Wednesday, 18 March 2009
The Relevance of Language
My father had a colourful turn of phrase. He was brought up in a time when the importance of conversation and the power of the spoken word were paramount. He was also a great English and History teacher and understood how the use of the spoken word has changed our history.
The world has changed a bit since dad's time.
Now image is everything – both literally and metaphorically. The swamping of the media by both the still and moving image has changed the way we look at the world.
The power of the picture has been brought home to us well and truly. Remember the napalm girl, the man standing before the tanks in China, and the destruction of Saddam's statue.
Each of these images has in its own way, changed how we saw the events surrounding the situation they grew to symbolize.
Something has been lost in this fairly rapid transition. Perhaps this loss of direct and colourful language is part of the reason for many of our current ills. There are many issues that images cannot communicate.
The phenomenon of CEOs and the like taking obscene bonuses is one of these situations.
When I was in the army, we had a word for those who personified selfishness. This word was "jackman".
A jackman was a person who operated on the simple and ruthless understanding that "I'm all right, Jack".
The corollary of this, of course, is that everyone else can go to buggery. A jackman was not a very popular individual in an infantry platoon, where interdependence was critical, to the point where your life occasionally depended on it.
I'd like to see words like these resurrected. This epithet could reasonably be applied to individuals like John Mulcahy (Suncorp) and Edward Liddy (AIG).
Terms such as "mug lair" could be revived and applied to any number of professional footballers, and the word "spiv" recalled and put to good use when discussing the financial and real estate industries.
It strikes me as passing strange that the conservative bloggers are silent on this issue, despite their cries of rage on any issue of perceived waste of public money. It's obviously OK if this money goes to the worthies who have pursued the accumulation of money above all else. They have introduced a novel concept – that of the deserving rich – as opposed to the undeserving poor.
In the meantime, I'd like to invite any of these deserving (ex) Masters of the Universe to debate the issue in a public forum.
It won't happen of course; they'd be afraid of being tarred and feathered.
Now there's something else from a bygone era that could reasonably be resurrected...........
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