There is a truth, an honesty, an economy in the use of plain language that every day is becoming more lost to us. 1984 has come and gone, and I doubt even George Orwell could have foreseen how real his prophecy of the evils of doublespeak would become.
We have long ago renamed the War Department the Department of Defense. We have sanitized the language of war and killing so that we now refer to the destruction of a city as the “pacification of the enemy” and the obliteration caused by missiles filled with high explosives as “surgical strikes”. The horrors that war inflicts on our own soldiers has gone through a similar process. During World War I the mental breakdown caused by the terrors of combat upon our soldiers was appropriately called “shell shock”. By WW II, we had downgraded the haunted, catatonic to be suffering from “battle fatigue”. Zip through Viet Nam and Iraq, and now we have men and women with “Post Traumatic Stress Disorder” or PTSD. We no longer kill people; we simply “neutralize” them. You should be frightened to know that the Pentagon measures the amount of radiation from a nuclear strike in “sunshine units.” How long before some well intentioned souls decide that the world is in need of a better tan?
Companies no longer fire employees. They don’t even “lay them off” for that would mean they could be expected to pick them back up. They “rationalize” them, “downsize” them, “outsource” their jobs while allowing the few stragglers to “multi-task” in the gaps.
And I won’t even begin to discuss the obfuscation practiced by the federal government along with the hordes of our politicians!
There are words that were designed to make us angry, that bring forth a justified outrage directed at their targets: killer, liar, thief, murderer, rapist, cheater. We need to use these words in the settings and the occasions for which they were intended. We need to maintain our sense of having been violated, to be able to express our anger and just fury when the conventions of civilized behavior are broken. We need to fight and reject the efforts of all who want to hide their destructive, lethal actions behind innocuous, soft sounding words. Damn them all!