Verena and I just voted in the local elections. It was an odd experience – the paper with all the names and parties was about the size of my table, for example. It was also somewhat depressing, for a variety of reasons. One was the choice of parties: who do you vote for, the Evil Right-wingers (Christian Democrats), the Hyprocritical Right-wingers (Social Democrats), the Even More Hypocritical Right-wingers (Greens), the Upper-Class Twits of the Year (Free Market Libertarians), the Social Democrats Twenty Years Ago (Left Party), the Geek Internet Libertarians (Pirate Party), or one of the myriad of small and utterly ridiculous issue-oriented parties (Old People’s Party, Puppy Protection Party, Party for Everyone Whose Name Starts With a B)? I voted for the Left Party, because they’re the least vomit-inducing of the lot, but I don’t have any illusions about them, either.
The second depressing thing was being asked to vote for or against the “Schuldenbremse,” a law about stopping the increase of debt – or, to translate that to what it actually means, a law about making the population pay for the mistakes of the privileged few, about demolishing social services and education instead of taxing those who get rich off the hard work of others. And of course everyone was voting Yes, because “putting a stop to debt” sounds good if you’re unable or unwilling to discover what the euphemism stands for. I’m sure there were also people who thought that “Arbeit Macht Frei” sounded good.
Some of the worst crimes in history have been justified in language that distorted the truth – from crusades “to save the Holy Land” to “humanitarian intervention,” language is a political tool that too few people are aware of. Today we got another depressing demonstration of its power.