Do you know how much you are influenced by the words people speak to communicate with you? Beyond tone of voice and body language, the connotations of the words themselves guide our thinking and responses. Sometimes it helps us manage how to answer. Sometimes it manages us without our realizing it.
Oft times, the cultural word usage has become so ingrained, we forget to question implications. While language does evolve some apart from manipulation, a little research shows that many times the basic thinking has been intentionally directed.
We here in the USA are not as free from the influence of propaganda and group think as we might like to believe. In fact, the government education system, as well as other authoritarian institutions, have primed us to think that we are free while they are actually leading us around like conditioned lab rats. Rats conditioned to respond to certain words and phrases with the desired behavior. If you don’t think this is true, try doing things those in positions of institutional power don’t approve of and see what happens.
The word institution means “something that is established (culturally).” Thus, it can be used of a variety of practices. Unfortunately, this can obscure important differences between different social phenomena. That is, when the family and something like a religious organization are referred to in the same breath as institutions, the listener can be lulled into thinking that somehow they are equal in many other aspects, including level of importance in people’s lives.
The fact that one is born irrevocably into a specific family can be given the same weight as the institution wherein a person might receive an education, which is based on opportunity, social pressure, and monetary means.
This is not to say that all social institutions are of little value. Voluntary association provides many benefits. Voluntary helping of others, voluntary economic trade, and voluntary gathering for recreation are all important.
However, when an institution becomes an entity in itself, a power to be reckoned with which seeks to impose certain structure on people, this is the antithesis of family. Family, even some of the worst, typically raise up children for a few years, then release them to freedom and self-determination. Anything else is a practice, or institution, of coercion.
Interestingly, most such authoritarian institutions try to hide what they are doing. At least in the beginning or until they feel they have sufficient control. They try to make it seem as if they have the well-being of the average citizen in mind. But although some altruistic people may have helped set up such systems, it doesn’t take long for the systems to attract the power hungry to the top, controlling levels.
Hence, the word games. It is hard to control the masses if you have to kill ALL of them. Maybe kill a few to intimidate, when it is a good strategic move. Discourage the free-thinking. “Educate” the masses. Use vocabulary to lull them and train them to be compliant subjects, while they think they are free.
I like to examine the continual attempted education on how I think. What don’t they want me to think about? How are they trying to affect my emotions and sense of guilt? What do they want me to assume about their role? How are they subtly, or not so subtly, intimidating me? Even if you aren’t that concerned about your exact vocabulary usage, what others are saying is probably still impacting the scope of your thinking. Are you happy in that box or do you want to see the possibilities outside of it?
Vocabulary is like fire. It can be used for good or it can be used for evil. Not all of the evil is obvious. Being aware and engaging in regular evaluation of how words are being used to influence us is like wearing a shield and a helmet.
Regardless of claims otherwise, all human interaction hinges heavily on world view. Another word used for world view is religion, but usually that term is saved to designate world views that the speaker looks down upon. For the purposes of this series, I will refer to them all as religions, meaning “institutions that are designed and operated by men based on their own evaluation of the meaning of life” (or at least how they want to run the lives of others).
Thus, I will attempt to evaluate religious words and phrases, and assumptions that go along with them in this Religious Vocabulary Word of the Day series. Truth will not be intimidated by an examination of vocabulary.