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The language of governance

By:Dr Navin C Naidu Date: 12 February 2023

Language is very powerful. It does not just describe reality, it creates the reality it describes.

– Desmond Tutu, South African Bishop

When government cannot be cured but endured; tolerated instead of being outlawed; or redesigned as an unpopular formula, the inevitable political suicide is akin to rearranging the deck chairs of the Titanic. The culture of unstoppable government-tolerated cronyism, nepotism and corruption should not be allowed near the hallowed grounds of good governance.

“If men were angels, no government would be necessary,” observed US President James Madison subtly advancing the concept of anarchy first inspired in 1539 England. Is governance a rare form of penance?

The language of government becomes vile and vulgar when subjected to weak and idle explanations. We do penance when politicians labour to state the obvious with inadequate and unrefined grey matter.

James Humes, a presidential speechwriter and author suggested that the “art of communication is the language of leadership.” Do Malaysian leaders say it like it is? Or, are they spin-doctors? A leader says what he means, and means what he says, come hell or highwater. That is the ideal language of governance obviating elections.

The language of government, courtesy Adolf Hitler: “How fortunate it is for governments that the people they administer don’t think.” This is a frightening proposition that rings true. This is the bane of the governed. They do the unthinkable by not thinking.

The French statesman Talleyrand believed that “the art of putting the right men in the right places is first the science of government; but that of finding places for the discontented is the most difficult.” Both had their fingers on the pulse and temperature of politics.


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