It’s very important to choose your words carefully. In conversation many people use general terms or terms that don’t really describe what they want to convey. There are a number of reasons why we should choose our words carefully. As an example, imagine that you have taken your children to somewhere like Dreamworld. After an exhausting day you ask your kids how they liked it, and in answer they say ‘cool’. Now this is a vague, fashionable word that really conveys very little real substance. Was it exciting, educational, exhilarating? When you don’t choose your words carefully you don’t explore the concepts that underly the words and so you become unable to even think about ideas except in very general ways.
In his book ‘1984‘ George Orwell wrote about a future time when governments would manipulate language in order to enslave a population. He called this language ‘Newspeak‘. We have reached this now with political correctness and even more insidious, ‘micro-aggressions‘. These are terms that the listener infers as being derogatory even though the speaker may have been completely devoid of any intended insult. This is for another blog post, but the aim of these movements is to prevent people from having to examine their ideas, as examining ideas is seen as threatening, and to reduce language so that it becomes impossible to even think about certain concepts in objective ways.
One of the results of this is that opinions in general, and politics in particular, have become more polarised. Subtleties in options have been dispensed with and we just get ‘agree’ or ‘disagree’, ‘like’ or ‘dislike’. Because neither side is able to formulate their reasons for agreeing or disagreeing with an opinion they simply take sides and attempt to shout down or belittle anyone with an opposing view.
This polarisation happens in what are supposedly scientific circles as well as in politics. Supporters of Darwinism often refuse to debate people who don’t subscribe to their view as they don’t want to give them airtime.
There’s another reason to choose your words carefully. If you are careful about how you express yourself you are less likely to be misinterpreted. So often when people are held to account they say that they didn’t really mean what they said. Now sometimes this is simply in order to avoid facing the consequences of their views but at other times they may simply have been thoughtless. If you think carefully about how you say something and you are later held to account then you must own it. Public figures are too often apologising for something they said and claiming they were misinterpreted. Often I feel they did mean what they said but feel embarrassed when it is brought out into the public spotlight. Be careful with your words. If you don’t want to be accountable in public for a particular view then don’t express in in public.