Change the world one word at a time
If someone didn’t know about ISIS before 2015, like al-Qaida back in 2001, it became a glaring part of our consciousness in the past year. ISIS has become another synonym for terror and violence.
It seems everywhere we are surrounded by violence. Most of us know someone serving in the military in some part of the world. We see violent reality in the news and on our street corner. As if we can’t get enough of it, prime-time programs constantly glorify violence. Every town, metropolis, street corner — we are surrounded by war, break-ins and terror.
Is it any wonder that our vocabulary has taken on a combative and violent tone? I admit, up front, this article was a inspired by a writer friend who recently wrote an article about the subject of militant language in documents used by so many organizations, including peaceful nonprofits and our local government. But it is not only organizations who use this language; each of us predisposes our home to a connotation of violence as we choose military words in our everyday conversations.
Our society has become rampant with a militant colloquy (words with a military alliance). Think about it. What do we use to call attention in a written document or presentation? We use bullets. Someone please tell me how a positive talking point has been construed as a lethal weapon!
When presenting a new idea among skeptical counterparts, we are walking a minefield. When new sales agents are sent for the first time out to the field, they are being sent to the front line. And when gossip abounds it is often because someone poisoned the well.
Organizations tend to write a mission statement, rather than a statement of purpose. We use the military term strategy to define a design or chart a course. While creating a plan or designing how to achieve a goal has a cooperative sense, strategy is synonymous with maneuvering and cunning tactics. I am sorry, but cunning maneuvering does not develop a sense of cooperative sharing.
We tend to go to battle rather than work together or communicate. Communication is an important concept that is often spinned or is becoming a lost art. So many common, everyday interactions are no longer described as peaceful sharings but are lent a combative air, just by how we think of them in our minds and define them in our phraseology.
Our managers at work like ambitious, hard workers. Those that succeed in life are often those who go to battle. But, have we lost our way? Taking action, making hard decisions and giving the energy it takes to see a job through to the end in an effective, focused approach does not mean a person has to be aggressive. Action and aggression are not mutually exclusive. Success does not require aggression.
Though we are surrounded by disorder and brutality, life’s purpose is not meant to promote aggression or violence. Life’s successes do not require us to succumb to a debilitating and destructive influence within our homes and in the language we use with those we love and care about. My mother once told me that those who resort to profanity do so out of a lack of positive vocabulary or because they are too lazy to think of a better word.
Militant language results from the same cause. It permeates our everyday conversations. A favorite weekend getaway is termed a retreat. Yet that getaway provides a positive environment to relax, get in touch with self, friends and family. It’s a time to strengthen our minds and bodies. It is not a retreat (defined in the dictionary as a forced withdrawal).
Can being conscious of the words we use change the world by tomorrow? Of course, it cannot. But, I submit, what we think and what we say very subtly influences our actions.
“You are what your think” is an old adage that holds merit. Each time we use a battle cry rather than an endearing or caring term, we incorporate the weaponry of war further into our being and teach it to our offspring.
Is considering the words we use an idle suggestion? Does it really matter whether we come in peace or are battle ready? It is for each of us to decide. But we will all have to live in that future world we have modeled with our thoughts and our words.
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” — Margaret Mead
Cat Trico has been a resident of Boulder City since 2003 and is a past president of the Senior Center of Boulder City and co-founder of the Decker Lake Wetlands Preserve. As an author and editor, she contributed to “Rights, Responsibilities, and Relationships” for youth. She can be reached at email@example.com.