Language, which is by nature a means of making and sharing meaning, of talking among ourselves, becomes in many places a way of doing politics. Language becomes subterfuge. It becomes the secret code of a society or profession; it becomes the conventional expressions employees and aspirants feel obliged to use, may even be forced to use, to get on in a field or a firm. It becomes a way of not making things clear, a tool for clever obfuscation, a way of hedging bets and keeping one’s nose clean.
These words from Mark Tredinnick’s Writing Well are not merely an embittered outcry from an apolitical anarchist. I don’t know Tredinnick’s politics, but I share his concern for the use (and misuse) of language in political and public discourse. This concern is not new. Tredinnick notes that George Orwell, in his 1946 essay “Politics and the English Language”, warned of how print journalism, speeches, brochures, and radio broadcasts were hijacking the language, replacing precision in thought with confusion meant to manipulate for a cause. His book 1984 reveals how those in power can take over a society and use language to control the masses.
Tredinnick goes on to conclude –
Good writing transcends politics. It rises above fear. Within the limits of professional care and political reality, it will speak plainly to its readers, aiming to say as much as possible, as economically as possible. As opposed to the kind of fearful, political writing we encounter too often, good writing will be humane, plain, active, informal, concrete, clear, and specific. It will have a voice. It will have a life.
Just as we need “fact-checkers” to correct misleading figures cited in political debates, we need “plain writers” to interpret what is written in political blogs, printed in on-line news sources and in newspapers, magazines, and books.
As an exercise in this, I’m going to take two paragraphs (from opposite viewpoints) about the new Health Care Law (Obamacare) and try to then write one of my own that is less political and more personal.
Nearly 50 million older Americans and Americans with disabilities rely on Medicare each year. The new health care law makes Medicare stronger by adding new benefits, fighting fraud, cutting costs, and improving care for patients. (from “The White House” website)
ObamaCare, formally known as “The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act,” will impose massive penalties on young workers, small businesses and others who choose not to buy expensive health insurance, beginning in 2014. ObamaCare is the biggest handout by liberals to a single interest group — the health insurance industry — in American history. (from “Conservapedia“
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Now, I’ll try…
Recently, I went to Urgent Care for a significant medical issue. Because I had Medicare, they could not tell me what it would cost (either the government or me). I first had to sign papers agreeing to pay what Medicare wouldn’t pay (not knowing what this would be). Then, I would see the doctor, get a diagnostic code and (whether or not I consented to further treatment), be billed a minimum of $225 (they wouldn’t tell me a maximum).
The health care industry is the only business where you are required to write a blank check before you are served. Will the new Health Care Law improve our system or will it magnify the problem? Who stands to benefit most and who will lose out?
I don’t believe a solution is in sight. Until we become less addicted to treating physical symptoms with relief measures and spending a fortune to prolong death, we are bound to deplete limited resources for little or no gain. Until we develop a more reasonable, less fear-full attitude illness that is inevitable, we will demand costly investments to insure what is insurable (well being).
Until I can go to a doctor and pay my fair share for the medical service I am receiving (or choose to live with the pain and save my money – and yours), I don’t think things will get better.
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Now, it’s your turn….
Write a brief personal essay or story on the issue of health care reform that avoids political jargon. Post it on your sight and send me a link in the comments below.