OPINION

Disposable reality?

Its not just people who have the right to their 15 minutes of fame – it’s also slogans, words or expressions. «Message,» «far right,» «mudslinging,» «self-governing criteria» and «communication tactics» are just some of the phrases employed over the past few weeks but whose longevity is in doubt. A few years ago, «deficit» was on everyone’s lips – not fiscal but cultural, democratic, educational… Expressions that characterized news coverage in the 1990s include «flexible employee,» «collateral damage,» «humanitarian war» and «smart bombs.» Another set of expressions relate to the stock exchange; we went from «good stocks» to «unpaid loans» and «dud checks.» Such phrases are like so many falling stars spanning the galaxy of current affairs in their brief lives before disappearing (without taking with them the tragedy they describe). But in this international galaxy, some have more permanent status that practically defines our new era. After the September 11 terrorist attacks, expressions such as «warding off,» «international law» and «respect for borders» were replaced by «axis of evil,» «dictatorship,» «nation-building,» and «pre-emptive war.» …These key phrases of our new era are not neutral but are molded from sweat, blood and tears. They are polite or grandiose expressions used to conceal great crimes, create a sense of the unavoidable, and become the necessary answer. The most worrying aspect of the way such words are used is not their distortion of reality but our reconciliation with the atrocious.