The unbearable lightness of words: Our new abnormal VI

Published July 25, 2020, 10:17 PM

by Philip Cu Unjieng


In an ideal world, words would carry weight, possess power; thanks to their intrinsic meaning, and to the cognitive impact they can make as their usage connects us to intended emotions, feelings, and even memories. But the sad inescapable fact today is that in a world where, if you tell a lie enough times, loudly, and with enough force, it can be perceived as truth, words and phrases have oftentimes strayed from the “path” of their true meaning. Regularly, they’re used as buzzwords and as stock remedies for masking the true intent of the speaker. 

Throughout history, and now during these COVID times, people love saying what they think are the right sound bites, with no sense of the irony that’s being created as they utter these words and phrases. At 65 years of age, I’ve spent a lot of time having moments of feeling frustrated, quietly seething, chuckling to myself in exasperation, or having to pluck my eyebrows from the ceiling; as the circus that passes for politics and current events continue to hold sway, vying for my attention as a concerned and responsible citizen of the world – and this pandemic world in particular.

Of late, I’ve been having a “field day” with the following – both from the lighter side of things, and the more somber:

No Stopping Us Now: Coronacoaster –n. the feeling of uncertainty, anxiety, and helplessness surveying news and information concerning the COVID-19 global pandemic. Example of usage – I felt my days on the Coronacoaster were coming to an end, but it got worse last week with the upsurge of positive cases.

Did you know there are a bunch of words being coined during thIs pandemic, and that they’re a hoot? Check if you’re familiar with the following, and can guess what they mean – quarantinis, covidiots, Quentin Quarantino, and coronials (See bottom for the answers).

Is You Is or Is You Ain’t My Baby: The Correlation between mass testing and the rise of the number of COVID-positive cases has been maligned in various corners of the world. At one point, US President Trump was quoted as saying mass testing should stop, as it only resulted in the rise of recorded COVID cases. Well, we’ve all seen the frail reasoning behind the logic there, as it’s not like if you stopped testing, the number of COVID-infected people would actually drop. It would just mean they aren’t being recorded; and whether asymptomatic or not, they’d be freely moving around the community, infecting others. And look at the sorry situation the USA has gotten itself into in late June and July.

Everything But the Truth: Flattening the curve is another stock phrase that’s used to highlight the degree of success any country is enjoying in combatting the pandemic. And it’s been used automatically, even when the facts do not support that we are actually doing any ‘flattening’.

And from beyond the world of COVID 

The Lion Sleeps Tonight: Calling anything on the official Apps store a “Secure App.” The recent Twitter Cryptocurrency scandal is proof positive that “security” is an empty claim that most apps will apply to themselves and we’ll accept at face value, until it all comes crashing down, and we wake up “roaring” in incredulity at just how vulnerable we all are. We’ve been warned about TikTok, heard whispers about WhatsApp, been told that Viber is supposedly more secure. But when it all comes down to it, it looks like we’re all at the mercy of determined hackers, and all these Apps aren’t as secure as they would like us to believe.

Consider Yourself: I inwardly cringe anytime I hear a politician use the words Oligarchy and/or Political Dynasty pejoratively. To be seen as a champion of the people, and to pander to the masses, almost all Filipino politicians since our republic was created, will bandy these concepts as something they’re against, and are ready to dismantle or stamp out. But isn’t a political dynasty an example of an oligarchy? If we’re defining it as the ‘rule of the few, where power is vested in a small group of individuals‘, doesn’t a family qualify as a small group of individuals? 

Just as there are oligarchies in business and industry, in media and broadcasting, there can be oligarchies in the political arena. And let’s face it, ingrained in our Philippine political landscape are families perpetuating their hold over their power bases, and doing this over decades and generations. Methinks any politician with an honest bone in their body should utter any words of condemnation directed towards “oligarchy” or “political dynasty” with the following disclaimer – “as long as it’s not MY oligarchy, or MY family’s political dynasty.”

The outrage they express when pronouncing their disgust and opposition to political dynasties/oligarchies can be compared to that of a “kerida” complaining when some new PYT (Pretty Young Thing) is flirting with their sugar daddy. The “kerida” will bitch about how the PYT has no respect for the institution of family, that she’s a gold-digger, has loose morals, or is the lowest scum of the Earth – and there you have the best example of “buttered and dripping with irony.” But just like this mistress on the warpath, our unblinking politician will say his or her fighting words with true conviction. 

To sum it up, I can’t help but wonder what has happened to our capacity for critical thinking? Our ability to call out personages for doling out the BS; for giving us, in the immortal lines from Macbeth: “… a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”

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(Answers to the COVID lingo quiz: Quarantinis are cocktails concocted by utilizing whatever’s in the house during lockdown. Covidiots refer to those refusing to wear masks, or social distance. Quentin Quarantino are those who suddenly think they’re film directors or stand-up comedians, and “inflict” their awful, amateur videos on the world. Coronials will be the term applied to children conceived during the pandemic.)