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Mightier than the sword

Jun 27,2020 - Last updated at Jun 27,2020

Language is essentially a means of communication, developed in order to enable people to understand each other in a variety of daily and other contexts.

It can also be used for innovative or creative ends, as in literature, art, music, etc.

At this level, words are a blessing for without them the process of communication could be a lot more complex, agonising and tricky.

They are a blessing, that is, when used for this particular purpose, and when used responsibly.

Like other things in life, however, words can be abused: used for purposes that bore, disappoint or harm others.

This has always been the case throughout human history.

At this point in time, when venues of communication have multiplied as in no other time before, the subversive ends for which words are used are perhaps at their height.

This is especially true with respect to both formal and social media, and in particular in our own part of the world.

When they started to increase exponentially as of the last years of the past century, formal and social media have been hailed as revolutionising information in our world, providing us with so many “facts” and so much useful information that we would be a lot more informed and a lot wiser than we have ever been.

Slowly, but steadily, this rosy image of media, and the “information revolution” as a whole, started to diminish, and another “reality” began to emerge: media as a means of controversy, misinformation and confusion.

As opposed to what was initially thought, the more venues one explores and the more information one peruses, the less informed and more confused one becomes.

Such is a stark example of “more” meaning or amounting to “less”.

All of a sudden, formal and social media started becoming conveyers of competing narratives, clashing viewpoints, inflated egos, warring subjectivities, etc.

Once in awhile one, in both formal and social media, comes across a scientific discovery, a useful health report, an intelligent political analysis, a breakthrough study.

Most of the time, however, one finds one’s self at the receiving end of so many assumptions, half-truths, unsubstantiated claims, silly gossip, nasty rumours, utter falsehoods, etc.

Overall, so much negativity and cynicism prevail or reign supreme; sharing some useful, positive or constructive ideas has become a rarity.

Out of vogue, in fact.

Social media are a lot worse, for they have most often started to become means to spite, insult, attack and assassinate others.

Words, therefore, have become not means to “teach and delight”, as the saying goes, but to vex and spite.

The irony here is that a lot of relatively educated people engage in such subversive practices, perhaps more so than those who have had less educational opportunities, as if education has made them bolder, meaner and nastier.

This is an example where, in the case of education, a blessing has turned into a curse; and where, in the case of language, words have become mightier and more damaging than the sword.

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