Stop credulously calling China a 'people's republic'

A word is more than just a neutral label attached to an object; it also carries a time-hardened public attitude.  The easiest way to change the attitude is to change the label; hence, I heard on NPR a mention of "sex workers."  Juvenile drug-dealers — I kid you not — were called "boys who made a mistake."

The effect of re-labeling is well known, and it is widely used by the politicians.  I just read a Russian writer's reminiscences of World War II, in which he recalled how, after the signing of the 1939 Molotov-Ribbentrop pact, the hated word "fascism" disappeared from the Soviet papers and broadcasts, to be replaced with a much more relatable and sympathetic "National Socialism" so as to make it easier for a Soviet citizen to transition to Hitler's new role of a friend, rather than bitter enemy, of the Soviet state.

Oppressive regimes, aware of the power of labels, use them to their full advantage, and include positive labels right into the official names of their states.  Names like "United States" or the "Russian Federation" tell you little about those countries' political organization, but how about words like "democracy" or "republic"?

I started wondering, why do we in the West parrot those words even when they are manifestly misleading?  Is there really a "Peoples' Republic of China"?  In the huge geographic area so designated, people have zero input into how they are governed.  This is decided for them by the all-seeing, all-knowing, all-wise chairman of the Communist Party.  So why not call it — in the Western press at least — the "Communist Dictatorship of China"?  Likewise, the first three words in the "Democratic People's Republic of Korea" are pure fiction, for it is neither "Democratic" nor "People's" nor "Republic."  (By the way, if it were "Democratic" and "People's," just the last word, "Republic," would suffice, since it adequately encompasses the first two concepts.)  Just as with China, "Communist Dictatorship of Korea" is its realistic description.  Iran, at least, had the honesty to lie in only one — middle — word in its self-assigned name, "Islamic Republic of Iran."  Since it is ruled by a cleric, not by its people, "Islamic Dictatorship of Iran" is a far more accurate term.

Why do we repeat those misleading names in our media?  Why do we agree to play this strange word game of self-deception?  Was it what allowed us to transfer, in exchange to cheaper labor, American technology to China, handing the communists the weapon with which to beat us?  Did it dupe the Obama administration into the hope that dictatorial Iran would change its brutal ways if we only gave its nuclear program legitimacy in exchange for a token concession of a fifteen-year hiatus in Iran's production of the actual weapon — in a "deal" that Joe Biden now wants to re-enter?

Why do we want to ignore reality?  Why do we want to be duped?

Sure, we seek bliss — and ignorance is bliss.  But ignorance is only as blissful as drunkenness; it lasts only as long.  The reckoning won't be pleasant.  Shouldn't we better see the things for what they are and not shield ourselves from the brutal reality by inventing innocent-sounding labels for scary and ugly and dirty things — nor accept those used by our enemies to dupe their own people — and us, too?

Image: Martin Vorel via Libreshot.

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