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Use Of Political Language
George Orwell (1903-1950) is reported to have said: “If thought can corrupt language, then language can also corrupt thought.” Across the world, politicians use language as a political tool to deflect criticisms and to propagate negative intent on its opposition. The language may vary, but generally the purpose is to create division and confusion.
Long before Machiavelli wrote his political treatise, an Indian author/politician named Kautilya wrote his masterpiece known as the Arthashastra. LN Rangarajan in his preface to the English translation of this political treasure wrote:
“Popularly known as Chanakya, he is maligned and often ridiculed as a teacher of unethical, not to say immoral, means. ‘Chanakyan’ has entered Indian vocabulary as the equivalent of ‘Machiavellian.’ Most people know little of what Kautilya actually said in the Arthashastra. The only thing they can recall is the ‘mandala’ theory, based on the principles: ‘Every neighbouring state is an enemy and the enemy’s enemy, is a friend.’”
And he continues: “Only scholars of ancient Indian history are aware of the range and depth of the Arthashastra. It is a pioneering work on statecraft in all its aspects, written at least one thousand five hundred years ago.” Holy Roman Emperor Charles V (1500-1558) wrote: “Je parle espagnol à Dieu, italien aux femmes, français aux homes et allemande á mon cheval.” (I speak Spanish to God, Italian to women, French to men and German to my horse.)
In the politics of Trinidad and Tobago, many of our public figures use coded language to deliver their messages to different groups of people. “Laventille,” instead of Afro-Trinidadian is standard political usage. And “Felicity” or “South of the River” is used instead of Indian. In the Federal elections held in 1958, the People National Movement (PNM) led by Dr Williams, was soundly beaten (6 seats to 4) by the Democratic Labour Party (DLP) led by the late Bhadase Sagan Maraj.
The DLP was affiliated to Alexander Bustamante’s DLP of Jamaica. I was part of the local DLP delegation that met Bustamante and his winning team when they arrived in Trinidad to hold discussions with Bhadase Maraj and his local politicians. The PNM and Eric Williams seemed dazed by the political whipping which they received and Dr Williams, in arrogant style, blamed a “hostile and recalcitrant minority” for this defeat. Of course, we all knew that he meant that the Indians and Hindus were responsible for the PNM’s defeat.
The same strategy was used by the PNM in the Tobago local government elections held on January 21, 2013. It was reported that the PNM Tobago candidates were moving quietly, house to house spreading “the race talk.” People were being told that Tobago would have been invaded by Indians from Trinidad. Lands will be bought up and these descendants from Calcutta would dominate Tobago.
In fact, in the presence of Keith Rowley and Orville London, one of their candidates, Hilton Sandy said: “Be strong, do not let anyone distract you. You are focus; you are on a good ship. Because, as I told another crowd down the road, there is a ship waiting at Calcutta, waiting to sail to Tobago. That ship is waiting to sail to Tobago.”
He continued: “They are waiting to get the results of this election. If you bring the wrong result, Calcutta Ship is coming down for you. You must stop that ship. We must not allow that ship to sail. And if you don’t want the ship to sail, what you have to do?” At the end of his speech he received tumultuous applause. Sandy like his founding predecessor Eric Williams, was using coded language. “Calcutta ship” was clearly the political way to say “Indian.”
Colm Imbert, PNM Member of Parliament, is reported to have told the party’s open-air meeting at Hi-Lo car park St Augustine, that PNM will use their Tobago strategy in Trinidad. “That’s how we were successful in Tobago. Is Trinidad time now.” (Guardian, February 28)
And PNM senator Terrence Deyalsingh, at the same meeting urged people to join the “PNM Ark.” Language change—“stop the Calcutta ship, but “join the Ark.” Noah’s Ark is a Christian symbol.
The Senator is advised to read, “101 Myths of the Bible” written by Gary Greenberg, president of the Biblical Archaeology Society of New York, where the author describes how “Ancient Scribes Invented Biblical History.” The author quotes the myth: “And the ark rested in the seventh month, on the seventeenth day of the month, upon the mountains of Ararat. (Gen.8.4)
The reality: “The mountain where the ark landed would have been the primeval mountain in Egypt, the first land where the Egyptian Creator stood and performed his acts. When biblical editors no longer identified the flood story with Egyptian Creation myth, they moved the ‘ark’ to a mountain range believed to be higher than any other. Since the biblical story has a different mountain name than in the Babylonian flood myth, the change of locale from Egypt to Ararat probably occurred before Babylon conquered Israel in 587 BC.”
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