Language of Politics in True Perspective


Charles Mercieca, Ph.D. – TRANSCEND Media Service

The New Webster Dictionary of the English Language describes language as “expression of thoughts by words or articulate sounds” and “aggregate of the words employed by any community for intercommunication.” St. Thomas Aquinas describes “words” as “signa ad placitum,” that is, signs to which we attribute any meaning we wish or prefer.

Same Sound but Different Meaning

This explains why when visiting countries around the world, we tend to hear people using words that carry the same sound with which we are familiar, but bearing an entirely different meaning. For example, the word “gift” in English means “present,” which has a connotation of appreciation and even respect. However, the same word “gift” in German, written and pronounced the same, means “poison,” which gives negative feelings since it is viewed as deadly.

To quote another example, the word “check” in English means that there is money involved. It is simply viewed as a financial element. However, the same word “check” in Korean, with an identical pronunciation, means “book.” That is why St. Thomas Aquinas stated that “verba sunt signa ad placitum,” that is, “words are sounds to which we attribute any meaning we wish or prefer.” If what has been stated is a tangible fact, then we need to learn something about the language of politics and bring it into true perspective.

The best way for us to understand the meaning and significance of words and expressions in the political sphere is through a simple analysis of the actions performed or involved. This will convince us what the exact meaning of the words and phrases used by politicians from various nations mean.

As we have already seen, politicians from various global areas may use the same identical words and phrases in terms of sound. However, the meaning behind that identical sound may be entirely different.  As of now, we have already reached the threshold into the understanding of the language of politics.

Since political leaders have the power to save their own people or even to destroy them, let us get straight into the heart of the matter and explore some vital word or phrase that may tend to mislead millions of people unnecessarily. This is especially so since we know from history that quite often the “way to hell is paved with good intentions.” Since World War II ended in 1945, there has been numerous regional conflicts and wars across every continent. Theoretically, the political reaction to such struggles sounded very similar. Politicians everywhere have rarely hesitated, for example, to speak of “national defense and security.”

Evaluation of Political Expressions

Although the sound of such an expression sounds the same everywhere, but the real meaning behind such words is very different. We are not going here to provide possible reasons for such a diversity since that may end up showing a degree of subjectivity. We are simply going to provide tangible evidences and facts as to discover the real intent behind the language of politics that is of great crucial concern for all of us. At this stage of time, two of the leading recognized nations in the world seem to be the United States and China.

When we hear the respective government officials of these two nations talking, they tend to sound more or less the same. However, the meaning behind that identical sound we hear may be radically different. Let us start with China, which has a continuous history of civilization of some 6,000 years. Not too many may know that until the year 1911, China was always ruled by foreign invaders. Then about 100 years ago China for the first time in its history became fully independent, that is, a self governing nation.

When during World War II the Japanese invaded China, they killed tens of thousands of Chinese, mostly children, women, the elderly and the sick, as has been witnessed in Nanjing. The pictures taken of such phenomenal massacre are found now in a museum located in this same city. The government of China became adamantly determined that such a sad history will never be repeated again. At the same time, they view the Chinese people as the most important element of the nation.

To this end, the Chinese government made sure that the people of China will receive a very good education from the cradle to the grave and to be offered with a good health care system. They quickly began to improve the public transportation system making it more comfortable. In addition, they began to replace all slums with inexpensive adequate home facilities equipped with a good heating system and air conditioning. Also, the Chinese government began to build a strong military for “national defense and security.”

When china speaks of “national defense and security,” it simply means to have a well organized and develop military that is capable of defending all the boarders of China and to prevent any possible future invasion by any foreign nation on earth. At the same time, China believes that the best investment the government could make for the people is to provide them with all adequate facilities conceivable. This explains why China, in dealing with other nations around the world, tries to concentrate only on its economic growth and the economic growth of the countries around the world that it deals with.

Clear Contrast in View

The product is always the same. Everything is geared toward the people’s health and their education everywhere. When the Chinese visit other nations, they try to help these nations with the vital necessities of life that may include food and medicine. All of this is done because for the Chinese government these are the best elements to make their respective nations strong and secure. There are never talks about weapons and military equipment. This explains why people everywhere tend to feel quite comfortable in dealing the China.

Let us now proceed with the United States whose politicians often talk of the need for a “strong national defense and security.” China views national defense and security as an “effective means to protect the country from future possible invasions.” However, the United States views national defense and security as “constant preparation for the waging of wars in virtually every global area.” To make this objective be achieved faster and at any moment, the United States has built some 900 military bases around the world, all equipped with the most sophisticated weapons imaginable.

In addition, the United States has literally littered the oceans of the world with warships that carry airplanes ready to attack any nation at will. This policy of “national defense and security” was heavily criticized by U.S. Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul who accused the United States of appointing itself as the policeman of the world. He also accused the United States that while this nation is constantly trying to wage one war after another around the world, especially in the Middle East area, it is neglecting its own people at home.

In all the wars that the United States was involved in since World War II was over, not one of them was needed at all. Yet, thousands of young Americans died and tens of thousands of innocent civilians were massacred. Among such needless and useless wars we had the one in Vietnam and Panama and most recently in Afghanistan and Iraq, among others of course. All we need to know to avoid frustrations is to have a clear understanding of the language of politics.

In view of what has been stated and based on the tangible evidence that was presented, we can fully understand that when China and the United States speak of “national defense and security” they do attribute to this phraseology an entirely different meaning, even though the sound is identical. For China, “national defense and security” means simply the “protection of the country from any possible invasion.” For the United States, “national defense and security” means merely the “preparation for the waging of never-ending wars around the world by using the most devastating weapons available.

Bringing the Truth into the Open

That is the only reason why the United States has hundreds of military bases and hundreds of warship across every continent with some 2 million soldiers spread around the globe. This US policy is based on the fact that the United States, as capitalistic nation, wants to make sure its big industries, especially the weapons and the military ones, remain in business indefinitely, perpetually if possible. Unfortunately, many people around the world got the impression that for the United States the making of money is more important than the saving of human lives.

What is really ironic lies in the fact that these US governmental policies are very much opposed by the vast majority of the American people who made it clear, on more than one occasion that they do not want to see the United States getting involved into further wars ever. This has been vividly testified by the numerous protests and demonstrations the American people held periodically for quite a time now.

By way of principle, Americans should avoid working for the weapons and military industries. They should keep in mind that such material is meant to destroy the infrastructure of cities and lead to the massacre of numerous innocent people. Also, people of nations around the world where they have on their soil foreign military bases, should put constant pressure on their respective governments to have such military bases closed down, the sooner the better.

When it comes to choose between doing what is good and performing what is evil we should always choose the good courageously and fearlessly. This way we have everything to gain and nothing to lose. The US military budget has now become the albatross of the American economy, which has forced the nation into a $4 trillion dollars debt, as US Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul has stated openly on more than one occasion. When we hear our politicians talk, let us not swallow what they say blindly but let us evaluate their statements within the context of the realities we face.


Charles Mercieca, Ph.D. – President, International Association of Educators for World Peace, Dedicated to United Nations Goals of Peace Education, Environmental Protection, Human Rights & Disarmament.

-Professor Emeritus, Alabama A&M University.

-Hon President & Professor, SBS Swiss Business School, Zurich.

-Member, TRANSCEND-A Network for Peace, Development and Environment.


This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 12 Mar 2012.

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