South African rhetoric of the “challenge”

In South Africa it is taboo to refer to “problems”. This is especially true if you are a representative of government. “No, no, no Mr Interviewer … I would not say it is a problem. Rather we are faced with a challenge.”

People fear that they are in some way resigning themselves to the “un-solvability” of the problem if they utter the very word. Behind this fear lies a a fatalistic way of languaging the issue at hand. Instead, the rhetoric surrounding how we language a problem is pervaded by “challenges”. The other perspective on this rhetoric is that by admitting that an issue is a problem, you somehow admit some form of culpability in relation to the problem. And so, referring to a “challenge” displaces the responsibility for not having already solved the problem.

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