Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Words Can Hurt

In all the fuss about inappropriate comments going on at the moment, along with with those critical and demanding action - various kinds, some of which is reasonable and some not - there is a scattering of those whose comments, letters to the editor etc can be summarised as "They're only words. Get over it.". 

The thing is words are powerful. They can inspire, they can harm, they can teach and they can destroy. This is why we should be careful about our words. Just look at the demagogues who preach that another religion, another race, another belief system is wrong and then look at what can result from it. Do you think the Nazi death camps would have happened if Hitler had not been such a charismatic speaker? I doubt it. Somehow his words wound their way into the psyche of people who were so convinced that they were right they managed to take over a whole country and from there attempt to take over a continent. What about the men who destroyed the twin towers in New York, those who committed the Bali bombings or the bombings that took place in London in 2005? Words were what made these things happen. Words full of hate that sounded to these folk as reasonable excuses to justify what they did. There could have been other words used, ones that might have resolved the situation without blood shed but they were not heard. They were shouted down and drowned out - by loud voices and the words they used.

Over and over we hear name calling and labelling and it doesn't seem much. But increment by increment it worms its way into people's thoughts and, if they don't think and analyse what they hear, it becomes accepted as truth - and from those originally apparently nothing words real harm can come.

This is why we have racial vilification laws, why we teach our children in kindergarten not to say hurtful things and why we have laws about verbal bullying and harassment.

Words can be dangerous and they can be healing but never doubt that they have power and the harm that can be done by them can be incalculable.

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