“Cleansing the Stock”

George Monbiot, on euphemism:

Human beings—by which I mean those anthropoid creatures who do not receive social security—often live in families. But benefit claimants live in “benefit units”, defined by the government as “an adult plus their spouse (if applicable) plus any dependent children living in the household.” On the bright side, if you die while on a government work programme, you’ll be officially declared a “completer”. Which must be a relief.

A dehumanising system requires a dehumanising language. So familiar and pervasive has this language become that it has soaked almost unnoticed into our lives. Those who do have jobs are also described by the function they deliver to capital. These days they are widely known as human resources.

This is ground that has been trodden before, most famously by George Orwell in his superb essay Politics and the English Language, but it’s always worth restating. The use of neutralising euphemism dehumanises victims in the eyes of both the listener and—I think this is frequently overlooked—the speaker.

One more memorable quote from Monbiot:

It is notable that those who are most enthusiastic about waging war are the least able to describe what they are talking about.

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