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Reflections on the Language of Our Culture and How it Affects Us as a Peace Organization

Posted on: October 6th, 2015 by BWNWAdmin No Comments

The creeping normality of using violent words and metaphors can mean a death by a thousand cuts; the gradual replacement of words of kindness by words of callousness prevents us as a species from achieving our full potential as human beings. Did you feel your chest tighten in reading “death by a thousand cuts?” There’s hope. We all have seen rhetoric inflame a situation or divert it towards violence. Many writers and journalists in recent years have moved away from using words that do violence to our language seeking more creative, conscientious and humane uses of the language.

The use of violent cliché and metaphor as prefabricated ideas may only loosely convey the intent of the writer and lead to misunderstandings that are difficult to resolve; they can intrude on our humanity. As a major shaper of the international language of commerce, America’s terminology influences how others behave in the industrialized world. Here we speak in a cold business jargon where goals become “targets,” where ideas become “bulleted items”, where employees are called “human capital,” where anyone and anything of value has a “dollar equivalent,” and where there is the greatest disparity between the rich and poor.

At our recent annual retreat, we reached a consensus to avoid the use of the common militant words that have pervaded the American language. These words give a “combat-ready” feel to language as exemplified by the closely-linked terms, “Mission” and “Strategy” used in key organizational documents of competitive businesses that are often adopted as models for peace organizations.   They sound like headings on a battle plan. Similar avoidable militant terms are in common use.

It was proposed that during our scheduled revision of our “Mission” and “Strategy” statements that we instead use the terms, “Purpose” and “Blueprint” as something much more appropriate for a 501(c)3 peace organization. These words give a greater sense of equal respect and of constructiveness.   While these suggested changes remove the militant quality of “Mission” and “Strategy”, they may not be optimum word choices.

Can you think of words that are more closely-linked choices than “Purpose” and “Blueprint” that have a “peace-ready” feel? Would they be headings from a Peace Plan?   Your suggestions are welcome. If we find a really great combination, maybe other peace organizations will also use them.


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