Words have the power to appease - but words can also cause wars...
Words are powerful things.
They can do great good – and they can do great evil – and they have consequences.
In my fifty odd years of living and learning, I have built up a loathing for the misuse of words.
At the same time, I recognize that the dastardly deed of misuse is not limited to the writer or the speaker, but that this misuse is usually freely licensed by the reader or listener without any threat of punishment or censure.
In many instances, the misuse is based on ignorance and not on any overriding evil intent.
In others, it is more sinister – and very deliberate.
My American readers will assume that this had to do with recent events in Tucson, Arizona. It does not.
My more international friends may assume it has to do with events in Pakistan, Britain or France. Again, it does not.
Instead, it has to do with the collective, combined, deliberate misuse of words to inflame the ignorant, gullible and pliable in this world.
That’s why I dislike the willy-nilly use of inflammatory adjectives and adverbs.
As my grandfather always reminded me, “If you have nothing nice to say, try not to say anything.” However, I must make one of my rare exceptions to this rule.
A simple, benign misuse
Let me use a simple, non-political, non nationalistic illustration to expand my point
“Michael, we need to make our FX trading systems faster!”
I smiled patiently as I tried to determine my client’s true needs. After all, this is one of the world’s Top 20 banks. “How fast? 500 transactions per second? 5,000? 50,000?”
“100,000!” was the thunderous response. “Per second.”
I smiled, nodded, and puzzled how to politely explain to this senior officer that if he ever saw 100,000 transactions per second on the FX trading (non-retail) desk, he would be looking at Armageddon. It would be the day that China and India ceased propping up the US Dollar to its present artificial level – and he nor his seven hundred traders would have no clue what to do on that day because they would be a part of the herd of a hundred thousand lemmings trotting off the proverbial cliff.
That single word – faster – had been misused and this officer knew his daily volume, but he did not know his high water mark for trades executed per second (the number is closer to 800 per second and that occurred only ONCE in ten years).
Adjectives and adverbs – and labels
I now see this misuse playing on a multinational level and not as benign as that senior officer requesting (and spending) more than his requirements because of his inability to grasp a few basic facts.
Today, I laugh when I hear it at the Governmental level.
In France, I observe with horror the rising power of the La Pen clan and the right wing. But, I usually have no use for right wings because of their historical record of misdeeds and their subsequent use of propaganda to cover up those misdeeds – whether it was the European Right Wing Parties joining the Waffen SS in World War II or the Spanish Civil War or the recent problems in Centra America or the American Bund prior to that war. Of course, there are dozens of more current events – the now infamous 1998 letter by the American Right Wing announcing the new American Empire and Century in all major publications, etc.
In Britain, I hope that the rise of the BNP (British National Party) has been halted with the new Coalitions’ recent successes.
In China, it is no longer whispered diatribes against the United States.
In the United States, it’s the usual assortment of labels – Socialism, Chinese currency manipulation, Muslim Extremists, etc.
Quite frankly, unless the rhetoric is toned down – and until more logical negotiations commence, I think we will all be in big trouble over the next fifteen years.
A typical example is the rhetoric about currency manipulation.
The Americans accuse the Chinese of keeping their currency artificially low. Note the use of the word artificially.
The Chinese accuse the Americans of actively manipulating their currency to inflate their way out of debt. Note the use of the word actively.
Both are accurate!
If you were living in Brazil or Chile right now, you observe the rise of your currency against the US dollar with alarm. Brazilians have watched their currency rise 40%! Chileans close to 20%! What caused this? Simple. The QE2 Fed Policy. Both The Brazilian and Chilean Finance Ministers have warned of a currency war with the USA.
The Developing World is petrified that capital will flee the US and enters their markets to subsequently cause hyper inflation – which has already commenced in many of these countries. Instead of financial organizations lending to businesses in America – they are rushing to invest in India, Indonesia, Viet Nam (yes, Viet Nam – that bastion of communism), Brazil and Chile where they can receive a return greater than 8%.
Do I blame the banks? No. They are capitalists and would be sued by their shareholders if they did not seek the maximum return.
Strangely, there is no mention of this in political or national media.
Just the constant speechifying about the Chinese currency manipulation. Know what happens when you sell US dollars to buy Brazilian Real? Dollar drops – Real rises. That may help US Exporters, but there’s not that much that the world wants to buy from the USA.
Secondly, all the commodities priced in US Dollars fall in real value.
If you were the Saudi King, you would raise the price of a barrel of oil to recover the lost value. And the cycle continues.
Before I forget, let me elaborate about the comment about China propping the American Dollar is accurate. If the Chinese were to dump their FX reserves with a resulting drop in the US Dollar value, you and I would not want to be around when that happens. All of the right wing speeches will not help you to buy a loaf of bread with a wheel barrow of Greenbacks. Shades of the Weimar Republic would be a fantasy compared to the nightmare we would have to live through.
Will China dump the greenback? Chances are they will not. They will quietly do so over ten years so as not to disadvantage their nation.
And American politicians know that fact and will rail against the Chinese in order to gain votes, but with no long term solution.
So it becomes a game of chicken. Words, vitriol and hyperbole seem to be the order of the day.
Subsequently, consequences will follow as it inevitably happens.
Cause, Effect and Consequences
I used currency to illustrate the point.
I could pick one of over twenty current topics. There is no shortage of inflammatory subjects.
There is one thing that is constant and certain - words cannot be retracted once used.
They become a part of the historical (and in some cases, hysterical) record.
There are those who deliberately inflame. I can name two or three leaders who do so in Pakistan.
At the same time, I can name several in responsible positions in the Developed World who do so. The difference between the two cultures is the methods used to deliver messages. In the Developed World, it is a coded message. In the Developing World, it is more direct.
In the end, what happens?
Regardless of the media source, the facts are twisted to appeal to a gullible audience, the interpretation flawed and the resulting opinions bombastic and inaccurate – or one sided.
Is the desire to inflame? I do not know.
But I do know this.
Until we think about our use of words, the impact that they cause in the audience, our motive for the use of inflammatory words – and their subsequent consequences, the chasm will grow between differing parties.
This is no longer a polite discourse or debate.
This is not even a war of words.
This will soon become the reaping of consequences – and more violence.
The type of violence which will escalate to the point that we cannot control.
Think about that before you shout some slogan you just heard on the radio or TV in the future.