Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Anti-Government Nonsense

(Originally published in Guyana's Kaieteur News on 28 July 2010)

Just to be clear, this is not about anti-government thoughts on government nonsense. It is about the government’s thoughts on anti-government nonsense. Make sense? No, it does not. And that is exactly my point.

Since I started writing this column again a few weeks ago, there has been a constant flow of “anti-government” finger pointing. On the first read of this phrase usage, which is a novel notion to me, I just giggled and shrugged my shoulders. However, I soon noticed this was not just a passing letter or two – the usual one punch, two punch method; it appears to be a broad ranging propaganda campaign.

It seems the campaign is intended to persuade the reader to make this rationalization: Those who agree with the government = Good, and those who disagree with the government = Evil. The more a person disagrees with the government, the more evil that person is. This is some very illogical logic. Let’s just all wear our shirts inside out and hang our pictures crooked on the wall.

I then wondered if the ideology behind this phrase could be found in other parts of the world and, sure enough, I did find some of what the Government of Guyana would define as “anti-government” in the U.S. In fact, “anti-government” language seems widespread around the world. However, it is not usually called “anti-government,” it is called free speech.

The U.S. President, Barack Obama, has people who call him all kinds of names every day. There are those who question his citizenship, his competency and his motives. Believe it or not, some have even called him a racist. But that is the beauty of free speech, even when we do not agree with the highest governmental seat in the land; it is the right of the people to say so.

Moreover, there are media outlets in the U.S. that dedicate their entire day to saying all kinds of things about Obama, his administration and the government as a whole. These outlets even say and print untruths and inflammatory statements just to get the opposition riled up.

I voted for Obama and I am happy with the direction he is taking the U.S. There are areas where I would like to see him push harder, but I stand behind him and his policies. This was not the case at all when George W. Bush was president. I cannot count the number of times I disagreed with how Bush ran the country and I said so almost daily. It was my right to do so.

Was I “anti-government” because I did not agree with Bush’s policies? Am I now “pro-government” because I agree with Obama’s policies? Was I evil during the Bush administration and now saintly during the Obama administration? Nonsense. It’s all nonsense. This propaganda campaign feels like we have fallen in a rabbit hole and landed with Alice from “Alice in Wonderland” by Lewis Carroll.

Alice said, “If I had a world of my own, everything would be nonsense. Nothing would be what it is, because everything would be what it isn’t. And contrary wise, what is, it wouldn’t be. And what it wouldn’t be, it would. You see?” Yep, sounds like what I’ve been reading in these “anti-government” letters and articles.

Worldwide, free speech gives the people the right to disagree with the way their elected officials do their job. It was free speech that brought down the Berlin Wall. It was free speech that brought about the civil rights movement. And free speech ended apartheid in South Africa.

The term “anti-government” makes free speech sound like a curse word. It is true that political leaders must have a thick skin while in office. Even more so when they are unpopular with the people. When I heard some British citizens speaking about their government before their last election, I could not help but smile at democracy at work.

From a political science viewpoint, the PPP’s “anti-government” newspeak is an interesting manoeuvre to watch. I ponder the impact and ramifications of the propaganda. I look at it from different points of view and try to analyse the intended goal.

I have come to the conclusion that the propaganda committee should have developed a better phrase than “anti-government” because it is too jarring. I would have opted for something subtler. Or maybe I would have asked, “Why is a raven like a writing desk?” It would make as much sense.

Webster’s Online Dictionary does not recognise “anti-government” as a word. However, when I did a search on the Guyana Chronicle’s Website for “anti-government,” I found 25 references to this phrase just since July 15 (I conducted my search on July 26 and saved a screen shot of the results). I wonder what Alice would have to say about all of this?

Whatever Alice has in mind, I agree with the Walrus on this point, “The time has come,” the Walrus said, “To talk of many things: Of shoes and ships and sealing-wax – Of cabbages and kings – And why the sea is boiling hot – And whether pigs have wings.”

From now on, I have determined to translate the term “anti-government” as an invitation to Tea Time with a Mad Hatter. Oh my, “What if I should fall right through the center of the earth…oh, and come out the other side, where people walk upside down?” This makes about as much sense as anything else lately.

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