What’s the ubiquitous instrument of tyranny?
Firing squads? No, some tyrannies are quite vegetarian. Concentration camps? No, some tyrannies don’t have them. Torture? No, some tyrannies don’t do that.
There’s only one stratagem they all pursue: control of language. Despots know in their bone marrow that he who controls language controls thought, and he who controls thought controls the populace.
Yes, they all use it, but, because not all tyrannies have totalitarian aspirations, they use it to different extents. And in modern times totalitarian aspirations are only typical of socialist tyrannies, either national or international.
Acting in that spirit, the Welsh Labour ‘government’, née Assembly, has banned its civil servants from using the word ‘Brexit’. Instead it has mandated a snappy term that really rolls off the tongue: “transition period to refer to the time between February 1 and December 31, 2020”.
Why? It’s pointless asking socialist governments this question. They do things for the same reason dogs lick their privates: because they can. If socialists can put their foot down, they will, and that’s all that matters.
It’s also pointless looking for some sensible rationale behind their actions. What’s wrong with the word ‘Brexit’? They may hate the concept, but that shouldn’t affect the terminology. I may hate socialism, but I don’t try to call it something else, do I?
Even more incomprehensible is the next Welsh fiat: ‘able-bodied’ is out, ‘non-disabled’ is in. Whatever next? Shall we call healthy people ‘non-ill’, tall ones ‘non-short’ or thin ones ‘non-fat’?
Disabled some people may be, the erstwhile Assembly will allow, but they are never vulnerable. That is, they may be vulnerable, but civil servants are prohibited from using that word.
In this case, the language guide does proffer an explanation, but it leaves me unsatisfied: “Anyone can become vulnerable for different reasons at different times in their lives. Disabled people are often described as vulnerable and this is often wrong and does nothing to promote equality.”
I hate to break the news to the Welsh supremos, but promoting equality isn’t a traditionally recognised function of words. It isn’t even a traditionally recognised function of governments. Hence when governments do use words ostensibly to that end, they seek to tyrannise, not to equalise.
Tyrants don’t mind using and enforcing patently idiotic terminology. In fact, the more idiotic it is, the better it serves their purposes. That way tyrannies override people’s own good sense, to drive home the salient point: they can do so and therefore will.
The same guide tells civil servants never to refer to Her Majesty’s government as such. Only the term ‘UK government’ is allowed.
I understand that the Welsh ‘government’ is devolved, but to the best of my knowledge devolution doesn’t mean secession. Hence Her Majesty the Queen is still head of the state that includes Wales, and the government of that state is thus Her Majesty’s. What part of HMG don’t they understand?
Again, socialists of any kind, and those in the Celtic fringe especially, loathe monarchy in general and our monarchy in particular. That’s their privilege – but playing fast and loose with the English language isn’t.
Now, in common with about half of her subjects, Her Majesty is a woman. But not as far as Welsh ministers are concerned. Last week they banned the use of the word ‘women’ in sex education classes.
I’d rather they banned sex education classes, though I’m aware how unrealistic and objectionably reactionary this wish is. But out of curiosity I’d still like to know what alternative designation meets Welsh requirements.
‘Non-male’? No, that doesn’t work. Out of the currently known 72 sexes, 71 are non-male, which makes that term imprecise.
‘Persons self-identifying as women’? That’s better, but what this term gains in propriety it loses in concision. I mean, one has to be a member of Welsh ‘government’ to prefer “frailty, thy name is a person self-identifying as a woman” to what Shakespeare actually wrote.
Some 20 years ago, the TV presenter Anne Robinson caused an outburst of indignation by refusing to see the point of the Welsh. “They are always so pleased with themselves, aren’t they?” she said. “I’ve never taken to them. What are they for?”
That’s clearly a joke when applied to the Welsh people in general. However, when applied to the Welsh ‘government’, it becomes a serious question. To which there doesn’t seem to be a serious answer.