Words Kill! Words are not harmless. Words can make us happy or sad, remorseful or fulfilled. When we are children we are taught how to behave through words, we learn that words used as lies can get us out of trouble and we learn that words hurt. When we use words that hurt we hide behind the ancient adage and lie ‘Sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me’. This is one of the great lies because words not only hurt they can kill. When words are used to humiliate other human beings they can make the victims feel so inadequate that they take their own lives. However, this is only one way that words can kill.
Words that convey hatred for others as a group can kill millions. It was words that began the holocaust in Europe in the 1930s. Hitler’s words in Mein Kampf and Goebbel’s words as propaganda minister. Without the words used to blame Jews, Gypsies, Homosexuals, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Disabled peoples and many more groups the holocaust could not have started. It all begins with ideas and ideas are conveyed in words, communications and messages.
In 1992 Slobodan Milosovic used words to create so much fear of others that it led to one hundred thousand murders in Bosnia. A genocide of Muslims by their Orthodox Christian neighbours; all started with words.Treaties are written words. Many treaties were made with the Home Nations of the American continent. The Amerindians believed words that promised them safety and a small piece of their own land. They laid down their arms. Most of them died.
Words are a weapon as dangerous as any gun or bomb. Weapons have to be used carefully and responsibly because they are dangerous. We have freedom of speech in our society to prevent oppression but that freedom like any right cannot be unlimited. Unlimited access to weapons is unthinkable but we all have unlimited access to words.
When people offend with words it is ‘freedom of speech’ but when people oppress with words it is tyranny. Oppression with words is the first step to oppression with guns.
When we use words on social media or as journalists in the national press, or even as presenters on television we should all be under an obligation to use our weapons (words) responsibly. Many words that I hear and read today reflect the words of previous generations the words that led to the so much human suffering.
We must use words to protect and defend others not as a method to cause pain, hatred and death. Next time we write or speak we must think carefully about where our words are pointed.
©Robin Horsfall 2018