Cogito ergo sum -- I Think, Therefore I Am
A writer is often faced with the finding best way to express herself. There are occasionally situations where an author finds himself in contradictory positions, having to decide between content and style.
The essence of creative writing is to ensure the reader fully grasps the idea I wish to express -- this is tantamount -- if the reader doesn't understand what I am attempting to say, then I am wasting my time as well as that of my readers.
Within this requirement of being understood, the writer has multiple techniques at his disposal: sentence structure, alliteration, assonance, rhyme, rhythm, etc, to make his words more appealing, more interesting, more convincing. But style and structure can never be at the expense of ambiguity.
Over the last couple of days, I have been engaged in an email discussion with a guy living in Sydney. I have had no communication with Rob for at least forty years. Our families belonged to the same same small synagogue when we were kids. Rob recently started researching his roots. He is trying to establish whether we may be related. His maternal grandmother bore the same surname as my mother's family, Glück, and part of Rob's family lived in the Czechoslovakian city of Kosice, my mother's hometown. Many of Rob's relatives were brutally murdered by the cursed German regime in 1944, the year the Germans "transported" Hungary's Jews to Auschwitz for the "Final Solution".
In detailing his relatives and what happened to them, Rob wrote a number of sentences which go like the following: "Berta was transported to Auschwitz and died there in 1944".
Yes, it is true that Berta achieved a state of death in Auschwitz (probably in the Birkenau crematoria), but in the process of reaching this deceased condition, her civil rights, and her individuality as a human being, her very humanity, were severely and purposefully violated in the most demeaning manner. Followed by selection for "extermination". So why say "died" when you mean cruelly and inhumanely "group" murdered.
Our use language is influenced and shaped by external factors. Rob knows, at least in general terms, what really happened to his grandmother. I am certain he has heard details from his mother; she too was in Auschwitz -- she survived, but once you were there for just a couple of days, you knew what was happening. They didn't even attempt to hide it. You had no escape anyway -- you were totally under their control -- you were no longer a person, not even an animal -- you became just another number on their IBM Hollerith management system. (Yes, the IBM service man arrive regularly from Warsaw for monthly routine maintenance calls, and was also available when needed as part of the overall service contract.) And to further dehumanise, this reference number was tattooed onto your arm.
Rob knows this as well as I do. So why does he simply say, "Berta died in Auschwitz"? In her sleep perhaps?
Why? Because he has been conditioned to do so. Murder is a very strong word in western society. Violently murdered is stronger. Transported like an animal and exterminated -- too much even for a survivor's son. "Died" -- everyone dies; perhaps we may say, "died prematurely".
There are many sources of this conditioning. The West, standing by on the sidelines, onlookers from afar to the massacre of European Jews, does not like to be reminded of its passive rôle during the Holocaust, when they knew exactly what was happening and, as a minimum response, could easily have bombed the train lines leading to the Camps, or even bombed the extermination centres themselves. So the West's history books need to water down an awful reality. With euphemisms. Evaporating guilt. Conceal the full truth.
However, the major source of this conditioning, of this political correctness, is the newspapers and the broadcast media. Today, there is a "right" and "wrong" way to say everything. You must be polite, you have to be subtle, you have to understand the other man's point of view. A bit of empathy, please. There are social norms that cultured humans must adopt. You can't shoot a pirate off the Somalian coast because you are "violating his human rights".
I have always objected to my friends referring to this or that political party in Israel, saying that they will "give back" territory, or no, that right wing party "won't give back" territory. Give Back! What does that mean? How can you give something back to someone who never had it! Palestinians! The Palestinian people had territory? Where? When?
My father-in-law is a Palestinian. And he has documentation to prove it. He was given Palestinian papers by the British when he came to live in Palestine, or as he put it, Eretz Yirael, in 1933. And his brother, Jack, who was born here in 1937, had no status other than Palestinian. Until 1964, with the formation of the PLO, the so-called Palestine Liberation Organisation, Arabs considered themselves just that -- Arabs -- part of the Pan-Arab nation. It was only after the 1967 Six-Day War that the PLO promoted a distinctively Palestinian agenda. Until that time, Palestinian to them was a derogatory label to applied to the cursed Jew.
By this phrase, "giving back", our left wing Press do not intend to present parts of the Land of Israel to my Palestinian father-in-law and his brother. When they say "give back", they mean let's give away parts of our homeland to the Arabs. Nothing more, nothing less.
So why say it like that, with those words? Because "they" want to influence our thinking; they want us to accept their political philosophy. By forcing us to use the term "giving back", they aim, unfortunately oftentimes successfully, to change our way of thinking -- away from a nationalistic line and towards the so-called Peace Camp ideology. And by repeating the lie, continuously, daily, in every newscast, on talkback radio, in interviews, in the newspapers, it starts to seep in. It starts to affect one's thinking . . . and you, subconsciously, start to think like them, the way they want you to think. I know that you won't like the comparison, but the formidable German journalist, Paul Joseph Goebbels, the Nazi propaganda minister, was an expert in this methodology. Using it to create the mythic Führer, hailed by the German people. No I am not comparing the Israeli press to the Nazi propaganda machine -- Goebbels was virulent anti-Semite -- but it is well known by propagandists that repeating a lie often enough eventually tranforms it into an accepted truth.
As I write, I am listening, on Internet radio, to an interview with an advisor to former Israeli premier, Binyamin Netanyahu, the man who may again become our prime minister in a few days time. The advisor is discussing various options available to Netanyahu for building a "workable" coalition. The former advisor is differentiating between the leanings of "Bibi" (Netanyahu's childhood nickname, used by many today, even though he turns sixty this October -- is this usage of baby names a unique Israeli phenomenon? c.f. Tzippi -- Israeli politicians are so cute) and those of "Mr Netanyahu". What? A split personality? Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde?
Bibi, he goes on to explain, is a "true" right-winger, having grown up in "real" right-wing house, with historic "right-wing" parents. Mr Netanyahu, on the other hand, is more pragmatic, a man of the world, a man more likely to make gestures to the "centre-left" in this former advisor's words; Mr is more likely "to make historic agreements", whatever that means -- and the interviewee doesn't have an answer to which "historic agreements" he referred? What a game! This man suddenly doesn't know to what he was referring! Does he assume I, and all his listeners are totally stupid?
What is this doublespeak*? If you have agreed to be interviewed, please tell us something useful; tell us Netanyahu is in a bind -- between a rock and a hard place -- tell us he is having trouble forming a workable coalition, tell us the election results were inconclusive, but please do not tell us we are going to be lead by schizophrenic!
Even though we have no government yet, and certainly won't have one this week, the President today officially opened Parliament, the Knesset. In his opening address, he told us that the incoming government is faced with four significant challenges, one of which is "concluding negotiations with the Palestinians [sic] during this parliamentary term". Really? The government MUST conclude an agreement, no matter what? No matter what the other side says, whatever they may ask for? We must agree? We'll implement whatever. . . without their agreement and commitments? Just so that we can say we have reached an agreement. "Peace in our time." The world has heard that phrase before. More doublespeak.
In the 1967 words of Sonny and Cher. . . and "the beat goes on . . . ."
A B.B.C. newscast this morning reported on "peace" meetings taking place in Cairo between the Fatah and Hamas terrorist organisations. In order to remind their listeners as to whom the Hamas is (of course they assume everyone knows who Fatach is [this is the correct pronunciation of the organisation's name . . . or my name isn't Menachem]), they said [I am quoting from memory], "the Hamas violently took over control of the Gaza Strip in 2006, a year after winning democratic [sic] elections a year earlier". If they won the elections "democratically" in 2005, should they not peacefully have taken over Gaza in that year? Why the need to resort to violence a year after winning a democratic election? Is this the British and American idea of democracy? Like, "We only recognise the winner of elections when the side we want to win, wins!"
Please do not think I am thrilled to have Hamas there, but, my friends, please retain some consistency in your policies.
My recommendation to each and everyone of you is to use words in their simple meaning -- say what you think and mean what you say. I know if you are reading my words, you must exist, but ensure this existence as an individual, not a tool of cunning opinion makers who are working overtime to control our minds.
I hope you have understood what I am saying. If not, or if you disagree with my point of view, you know where to find me -- but please, avoid doublespeaking to me.
. . . and now for today's weather forecast [on the Voice of Israel at 9 a.m.] . . . today it will be a little less cold." And I thought we were in a warming trend. Please pray for rain for the Holyland. The winter is nearly over and we are at about 40% of our annual rainfall, following two heavy drought years.
* Doublespeak Language that pretends to communicate but actually does not
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