Sunday, September 26, 2010


This is Summer Chimp; he came back glazed! A rather handsome simian, to be sure.

A rather irritating trend I've noticed in the media, both printed and online, is the tendency of late to call politicians "lawmakers". I think I'm laying most of the blame for this with the Associated Press, which supplies far too much news for it to be reliable, but the term does seem to have been adopted rather widely. Why do I say adopted?

Well, for one, it calls attention to itself since I think, for many people, it is not an intuitive synonym for "politician". To be sure, they do propose and vote on laws (with a great deal of help in both regards from civil servants and lobbyists), but "making" seems too prescriptive, too dictatorial, for a system that has been extant for centuries and is largely modelled around basic human morality anyway. What new laws do they "make", exactly? More on this, but first some rather flimsy evidence...

Google trends shows that prior to 2006 there are (by their records) almost no recorded searches of the term "lawmaker" and since that time the relative incidence of the word in "news" articles has roughly doubled. On the last point however, the incidence of "politician" has also increased in news articles over the same period. And, anecdotally, I have very little recollection of the word being used except of late.

This Google news archive search, however, indicates the phrase surged in popularity during the 1980's. Go figure!

So, if there is something to this, I ask myself, why is this word chosen over the 50+ synonyms available or, indeed, "politician" itself? Why choose lawmaker when "political hack", "influence peddler" or "baby kisser" would be a far apter descriptions in the minds of most? I think the answer is bullshit.

Hehe. Actually there is a good argument here. Trust me! Marwan Bishara has an excellent blog and talk show on al Jazeera and in this post ("Peace bullish or "bullshit"?) he paraphrases this excellent definition of the word;

In an attempt to define bullshit and theorise about its uses and meanings, Harry Frankfurt, the Princeton philosopher, has differentiated between bullshit and lies in his book On Bullshit, and concluded that bullshit can be more dangerous than lying.

Bullshit is more than a word; it is a chronic widespread system of rhetoric and representation that mystifies the truth. It has increasingly become a way of communication not only in the private sphere but has become part and parcel of Western propaganda.

Bingo! "Lawmaker" is a way of justifying the political power-structure in the face of increasing discontentment at mainstream politics not providing economic recovery nor moral example (even if both are, most likely, ultimately out of their control, subservient as they are to the tides of international trade and power, but they are leaders nonetheless and thus targets of citizen discontentment). Perhaps the word "politician" is simply, after centuries of wear and tear, suddenly not fit garb for the spokesmen of industry? Or, perhaps more sinisterly, there is meant to be a direct allusion to a stronger, more muscular and straight talking profession; the law enforcer. The twin hammers of the corporate elite; lawmaker and lawgiver. Hmm.

This, I find a little worrying because, even if it is subconscious and I am overly sensitive to weasel words, the more direct alignment of the politician and the political process with that of the legal one smacks of steps towards fascism.

Recently I'm quite interested in the fate of nations where the checks on power-accretion are gradually eroded, Star Wars being the classic sci-fi example (and Lucas makes direct allusions to both Hitler's Germany and Nixon's USA). The problem is time; I have too many questions and not enough knowledge. Is it a one way street? Do nations always go bust, through revolution or war, or can they come back from the brink? Do they see-saw? Find an equilibrium and oscillate? One thing I think is for sure, with the steady emergence of China, Russia, Brazil, India and others, Western hegemony is in decline and this means increased competition, and competition means a threat to existing power structures of all forms, and...

Suu Kyi said the same thing. Peas in a pod, her and Palpatine.

All this said, one must grudgingly accept that supporting such power structures is essential for participation in Great Game. As much as one might campaign for disengagement, there is no practical means to do so without either being strategically worthless (ie. dirt poor) or surrender sovereignty to live under a shield (the Japanese, yet who, thanks to this increase in competition, are being dragged into the Game of late - Obama vs Okinawa).

I read Tariq Ali's book on US policy in South America, primarily Venezuela, and saw this great lecture on Youtube. He doesn't really point a way forward, but if only for his excellent knowledge and "more rounded wit" I find comfort in knowing there are people like him around. Knowledge and acceptance seem to be about the only ways to get to grips with this.