One aspect of our modern society is the growth and strength of social media. Words, and how they are used, have become more important today than ever before. Words carry power. They carry meaning. They carry lifelines. Unfortunately, for too many, words are used to destroy instead of uplift.
Words are propelling humanity into a new age, a scary age, and an unsure age. An age when tomorrow may be radically different than the day before. Today everything can change in an instant. There is no constant any longer. Even words no longer carry the same meanings that they once did.
Our society today is fluid. In times past, civilization was always able to use words to describe the future. However, for so many this modern fluidity is frightening simply because people do not have the words to describe the world that is to come. This insecurity breeds fear of the unknown, for if you can’t put your future into words, then how do you plan? How do you prepare your children for what is to come? How do you know you will leave your offspring a better world?
Long before any civilization created an alphabet, and thereby was able to preserve its thoughts, ideas and beliefs for posterity, humanity used words to help itself survive. It was words that were used retain the knowledge needed to build structures, to grow crops, to figure out how to hunt and how to raise children. It was words that passed on the knowledge of survival, myths and ethics, from one generation to another.
When we didn’t have an alphabet we drew pictures. When we became sophisticated in our thoughts and deeds, those pictures grew in their importance. Words, like ideas and our innate curiosity, aided in our ability to analyze, configure and resolve issues. Words were always a part of the human experience. Words are a part of who we are. Words define humanity. Words, and their intrinsic value to our success as a society, are what sets us apart from the rest of the animal kingdom.
But words have a downside, as does many aspects of human civilization. Not every word is used for good, as not every idea is used to bring humankind closer to a better world. Words are weapons, and can harm and devour another person’s soul. Words are used to bully, prevaricate and destroy. Words are used to call-names, belittle and denigrate. Words, that so precious gift we have been given, have been used to defame, and demoralize. Words have been used against the just and righteous. Words have been used to take away freedoms, civil rights and another’s humanity.
Words are our gift. But it is a gift that needs to be protected. Like freedom, liberty and equality, words can be adjusted to be used to destroy that which we hold so dear. Words are our avenue to freedom. They are our avenue to liberty. They are our avenue to equality. Words, and their meaning, bring about change.
Ultimately, the question is, and has always been, will the change be for better or for worse? A question needs words in order to have an answer. Words with specific ideas, definitions and meanings. Words need to have purpose, usefulness and exactness. We need words to build our future, and those words have to have an accepted utilitarian meaning.
Remember, every society used words to create who and what they believed in and how they would run their world. They used legal words and scientific words and political words, to allow themselves to enslave and destroy, or broker honesty, humanity, and justice . Words lead the way to war…or the way to peace.
Words are more powerful than any weapon. Weapons are merely the tool of words. For it is with just a word, that a weapon can be immobilized, destroyed and decommissioned. Words like,” I am sorry,” “I honor your narrative,” “I hope that we can be friends,” are more powerful and can change the course of human history faster and with more daring than any bomb, gun, airplane or tank. For it takes bravery to use words to embrace that which you have always been taught to hate, fear, or malign. Use the words, “I see you as a human being, equal to myself in importance, and with an equal right to a free life.”
As writers think about the exact words to put into a story, individuals must think about the exact words they use when they interact with each and every person they meet. Be respectful. Honor the other person in front of you. Use words that elicit kindness, goodness, compassion, and inclusion. Use words that evoke a better world. And maybe, one day, that better world will become our reality instead of our daydream.