The Word Radical Has Been Rendered Meaningless

“Radical simply means ‘grasping things by the root’.” – Angela Davis

The word “radical” is rendered meaningless; the word itself indicates the correlation of the essential nature of an object and being able to revise or change it. The Latin history behind the term precisely denotes that it is merely a root of something, meaning the basics or base of fundamentally anything — though politics has changed the essence entirely. Regardless of whether it is the current administration or one that managed our country decades ago, words have become so potent to an audience that they begin to lose their intentional connotation. It becomes incredibly easy to manipulate the true meaning of a certain word. English writer, George Orwell characterizes meaningless words as tactics that politicians may use in a dishonest manner to appeal to an audience member’s emotions. Orwell may have made the statement decades ago, but the same idea still lies within America’s government today.

Radical has become synonymous with extreme, non-desirable, and even inconceivable. People of authority use this incorrect definition to further their chances of building a trust with their audience, thus gaining more supporters by using fear tactics. Particularly when a candidate for public office uses the word radical, potential voters tend to correlate the word with horrible or frightening based on the context they receive (which is usually the combination of radical and terrorism). Nonetheless, this affiliation is unquestionably absurd, and these people tend not to know any better and fall right into these traps which only further distort their understanding of the English language and allows for another meaningless word to be added to the tongue itself.

This point can be proven with the word “radicalism” since it may appear as something that is hazardous to the stability of a country when the meaning, however, is quite the contrary. This same mistake is made with the word radical because of its constant misconception; it is shown within politics in such a bad light because of the general belief that it is just code for extremist and destruction. Many groups of people who are labeled “radical” typically become a public target to society.

People use “radical” with such a negative undertone that it creates a terrible image for people who are trying to change society’s norms with goals progressing a nation. For instance, radical has been projected to convey an unrealistic aspiration with different rights such as universal health care. A majority of Americans have been conditioned to believe that this is an radical (meaning, unattainable) ideal which in reality is not true.

The sentence itself does not make sense because of the flawed comprehension of the word created by numerous politicians dating back to the 1700s. When Bernie Sanders was campaigning for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination, the word “radical” had once again been flung around as a means to describe his methods. Sanders had just longed for a reform within the system, but a multitude of voters began to see him as an extremist because of his association with that term. He had strayed away from the status quo with his ideas, but this became detrimental and put the success of his candidacy in danger. Why are we equating the word radical to expected human decency? Since when are human rights radical?

The word itself also has a racist undertone which is used as yet another tactic by politicians to manipulate voters, as seen with Donald Trump. He uses the word with means of painting a false image of minorities to make him appealing to the white population, thus furthering this systematic oppression. This being only one of the many forms of manipulation he uses. It’s utterly disgusting and proves that the implied definition of the said word is only harming the people.

Photo: Tom Goetz 



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