Posted by: DCox | January 25, 2009

Words and Consequences

It doesn’t take much thought to list some of the horrors that have befallen mankind through the centuries. Think about the current conflict in the Middle East or racial/ethnic conflict in which one group subjugates another group. Isn’t some of this due to the socialization we experience – our prejudices are communicated, often unintentionally. There is much that we desire to keep hidden – there are aspects of every culture that are ugly. Yet these things are revealed in our words and normalized in our speech.

What happens when leaders use words to pursue hidden agendas or justify their actions? Hilter used words to create a social consciousness and build an Arian consensus. Mugabe uses words to deflect his responsibility for the failure of an African state. Some politicians use words to benefit special interest groups as the expense of the disenfranchized they represent. These examples and others attest to the power of words to result in evil.

Ideas do have consequences.

A very great part of the mischiefs that vex this world arises from words. — Edmund Burke

Words may be either the servants or masters. If the former they may safely guide us in the way of truth. If the latter they intoxicate the brain and lead into swamps of thought where there is no solid footing. Among the sources of those innumerable calamities which from age to age have overwhelmed mankind, may be reckoned as one of the principal, the abuse of words. — George Horne

Bad words are as influential as the plague and the pestilence. They have wrought more evil than battle, murder, and sudden death. They creep through the ear into the heart, call up all its bad passions, and tempt it to break God’s commandments. A few bad words got into the ear of the mother of mankind, and they led her on to eat the forbidden fruit, and thus to bring death into the world. — G. Mogridge



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