Languages are alive

We tend to look at language as something that has been set in time and doesn't change. We also look at words that way. Yet words DO change their meaning, and the changed meaning has the potential to influence how we look at the world. I'm not even beginning to talk about the chasm between different languages, or even between different societies which share a language. People have, jokingly, to the US and the UK as "Two societies divided by a common language" - and in a way that sums it up!

Words are applied (and sometimes missapplied) to different situations... if enough people agree with intepreting the meaning in a specific way, that meaning (weather the originally intended or not) will spread and become the accepted meaning. This is common with scientific words, especially Social Sciences words, which are developed to explain one phenomenon and eventually come to mean something completely different, affecting the way people understand what we say.

For example: Fascism. Today, the word is normally applied by left-leaning politcians or activists to describe somebody on the far right. Yet the real meaning is very different. Fascism derives from the Italian word "Fascio" (Falange), referring to the fact that they look at every part of society as a "falange" articulating to make society work. According to this description, every aspect of society needs to be subordinated to the State, which acts as the central articulation frame for society. In this perspective, the rights of the individual are subordinated to those of society as a whole and the State as the embodiment of that society. Mussolini's Italy and Franco's Spain are clear examples of Fascism. Oddly enough, the old USSR can also be seen as an example of Fascism since the rights of the individual were completely subordinated to the welfare of the Soviet State.

Some attached the description "Fascist" to Hitler's Germany. But National Socialism was not about the State but about the Folk and the Aryan Race. The State was seen as an instrument for the promotion of the Racial superiority of the Aryan people, and Germans above all other Aryans. The individual rights were not subordinated to the needs of the State but to the needs of the Folk, of the German People. Throught this differentiation, they were able to exclude from the boudaries of society all non-Germans. Before Hitler, Jews were very much part of the German State, but after the Nuremberg Laws they were excluded in a limbo of non-Germanness. Nazism is, therefore, a variation of Fascism - different enough to merit its own category.

Yet when soembody calls somebosy else a "Fascist" that creates in the minds of many an immediate connection with Hitler, therefore attaching to the individual defined as a fascist all the historical references to Nazism, confusing not only the meaning of the terms but also labeling the individual or institution with a label that doesn't belong. Labeling is generally wrong, as we are all different, but how much more so when the term we use is inappropriately applied.

Some people refer to Puttin and some fo the other right-leaning governments sprouting in Europe these days as "Fascists" - but they are not. They fit into yet another category in which the leader of a group or a Nation uses power to buy the loyalty of the masses and carries them in the direction he/she him/herself defines. In the XIX Century this was a common phenomenon in Latin America, where these leaders were called "Caudillos" - but Caudillos commanded relatively small areas, not complete countries. Juan Peron in Argentina, inspired by Mussolini's Italy, develop a different model of the political State and became a Nation-wide Caudillo with the help of his wife Evita. This form of control of the masses is best described as "Populism" - that is a system that while pretending to govern in the name of the People, servers the needs only of those in power. Peron's model was replicated in the XX Century in many latin american countires. Castro once called Peron "his inspiration", and Chavez expressed his admiration for Peronism in more than one occasion. The defining characteristic of Populism, which differentiates it from Nazism or Fascism is in the interrelation of the State, Society and the People.

In Fascism, the leader represents the society and is given the power to organize it. In Nazism, the leader (Fuhrer) embodies the Folk, an entity that does not coincide with society and can exclude members of society and also include members of a different society. Populism is independent of ideology; in Populism is all about the leader - the society becomes subordinated to the needs and desires of the leader.

Yet today, in the media, these three forms of government tend to be described as one and the same, confusing the meaning and the understanding of what we are looking at. All these was not intended to ask everybody to change the way they think - it is intended to show how words are alive. Words we use today as praise may have been insults in the past - and viceversa. Each generation redefines the language, changing meanings and creating new words to describe things or behaviors the prior generation did not know. For example, imagine yourself telling your great-grandparents "Let me open the browser and google it so I can find it in wikipedia or maybe even the website"

Language can connect people or it can divide them. Any committee, any Board, needs to start by defining a "Common Language" - that is to agree that when we use words, we use them with the same meaning. And Relationships are based on language (at least for us Humans), while Relationships are the basis for practically everything we do...

And you though the world was complicated enough... :)


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