colombo and Travaglio:
The famous parabolic phrase pronounced by Silvio Berlusconi in all his public appearances, since the late nineties of last century, used as well in the “refined” autobiography he printed in an elegant book and forwarded it by mail to every Italian house (50 million copies distributed freely), as part of his carefully planned strategy to adventure in politics in order to save himself, his business and financial empire from the law, after the escape of his “protector” Craxi in his Tunisian exile together with a loot amounting to approximately twenty five billion Italian Liras, today’s equivalent to 14 billion Euros. The money Craxi received from Berlusconi to exercise his government’s pressures in Parliament to pass certain tailored laws and decrees favouring the business of his “protégé”.N.B.: The Italian official documents reveal that Craxi was tried, convicted and sentenced to imprisonment for the counts of: Office abuse, Favouring illegal bids, Receiving and Accepting Bribes, Criminal Association. Craxi fled the country absconding in Tunisia’s Hammamet resort where he spent the rest of his life and died there. Why Tunisia? Because it was not a signatory of the “Criminals Extradiction" treaty with the EU.