The Biggest Lie
On his "Why Talking is Lying" article in The Correspondent, Rob Wijnberg discusses how language misleads us, how little lies of language unconsciously turn into big lies. Starting with Nietzche's quote
"Every concept arises from the equation of unequal things.” - (On Truth and Lies in a Nonmoral Sense, 1873)
"Language fosters the illusion that we can verbally express reality with a reasonable degree of accuracy and truth," Wijnberg writes. We generalize to convey a meaning; to a degree, we have to. According to Nietzsche, this is to “lie according to a fixed convention." As Wijnberg says it's fine to generalize trees as deciduous, to group them as oaks; however it becomes a big problem when you do the same for people and use this generalization as a category for judging the good, the bad and the ugly.
"Look at what is arguably the most frequently used generalization of the past decade: Muslim. The word is used so matter-of-factly, you could almost forget how absurdly reductive the term itself is," Wijnberg says. That's exactly it. That's the problem with language, and politics uses language as a tool to its ends. The generalization of people, -be it according to the imaginary line they're born in, be it according to their religion, color or race- is one of the biggest lies they tell us and make us believe.
We We We
Most often times, writing or talking about the world, I don't know how to use the plural personal pronouns. We, you, they... Who are these "we", "you", "they"?
It depends on the "I".
But who am I?
For example, talking about the EU-Turkey deal, am I the Turkey as I am originally born in İstanbul and I am a Turkish citizen OR am I the EU as I am now an Italian citizen as well and I live in Italy?
When I talk about the leaders, I should be talking as "we" since they are officially representing me. BUT they are acting in complete opposition to almost every core belief I hold. Under the conditions, how can I identify with them and say "we"?
Okay, let me set apart the politicians, what about the population of Turkey and EU? There are so many among them that I cannot identify with at all. In fact, most of my beliefs and ways of seeing are in complete opposition to some of them too. So how can I talk as "we" for the community I live in?
Coming to the refugees and migrants who are the subject of my attention... Even though I may say I have a nomadic soul, I have no common heritage or background with the refugees/migrants in question. I am not Middle Eastern, I do not speak Arabic. Even though I speak a bit of Spanish, I am not Mexican or South American. I am European looking, my religion is never an issue where I live, I am not poor, I am educated and skilled even though I am not in the workforce. I am not driven from my home, I live in peace and relative prosperity. In short, I have nothing in common with the refugees/migrants who draw the limelight of hate from certain groups. BUT I am defending them, i.e. I am on their side.
So who am I supposed to call "we" as a group? I need to specify so that I can determine the "you" and "they". The only way to get out of this dilemma is to go to the highest level of identity: That we are all humans. As all other identities blur, what do nations serve?
Some lies keep propagating because everybody keeps repeating them and everybody else keeps believing them. As explained above, the division of people into nations is a lie because there is no We. Borders are a lie because they are artificial. Citizenship is a lie because we're being cauterized at birth. Statehood is a lie because you are denied your humanity without it. Passports and visas are lies because they are in fact political guns and they're the epitome of injustice... Please let's stop propagating all these lies!
What is the biggest lie of all?
Politics of today -which is the embodiment of all of the above- is the biggest lie of all. So let's start straightening it up by correcting its language and redefining all the above terms.
Or perhaps, let's first just heal from our Wrong Classification Syndrome.