Politics is a Language Game

By: Juliann Garisto

Before this election, I never took politics too seriously and simply voted for the sake of voting, without much care as to what the consequences would be. I blame myself for this, for never taking the initiative to do research that was so readily available and literally at my fingertips. But I also believe our educational systems should be held accountable, for failing to give sufficient attention to how politics operates. In school, the topic was brought up in a way that assumed everyone had a prior understanding. Terms and expressions such as “bill”, “law”, or “cabinet” were never thoroughly explained. I had no clue what they meant in the context of government, so I steadily backed away. Im now beginning to understand how fundamental politics is, while simultaneously realizing how frustrating it can seem at times. Nonetheless, it is the way our world functions, and in Canada we are granted the privilege of having a say in how we think things should run.

Lately, Ive had an excessive amount of free-time on my hands, so Ive dedicated a great deal of it to researching Canadian politics, as well as political culture in North America. I still dont know the half of it, and frankly the desire to spend my free time reading about our government system didnt come naturally, but was something I conditioned myself to do. Politics can be repetitive and tedious in its routine, as we hear politicians constantly repeating their talking points. Although this is probably necessary in order to establish each politician’s character, it’s not always engaging. Somehow though, I was able to push past this and look at the facts in better detail. I read about the Bill C-51 anti-terrorism legislation and noted which politicians supported it. I read about the proposed “Barbaric Cultural Practices” tip-line and thought about what that would mean for our society.

What really got me interested in politics was social media. On an impulse, I decided to create a Twitter account, and soon after started following The Globe and Mail, The Toronto Star, The Huffington Post, New York Times, Vice and a few other news publications. In doing so, I would challenge myself to read article upon article of coverage on the upcoming federal election and the long, winding campaign cycle. I would read these articles over and over and sometimes write about them afterwards. This became my early morning routine, and I began to love educating myself in this way.

However, once I started to better understand the political sphere, I reflected more upon why I was only educating myself now, and why I was so intimidated in the first place. The 20th century philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein said, Speaking a language is part of an activity, or of a form of life.Politics exemplifies this as it utilizes a form of language specific to it and nothing else. In other words, there would be no political systems or anything really if there was no language to shape and mold it. We manipulate language, giving words relative meanings and combining them to create phrases and expressions that are limited in their application. This applies to the language of politics; it is a language in and of itself which can be difficult to understand. Two years ago, if you asked me to listen to and make meaning of a political debate, and I would be utterly and completely lost hell, even now Im lost because its almost like trying to decipher a foreign language, and this is what needs to change. The language of politics can be exclusive in that its only really accessible to people who have an exceptional grasp of it, and moreover access to resources that allow them to gain insight into the world of government.

But its important that everyone be given the opportunity to learn this language, because politics shapes our world. We need to start educating children at a young age, on how the world functions on a political axis and why it is important. We need to make the political sphere, and its language, much more inclusive.

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One thought on “Politics is a Language Game

  1. You are so right ! Everyone in our society should be equpped with Democracy’s basic tool kit. As the gap between poor and rich widens the majority of people need to recognize the power they can have in choosing government and affecting policies. Bravo for taking the time to educate and empower yourself.

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