On Stupid Metaphors in Politics
Once, to my distress, I read the following sentence:
“The runaway economy has worn down the contract that has been the bedrock of Korean society for centuries.”
It’s about politics, of course, and like much political speech it is full of clashing stale metaphors. Now mind you I admit that language normally has lots of stale metaphors, which often clash; “clashing stale metaphors” being a case in point! Nonetheless this sentence, like much political speech, is painfully stupid if you read it rather than just scan it.
First there’s that runaway. Runaway what? A horse, a bride? An economy? How can an economy run, and from what? Then there’s wearing out, and a bedrock. Well at least those two metaphors actually work together; they denote erosion. (For that much coherence I should be grateful.) But what is being eroded? A contract? Of a society? But societies don’t have contracts! You don’t sign up to be born!
I am a sighted person, and therefore my mind automatically tried to create an image fitting this word salad. The best I could come up with is this surreal tale:
“Hundreds of years ago, a Korean got some land; he carted off the topsoil to expose the rock layer underneath; and upon that stratum he chiseled the words ‘the party of the first part’. Alas, a stampede of rampaging dollar signs eroded the inscription to illegibility.”
This fever-dream is political analysis? Why, oh why, are politics discussed in language so antipoetic and stupefying?