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"...public opinion deserves to be respected as well as despised" G.W.F. Hegel, 'Philosophy of Right'

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February 15, 2008

Tim Dunlop has declared war on the common misuse of the word 'war'.

"I’m sick of the symbolism of every bloody societal issue being described in terms of a “war on this” or a “war on that”.

Good on him. I daresay most people would agree with him, but we seem to have adopted it anyway, like unconsciously mirroring someone else's nervous tic.

Ken Lovell has sensibly resolved to quit using the term 'weapons of mass destruction' or 'WMD'.

The truth is that every country in the world possesses WMDs. Hundreds of thousands of people were massacred in Rwanda not long ago with nothing more than good old-fashioned axes and machetes. Are we going to accept that their deaths are somehow less important than if they had been killed with nerve gas or a nuclear bomb? Like it or not, any nation with an army equipped with guns and tanks and bombs and all the rest of the wonderful death-dealing devices the human race has invented already possesses a fearsome weapon of mass destruction if it chooses to use it.

'Ilk' and 'bloviate' have also been banished from Road to Surfdom, the former on the grounds that it's hackneyed and largely meaningless, and the latter because it's one of those words that's currently fashionable because nobody knows what it means. It's not designed to communicate but to make the speaker sound clever.

According to Urban Dictionary bloviate means "to discourse at length in a pompous or boastful manner". A useful word, except that using it is pompous and boastful. Look at me everybody - I know obscure words like bloviate, which makes me worth listening to.

The common use of 'undergraduate' in a derogatory sense has to go as well. It's one thing to suggest that someone still has a lot to learn, it's another thing altogether to suggest that someone is inferior, illogical, hysterical or otherwise crap because they don't yet have a framed degree on the wall. Worse, it's routinely used as an insult by people who do have tertiary qualifications, who were once undergraduates themselves, and whose livelihood and position depend on a steady supply of undergraduates.

| Posted by Lyn at 12:36 PM | | Comments (2)
Comments

Comments

Lyn,
Dunlop has a point--eg.,the war on inflation. But the political rhetoric is designed to appeal to the electorate's prejudices--or their unexpresssed fears and anxieties-- so as to change the balance of an argument about the economy.The ALP needed to change 'the economy is booming all is prosperous' narrative of the last decade to show that they were economic managers in control of a deteriorating situation. I see that some financial economists are talking in terms of the brakes going on too hard causing a big recession to happen.

On the other hand, war does capture what goes on. As Stuart MacIntyre points out the History Wars are an international phenomenon. They rage fiercely in Japan and Germany, Spain and Turkey, Canada and the United Kingdom, and they invariably appeal to national loyalties. It is always ‘our history’ which is at stake. He says:

The History Wars operate on the martial principle of conquest, of us against them, right and wrong, of a single correct view of history, a misunderstanding of the discipline of history and a profound hostility to the historical profession.

They typically appeal to some loyalty, hope, fear or prejudice that the history is meant to serve. The wars arise when historians question the official upbeat national story and are accused of disloyalty.

Gary,
Yes, with increasing interdependence between nations they can't afford to go around declaring war on one another the way they used to. Shoot me and I'll cut off your supply of whatever. So they've taken to declaring war on abstract concepts and nurturing internal divisions instead to maintain their relevance.