Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Creation of Understanding


It’s discouraging that political bickering, books, movies, music, television, news broadcast and newspapers exploit sensationalism, not only visually, but also in language in order to rile others into action. The words must be provocative; therefore, in one way or other, it must indulge in raunchy, invective, sarcastic, or other contemptible language. Moreover, whether what is written or said is factual, fictitious or something in between, it does not seem to matter. In short, it must satisfy America’s egregiously bizarre appetite for what, in their view, is entertaining.

In America, we have abandoned decency, civility, and honesty. We have abandoned probity for whatever enhances one’s bottom line. In using inappropriate, meaningless, and callous language, we have lost the essence of persuasion, rather, we engage in manipulation. Embracing inappropriate language mars one’s ability to lead effectively. Leaders, instead, become a bully on the pulpit.

As leaders, we must behave so others will emulate our actions. So, using appropriate language in speech and writing is incumbent upon all of us.

It is not as if we do not have a better choice. There are many resources available from which one can choose to select a suitable word, phrase, euphemism or metaphor to symbolize one’s intention, view or opinion.

In employing a higher standard vocabulary to construct meaningful expressions, one reduces the chance of any unintentional meaning or misinterpretation, enabling one to communicate complex ideas and concepts that are succinct and non-esoteric. Furthermore, to use slang or gobbledygook is only a shortcut to circumvent the hard work of developing appropriate and more meaningful expressions. When we use shortcuts, we may blur fact and fiction.

So it should go without saying, don’t use the language of television and radio talk show hosts, who depend on confrontation, recrimination, incendiary words and hyperbole as tools to fire up their supporters and to discredit competition that don’t agree with them.

And certainly do not employ metaphoric militaristic language that has become so popular. Sarah Palin’s notable quotation, “Don't Retreat, Instead - RELOAD!” is a good example of this egregious style.

The essence of communication is the creation of understanding. A writer or speaker sometimes may be communicating some very sophisticated and complex ideas or concepts to general audiences. It therefore is incumbent on the speaker or writer to be considerate of the symbols they employ.

We need leaders, their spokespersons and interlocutors to serve people rather than prey on them. They need to use words crafted to create understanding and not to intimidate or entertain rather than inform.

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