The pen is mightier than the sword. I think we all know that saying and what it basically means is that words, language is a much better tool to conquer people than weapons and violence. The threat of a sword dissipates once it's sheathed, the threat of an enemy disappears once he's defeated, but words have a tendency to burn themselves into conscious and subconscious minds, thereby creating an everlasting effect on the behavior and beliefs of individuals who've consumed them...
source: Wikimedia Commons
Add to that truth the knowledge that history is written by the victors, and you start to understand how we, the people, have been suppressed by our elite upper-class leaders throughout the ages. It might sound silly, especially because English is not my native language and I often struggle with finding the right words or constructing fluid sentences, but as I write these daily posts I'm fully aware of these truths, and I do my best to not use the "wrong" words and sentences. However minor the effect of my words on your mind may be, I know that effect exists; on a very small scale you and I, dear reader, shape each other's minds. You shape mine by just being there, by creating an audience that compels me to keep on writing, to keep the quest for the "right" words alive. I shape yours by presenting to you the outcome of that quest. The mass media does the same, but on a massive scale, not just because of the numbers of people they communicate to, but also because of the frequency with which they do so; if you watch the daily news on TV you expose your mind to a constant bombardment of words that are carefully selected to solicit a carefully response from you, with the main goal being your continued acceptance of the status quo.
One of my favorite word-magicians was George Carlin, may he rest in piece, and today I share with you one of my favorite fragments of his brilliant performances. In it he describes how the use of language has changed during his life, how it has become more and more euphemistic, and how that language is used to shield Americans, because he was an American performing in America in front of an American audience, from the harsh truth. He starts by discussing how after the Great War the mental illness many soldiers suffer from was first called "shell-shock", but later became "battle-fatigue" and the even softer "post-traumatic stress-disorder"; "shell-shock" was direct and harsh, which is the truth about the condition, but that truth is now completely covered up by calling it "post-traumatic stress-disorder" or PTSD in short.
One of my favorites is when he says this: "Poor people used to live in slums. Now the economically disadvantaged occupy sub-standard housing in the inner city"... "Poor people" and "slums" are still the truth, but being "economically disadvantaged" somehow sounds much friendlier, again covering up the harsh conditions these poor have to endure daily, and "disadvantaged" makes it sound like their position in life is somehow the result of circumstances that can't be helped (other that the good old "pick yourself up by your bootstraps" of course). Also, "sub-standard" leaves a lot open for interpretation; what is "standard", and how much beneath that is "sub"? With incomes for regular citizens going down for decades, and internal warfare being intensified for decades, it was necessary for the ruling class to adjust the language around those topics to keep their actions acceptable, to make us keep our pitchforks locked in the shed. But I've said too much already; just watch and listen to the word-master that was George Carlin make the point in his own unique way...
George Carlin on soft language
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