April 27, 2004 > Editorial: The Tower of Babel
Editorial: The Tower of Babel
Every business has its own vocabulary. Attorneys are famous for speaking with a language that few others can decipher and the same can be said of most other professions. Shorthand verbiage makes life easier for those who need to communicate quickly and precisely. The same can be said when there is a need to cloak or disguise the true nature of what is being said. The best example of this can be seen in sales when speaking of "units" rather than dollars expended or at casinos where cash is exchanged for chips. It is much easier to lose a chip than a $20 bill!
What happens when this technique becomes a staple of government? The language can be used to easily communicate to other entities or it can disguise the truth. Using terminology of "triple flips" and "structural deficits" are so much easier than explaining the meaning behind the words. When tax monies are used, they become budgets and entitlements rather than citizen tax dollars. The source becomes unimportant. When doublespeak becomes the rule rather than an exception, those on the "outside" lose touch and, therefore, control.
Recently, the Union City City Council skirmished with Redevelopment Project Area Committee (RePAC) members when exploring the use of funds for staff services. In Fremont, the Centerville Unified Redevelopment site has, again, been transformed into something completely different than promised. The Fremont City Council is now investigating how it can alter the definition of park inventory to fund a downtown dream of some councilmembers and within all this babble, the truth is somehow altered to fit the situation.
The answer to all of this gibberish is for citizens to demand clear answers to questions and if the answers are given in "politikspeak," keep asking without shame until you get an answer that is clear and understandable. There is no reason for the intent of a proposal to be hidden unless it is designed as a subterfuge. When people are elected to council positions (supervisors, legislators, senators, etc.) or hired within a bureaucracy, they have not automatically become smarter, wiser or better than they were before. Elevated visibility due to position creates more responsibility to listen! This is often forgotten with the thrill of prestige and perceived power. I am often reminded of a warning when asking advice from a psychic in touch with the "dear departed." If the deceased wasn't smart in this world, what makes you think they are smarter in the next? Remember, political power comes from you, the voters, who have the ultimate authority.