YOUR USE OF LANGUAGE    Rick Maybury     The Jefferson Report        copyrighted       [see below]

Human civilization is guided by ideas. People act because of what they think. Thus ideas affect your business, career, investments and your whole life. Language is the tool human beings use to apply ideas, which means precision in the use of language is crucial if you are to understand the world around you and profit from that understanding. To illustrate the importance of words and their definitions, here are some of the words and phrases commonly used in the news media.

The Country. What is a country? It is a large piece of real estate controlled by a particular government. Despite what many politicians and bureaucrats dearly want to believe, the country and the government are not the same thing; and loyalty to the country has nothing to do with loyalty to the government. The country includes your home, family, friends, relatives, churches, business, careers and investments. If the government harms one of these, then it is harming the country. This is why Mark Twain said, "My kind of loyalty was loyalty to one's country, not to its institutions or its office holders."

Democratic Country is often taken to mean "free country". But democracy means majority rule, nothing more. A large group of people is just as capable of being brutal and ruthless as a small group. If the majority does not understand or care about the principles of liberty, then democracy is mob rule.

In the public interest. With rare exceptions this means 
        "In the government's interest",  not "in the people's interest".

My country right or wrong. A noble statement, but in the real world the practical application usually comes out to mean "my government right or wrong".

Defense. "Defense" and "military" are not the same thing. Military forces can be used not only for defense but also for intimidating innocent foreigners and extending an empire into the far corners of the world. Perhaps the single biggest mistake of the Founding Fathers was the oversight made in the Bill of Rights. The Bill of Rights protects the American people from the government, but it does not protect foreigners. So the American government, unable to easily extend its power over its own people, has long had the habit of trying to extend its power into foreign lands. The foreigners, of course, don't like this and they adopt a "Yankee go home" attitude. Notice during the centuries since the Bill of Rights was placed in the Constitution, we have been involved in only one domestic war (the Civil War) but in a great many foreign wars. Which brings me to the next two poorly defined terms.

We must defend our vital interests, and We must defend our national interests.  There was a day when American G.I.s were expected to march off to fight and die in the defense of liberty. Now they are expected to march off to fight and die in defense of our "vital interests" and our "national interests". What is a "vital or national interest"? If they are liberty, then why not say liberty? Because they aren't liberty. They are the empire our rulers are building.

Israel says the Arabs are wrong. Israel didn't say or do anything. The Israeli government, claiming to represent the Israeli people, says and does things. By referring to the Israeli government as "Israel", we make all the Israeli people responsible for their governments mistakes. This makes every individual Israeli a target for a terrorist's revenge. The Israeli government, like all governments, lives in fear of the day when its people get fed up and declare that the government represents only itself. On that day, the terrorists' attention will be directed away from the people and toward government officials only.

Also, there is no such thing as "the Arabs". There are dozens of Arab governments and millions of Arab individuals. The Arab individuals are not responsible for what their governments do. By and large the Arab people are, like the Israeli people, quiet, gentle and civilized. The Arab governments, however, like most governments, are barbarians; and they use the same "we represent the people" claim the Israeli government does, and for the same reasons.

The Soviets are threatening our security. The Soviets are not threatening anyone. The Soviet government is threatening the whole world, but the Soviet people are, like the Arab and Israeli people, quiet, gentle and civilized. In fact, they are the people most threatened by the Soviet government. We should not be preparing to kill them. They are the American people's allies, and we should be speaking highly of them and encouraging them to revolt.

To understand the world around you, you must demand clear, precise definitions of the words you are hearing. The two most important words you must be constantly watching closely are "we" and "they". When you hear those words, demand to know the specific individuals they refer to. You'll be surprised to learn how many times you, being included in the "we" or "they", are being held responsible for what someone else has done. As many Arabs and Israelis are learning, words are deadly serious business.

There have probably been more human beings killed by sloppy definitions
            than by guns.


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