Before starting, I would like to say that, despite my brief studies on linguistics and my little psychology class in my career, I am not a speech expert. Actually, I am just a newbie with her very own speech problems and understanding issues. If you were to ask me anything, I would probably stutter or reply with a shy “Or that’s my opinion”, as I get very nervous of how should I reply properly. I’ve always been this way, and most possibly I shall die this way.
However, this time I would like to comment how, perhaps, I have a very good justification of why I am afraid to speak or to listen: language is a powerful tool. It’s a mass-moving instrument. It’s a double-blade weapon. And as of now, it has been far more poisonous than the scorpions themselves in these insecure ages.
I once had a drama study class in where, after ripping into shreds certain diva authors, we reached an important subject: the patriotism subject, and how it could be used to manipulate a whole nation with a little verbal arrangement. The sentence “That’s the enemy of the nation” not only united the common folk in an unusual and inexistent national pride, absent months ago, but it could also manipulate masses and erasing them the very idea of, sometimes—and there are lots of “sometimes”—the real enemy is inside.
“I heard somebody was ripping me to shreds, so I came here to see what the hell”
A sole sentence can erase memories and manufacture new ones through the dust and the sand in the wind. A sole sentence can change people and twist the past, present and future tense of a verb. The speech is this powerful. Besides, God created the light through a phrase, remember?
Yeah, that pretty much sums it up.
But it’s not just in this plane: a sole sentence can dominate a whole spirit in other kind of speeches. “You will look fabulous with this shampoo” or “Look fabulous with this dress.” What do these two sentences have in common? Easy: both insinuate in an indirect way that you’re not beautiful or fabulous without the products they’re offering you. They’re the only ones with the solution for your problems, and will give it to you if you, in change, give them money. It’s not even “look more fabulous”: it’s “look fabulous.” They’re outright telling you that you’re ugly and you’ll only have some respect in society if you buy the first crappy object you find and that, months later, will be obsolete and needs to be discarded if you want to be fashionable.
Yet, it is to be expected in a frivolous and consumerist culture: to inject fear of this kind to see the merchandise be sold in light speed and get the money into your pockets as a walking line of ants. A sole sentence can kill the self-esteem. A sole insult can destroy your son’s faith and reduce it to a pile of soil, forever afraid of the world. A sole sentence has demolished more walls in the hearts of the people than castle walls. Actually, the military speech—the “That one is the enemy, we must go save those”—can be the most lethal in history.
Wow, that’s a fabulous dress! Such a sad thing you’ll look bad on it next month.
Throughout my life, I’ve realized that people has given more value to the act of speech than a very act itself. What do I mean? Well, let’s use an example: many people nowdays repeat like a broken tape recorder how Jesus is the prophet, how everything he said was true, don’t offend the Son of God, he died for your sins, I love him for his sacrifice for the world, I am a warrior of God…etcetera. But, does he really believe in what is he saying? According to what I’ve understood, Jesus preached for charity, love to the fellow human beings, forgiveness and other stuff. And rarely (but it doesn’t mean I haven’t seen examples) I’ve met people who keep some coherence with their words and their acts—I haven’t met people who act what they preach. I’ve seen more priests driving Lamborghinis than practicing charity. They sure preach it, but they don’t practice it. And it’s the same with the people I’ve met: they’ve stuck themselves so much with the Jesus-as-mystic-being speech that they forgot what he asked them to do: be nice! And all because they’ve linked their existences to the speech of the nice people, but not the act of being the nice people.
You don’t know how much I love this comic.
This is why I have a certain something against some self-help books that preach so much about “niceness”, but I will get into this subject later. It’s so juicy that it needs its own article…
Anyways. Nowdays, the hollow words have won absolute terrain in the world. In the movies, one must hear “I love you” from the mouth of the actor to make it known that he loves somebody, instead of proving it with acts. In TV, you’re not beautiful or fabulous if you don’t get the product they’re “kindly” offering you with a juicy discount instead of convincing you that you’re beautiful already and that you don’t need to spend anything on something. In the world, the Those ones will always be the enemy and you’ll only be really “patriotic” if you kill him for Us. The current speech has made it clear about the Others and the Us—the Those ones we must fear or envy. The world doesn’t want an abolition of the line that separates the Those ones from Us. If there must be a gain, there will be always an enemy to which we must throw our offenses and an Us to refuge into, without thinking into other options.
And if we try to conceive, linguistically speaking, a real problem we must address to—for example, the use of the word “ecocide” to refer to now on to the indiscriminate destruction of Mother Earth and serves as a legal term to refer to a punishable crime—, it is ignored. Those are inexistent words and are highlighted in red in Word because they’re “wrong.” Why? Because they’re dangerous words that might cause a complete change of mindset in the masses. There’s only One speech; everything else, it’s just a neologism.
This current culture doesn’t see any benefit in harmony and a massive Us, in where all cultures join together and find an existential logic not in the hollow speech, but in the act. Sometimes I consider a man a wise man the one whom I see giving his shoes to who needs them most than the man who preaches the importance of that. I am, however, not insinuating that the act of talking is of less importance than the act—sometimes, actually, raising the voice could become the most revolutionary act of all—, but one can’t avoid but to worry when the speech is used as a tool, rather as a gift given to humanity for the benefit of our species and the other ones in the planet. What would become of us, humans, without the messages of our songs and poetry…?
And yet, at the same time these poems are squashed and despised over the verbal comfort of “That one is the enemy. If we get rid of him, we’ll be finally safe.” And the people, lured by its charisma, will obey as the very good prey it is.
But, again, this is all just an opinion, born from a chit chat and which made me meditate from the power of speech and the downgrading of the kiss in favour of the hollow Hollywood “I love you.” Yet, frankly, who am I to know the truth…?
Want to know the most ironic part of this article? I wrote all of this because how I don’t know how to express my sorrows about the world through actions. Irony.
Thanks a bunch for reading me!
VERSIÓN EN ESPAÑOL AQUÍ.