Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Adjective Power

Every so often along comes a letter to the editor that, like LSD, takes the mind to places it's never been before. And here it is, as you'd expect, in today's Australian:

"Israel takes in all Jewish asylum-seekers and refugees no matter where from. It does this even though it is only one third the size of Tasmania and has no oil wealth and receives no subsidies from the UN or NGOs to cover the cost of resettlement. "Considering so many asylum-seekers come from Islamic countries and claim they are not coming to Australia for economic reasons, they could all be easily resettled in any one of the 57 Islamic countries including their transit points of Indonesia and Malaysia." Michael Burd, Toorak, Vic.

Take that opening sentence for example. It reveals with blinding clarity the sheer transformative power of a simple adjective, in this case 'Jewish'. Simply by qualifying the words 'asylum-seeker' and 'refugee' with the word 'Jewish', Mr Burd actually gets to fool some folks out there that Israel, whose major export since birth has been Palestinian refugees, not only inhabits the moral high ground when it comes to refugees, but is actually (especially with the additions of a) third-size-Tasmania, b) no-oil-wealth, and c) no-UN/NGO-subsidies) a shining example for places like Australia when it comes to the treatment of these unfortunate people.

Just think of the possibilities!

If only some defender of the Third Reich, all those decades ago, had marketed Nazi Germany as a taker of all Aryan asylum-seekers and refugees no matter where from, people might have overlooked the non-Aryans fleeing for their lives or languishing (and worse) in concentration camps.

If only some defender of apartheid South Africa had proclaimed that South Africa takes in all White supremacist asylum-seekers and refugees no matter where from, maybe no one would have noticed the legalised discrimination and casual brutality suffered by non-whites.

See what I mean? A simple, well-placed adjective and you're sure to fool at least some of the readers (or, seeing your letter's in The Australian, most probably all of its readers).

But there's more! Take the adjective 'Islamic' (which Mr Burd trots out in his second paragraph), for example. I had no idea before reading his mind-expanding letter that, simply because a country, perhaps by virtue of maybe having a simple Muslim majority, could be deemed Islamic, an asylum-seeker or refugee, whether true believer or no, could easily be resettled there.

Just imagine, as long as the receiving country is 'Islamic', then all other differences, ethnic, cultural and linguistic simply melt away. Our Muslim asylum-seeker/refugee could be equally easily resettled in Saudi Arabia, Mali or Turkmenistan. Likewise, whether your 'Islamic' country be filthy rich, dirt poor or somewhere in between, it simply wouldn't matter.

Think of the possibilities here. Tony Abbott, for example, could swim out to a boatload of Shiite Hazaras from Afghanistan, attach a rope, and with the other end held firmly in his clenched teeth, single-handedly tow them all the way to Sunni, nay Wahhabi, Saudi Arabia. End of problem. (Maybe end of Hazaras too.)

But there's more, and this is the real power of adjectives! By deploying such heavyweights as 'Jewish', 'Islamic', 'Christian' and so on (black, white, brown and yellow have sort of had their day), you get to foment, spread, hype or reinforce division along sectarian lines. You get to promote that wonderful Clash of Civilizations game that so many of the punters, especially those who read The Australian, love to play.

And, wonder of wonders, you get to drive home the concept and fact of a 'Jewish' state as natural and inevitable. Works a treat.


Alex said...

The amazing Mr Burd is at it again! Weaving his magical words and letting them settle on the comments and letters pages of our once great dailys. His diatribes remind me of a Lewis carroll novel...what a trip MERC!

Anonymous said...

Turn off and float downstream with Michael Burd!