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Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Learn to unpackage CODE words!

J. Roughan
6 April 2011
Every language in the world uses CODE words. These are words which have more than one meaning. On one level, the meaning of a word is clear but it may carry other meanings. For instance, when I first arrived in the Solomons, people would might say that someone was a trouble maker. In my mind such a word meant what it said; the person labelled a trouble maker was making life difficult for people in the community. . . gossiping, showing public anger, fighting, etc. It did not cross my mind that this was really a CODE word, a shorthand way of saying that the person was sexually active and causing trouble among people sexually.  
Political life is also filled with CODE words .It would be most useful for citizens to unpackage these words to make sure all of us--politicians as well as the ordinary citizen--mean the same thing when we use them. No good that our servants, the Members of Parliament, mean something different when they speak in Parliament and what we the citizens of the country think they mean.
Take for instnace the word Budget. Over the last three weeks and probably for another two weeks more, Parliamentarians will discuss the Budget, a vital document which determines where and how the nation's money will be spent. Perhaps it would be worth while to once and a while rather than referring to this vital document as a Budget, it be called the people's money! 
Once the Budget word is unpacked and opened up to its fuller meaning, then Solomon Islands citizens begin to realize how important the Budget debate is for the whole nation and for their own lives. Thus, the current Parliamentary discussion on the 2011-2012 $2.2 Billion  is all about your and my money, not some financial numbers belonging to someone else. Citizens become extra watchful when someone other than themselves talk about and debate how their money will be used.
But there are other words, too often left unpackaged, which would do well if the whole nation takes the time and effort of looking inside the word and see what they find there. A favorite word of our political leaders is development. It's so used these days that it's basically lost its real meaning. Suppose rather than using the word development one would substitute the word people's well being.  So that everytime a citizen hears the word development, it would be replaced by the words people's well being.
Forcing our political leadership and those running the government to use the well being word in their speeches and tok tok, then much of  development discussion wouldn't make the grade. Can you imagine speaking of Casinos in terms of well being!  However, when Casinos were first introduced into this country, a number of politicians spoke glowingly about them being some sort of development. 
And of course the politician's favorite CODE word is rural development. Imagine if people of this nation insisted that the political elite drop using their favorite CODE word and start talking about villager well being instead. Priorities would begin to change! The services of quality education would happen, working and adequately staffed and resourced clinics would stand out, necesssary and repaired road infrastructure would be normal, etc. Service to people not things would be uppermost in the minds of decision makers.
But to accomplish this mind-set change, requires a recognition where the nation's strengths really reside. Of course a place like Honiara is necessary but far more important to the Solomons is the village which caters for more than 8 out of 10 of our people live their lives. As was written in this space two weeks ago, the rural numbers are going to remain pretty much unchanged for a long, long time to come. There is no head-long drive to live in the Solomons urban centres. No, the vast majority of our people still prefer to reside in the village and even though there is a slow drift to Honiara, for instance, our people still prefer their resource rich village life rather than any barren urban centre.
Part of people's preference to village living is the fact that that's where they get their daily kai kai, housing material, wood for their power needs, etc. So often when decision makers use the  agriculture word they use it as a CODE word meaning cash crops--cocoa, oil palms, coconut, timber, etc. Rarely does it spell out the backbone of the country's major strength, gardening. Of course once gardening is thought of we are really speaking about women and their contribtuion to the nation's well being.
And that kind of thinking comes near to the actual reason why our decision makers, political elites and politicians prefer to use CODE words . . . to hide behind the reality that is Solomon Islands. The nation is made up of an equal and competent number of people called women. Until that basic reality is accepted then the nation will continue to limp, be prone to violence and lack drive. Unpackage words, see what they are saying underneath and begin to use better descriptions of reality to make sure our nation grows and prospers for all.

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