Another distasteful outcome of the current political crisis is the poisoning of the English language. Words that have perfectly good meanings have become tainted. Obvious ones such as leaver and remainer have become tarnished with age, color and educational attainment. Each side of the argument uses these innocent words as pejorative. That, however, is the plight of language. Words can mean whatever the speaker intended and whatever the listener wants to hear.
The word that troubles me most is collaborator. It troubles me from two perspectives. The first is that it is weaponizing our political system. In a representative democracy, it is accepted that there will be a government and an opposition. To oppose the government is a fundamental requirement of the way that our system works. Balance is maintained to a degree and leads to better laws and government.
Today, those who don’t accept the official government line are accused of collaborating with the enemy, as if we were at war and remainers form some sort of fifth column. Collaborators are traitors, working with opposing forces to undermine the legitimate will of the people.
What war, what enemy and indeed, what will?
The second is that to collaborate is a good thing, not bad. It is when people or organisations work together to realise or achieve a goal. It is when people cooperate to achieve common objectives. For human societies to flourish we need more collaboration and cooperation. Rather than discourage collaboration we need to encourage it and perhaps if we had cooperated more across our political institutions we would not be in the mess that we are now.
Collaborating is hard work. It requires one to listen, understand and compromise. It requires one to agree on common outcomes. Being un-collaborative is easy, it just requires you to dig your heels in and say no.
The world needs more collaboration in its positive sense and so please let’s not denigrate this useful and progressive word. I am happy to be a collaborator.