The Meaning and Sense of Words

Elio Delgado Legon

Guatemalan newspaper from 1962.

HAVANA TIMES — Even though this heading shares the same name as a conference I used to teach when I was a university professor, I’m not going to talk about grammar or composition as this isn’t the place. I do, however, want to talk about the meaning and sense words have in political propaganda and the power these gain in the media, where we find words over and over again which communicate lies, half-truths and unfair and unmerited labels. Let’s take a look at a few examples.

In the past, after World War 2, during the so-called Cold War, US imperialist propaganda against the Soviet Union and other socialist countries in Eastern Europe coined a series of terms which had previously had a derogatory meaning.

For example, when referring to any of these countries, they didn’t say “socialist country” but “communist regime”, not without first spreading awareness about how bad a communist regime was, in spite of this kind of regime never having existed before then.

“Red” was another term they gave a negative meaning to, as in their eagerness to make everyone identify the Soviet Union as humanity’s biggest enemy, they called it the “red threat” and compared it with the red bear which devoured everything.

They also invented the fable of the “iron curtain” so nobody from the West would draw near to take a look at what was really happening in these socialist countries and therefore they could lie to people more easily.

A whole arsenal of terms and lies have been used against the Cuban Revolution which is nearly 60 years old and they continue to add to this vocabulary as time goes on and new figures appear in the US. “Communist regime” has already been used to death and doesn’t hold the same weight anymore. Now, they call it a “socialist dictatorship”. They don’t care that Cuba holds general elections every five years and partial or municipal elections every two and a half years; they continue to call it a “dictatorship” and they have now also added the term “corrupt”, without any grounds to do so.

They did the same thing with Venezuela, a country where the most elections have been held in the last 20 years, with every guarantee, no fraud and hundreds of international watchdogs; but the fact that the country’s natural resources are no longer being exploited by foreign multinationals to give these back to the people is enough for them to give it the “corrupt socialist dictatorship” sign, even though they have only given all of their citizens free healthcare and education, built millions of homes to improve the lives of people who were living in a precarious situation, as well as other social programs.

Imperialism’s politicians aren’t the only ones who have used this worn out and out-dated terminology against the Cuban Revolution; the counter-revolution both in and outside the island have too, having to fulfill the Cuban people’s public enemy no.1’s orders because that’s what they get paid to do, to repeat the worse terms for the revolutionary government like parrots, over and over again.

And while on the subject of the meaning and sense of words, all of these people continue to say that there is “repression” here in Cuba. This word has many meanings and gradients. If taking those who violate laws to trial and sending them to prison is repression, that is one of the meanings, but it is justified by the Law. However, everyone identifies repression with riot squads covered from head to toe, using shields like in medieval wars, hitting people left, right and center, shooting rubber or lead bullets, water cannons and tear gas.

However, these scenes, which are everyday occurrences in many countries, haven’t taken place here in Cuba ever since the Batista dictatorship was overthrown on January 1st 1959, in spite of Batista having the US government’s support, like every dictatorship in the Americas has. So, using the word “repression” with the intention of giving it the meaning I have just described, is a disgrace, to put it simply. That’s why, when we read something, where seemingly inoffensive words are used, we have to analyze them beyond their meaning and find out what sense they are being given.

Elio Delgado Legon

Elio Delgado-Legon: I am a Cuban who has lived for 80 years, therefore I know full well how life was before the revolution, having experienced it directly and indirectly. As a result, it hurts me to read so many aspersions cast upon a government that fights tooth and nail to provide us a better life. If it hasn’t fully been able to do so, this is because of the many obstacles that have been put in its way.

34 thoughts on “The Meaning and Sense of Words

  • May 25, 2018 at 6:57 am

    This former communist country had a terrible social and economic situation immediately after the collapse of the soviet empire, maybe a lot of people voted for those known communist looking the least evils known, after 70 years of propaganda and governmental control freedom can be very scary.

    Other thing I have perceived is that people don´t like dissidents, dissidents are mirrors where we see own cowardly, so people try to find hidden interest and finally suspects of them.

  • May 24, 2018 at 8:22 am

    I actually don´t know the case of a communist party winning elections, fair ones, but I have a discrepancy with you Carlyle about the meaning of that. For me what is there to learn is that communism cannot be build top down, that communist system is an utopia right now because it demands a kind of new humans beings much better than what we are, and that some very very bad persons used this utopia to create state monsters to control population.

    Regrettably communism and lack of freedom comes together in people minds, but the communism is not that what those terrible persons did, for me communism is much close to anarchy and free commerce and movement, free from the intervention of a state with some illuminated and overvalued person saying to the people what to do.

    But I think that freedom is not possible yet, we people are mainly stupid, bad, or a mix of both, so we people still need a central government, but a government as small as possible just to warrant that the peaceful person don´t be fucked for those that aren´t, in my view that includes rent redistribution by means of social security, health and education public or at least subsidized.

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