Home In-Depth Feature The Power of Words: Its Destruction and its Peace-Making

The Power of Words: Its Destruction and its Peace-Making

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By Bob Hall | April 12th, 2017

There’s an old English saying that many people claim to live by:

Sticks and stones may break my bones (but words will never hurt me)

There is a problem with this saying, though, especially in the ultra-emotionally sensitive world that we live in today. The problem is essentially that this statement is not true in any way.

So false, in fact, that it is because of words that history has changed, both for the better and for the worst. Yes, words are just as powerful as the sticks and stones that we through at one another for political, religious, and lifestyle differences.

How Are Words Powerful?

Before we look at how language builds and destroys, let’s establish the baseline function which is that the natural pattern of speaking and listening in the brains of normal human beings (even those who are born psychopaths and lack humanity) is to react. Maybe not to respond, but most definitely to react. Right there, this shows you that we are vulnerable to words, and we cannot control them from “getting in our heads.”

How Has Words Shaped History

1. Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s speech Solitude of Self (1892) delivered to the U.S. Congress, and making one of the most passionate calls asking for equal rights for women.

A portion of Cady Stanton’s speech reads:

“We ask for woman a voice in the government under which she lives; in the religion she is asked to believe; a place […].where she may earn her bread […]because, as an individual, she must rely on herself.”

Stanton’s speech used clarity, common sense, and such a rational use of intelligence, that anyone who could have denied the woman anything would have had egg on their face. This is why you think, plan, and make a strategy with what leaves your mouth. Do not forget:

“Be careful with your words. Once they are said, they can be only forgiven, not forgotten.” – Unknown

2. “Safe for Democracy” speech that took us to World War I

President Woodrow Wilson went before a joint session of Congress on April 2, 1917. This was to get a Declaration of War against Germany. The rationale is what titles the speech: He wanted the world to “be made safe for democracy.” Wilson did not approach this request with an over expanded sense of nationalism. He was scared. He said it himself.

“It is a fearful thing to lead this great, peaceful people into war, into the most terrible and disastrous of all wars.”

War was declared, and President Wilson’s words proved to be sadly correct. The war lasted two and a half years. The population of France, alone, lost half of its entire generation of men between the ages of 20 to 32.

3. “I Have a Dream” by Martin Luther King

Perhaps the most iconic and influential speeches of all times, Martin Luther king gave this speech in the summer of 1963 at the Lincoln Memorial, during a rally on behalf of the Civil Rights Movement.

“Let us not wallow in the valley of despair […] And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream. […] that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”

The combination of Bible verses, the use of the words straight from the U.S. Constitution, his honest vision of a cohesive society, and the use of powerful verbiage by a passionate and very respected man was what bound people together in one of the most turbulent years in American history.

These powerful words also propelled this speech as one of the most quoted, repeated, and cited in history.

4. Speech to the House of Commons, 1940 after the Dunkirk evacuation- Winston Churchill (prior to becoming Prime Minister)

“We shall fight on the seas and oceans… we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be. We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender…”

At first morally embattled, England was shocked at what would be a first look at the possibility of being annihilated by the Germans. Little did they know that their future Primer Minister, a great man with a powerful speech delivery, was able to restore the peace, awaken the courage, and lift the spirits of a nation in fear. This was of course, a leader like none other: Winston Churchill.

A statesman like very few, Winston not only kept England protected with sound policies and educated decisions, but he himself became embodied into all the symbols of the country: the stubborn, stocky, “British bulldog” with a gentle heart and an iron will.

When Words Destroy

Let’s not dwell on more than one speech of evil, and let us focus on the case study that beats them all: the public addresses by Adolf Hitler.

Before you call the Internet police, here is a capitalized DISCLAIMER: We are not condoning anything ever said or written by Adolf Hitler.

However, his speeches are proof of the power of language and how it is used to manipulate, build false narratives, create a false sense of pride and nationalism, and ultimately destroy the peace of society. It is the exact opposite of our analysis of the effect of the soaring speech by President Wilson, or the soul-lifting speech by Winston Churchill.

According to the Global Education Project, it is imperative to study the very essence of the world’s most destructive leaders. It is important to know how they act, the way they operate, and the manner in which they use language to influence people. If history is not faced head on, it is bound to repeat itself.

Hence, is interesting to note a few things about the powerful speeches given by Hitler and how they influenced the very vulnerable and easily-led population that it moved:

• Timely delivery.
Hitler would make a “state of the union” type address to the people every year as a way to celebrate and commemorate his rise to power as chancellor of Germany on January 30, 1933. This solidified his status, made him “predictable” to the people, and made his staunchest followers use this date as a day for celebration.

• Cleverness in operation
Martin Luther King himself would emphasize how mentalities such as Hitler’s were clever enough to operate in a way that all actions would remain under the spectrum of the law. Not the obvious things that were clearly crimes against humanity, but everything in between.

• Method of Delivery
It is known that Hitler used teachers to perfect his on-stage gimmicks, strengthen the look of his face, and make his speaking more effective.

• Choice audience
Knowing the zeitgeist of the time, Hitler tapped into the vulnerabilities of the people and confected his speeches to meet the mentality of the people; to tell them what they wanted to hear.

Hitler exploited the people and showed just how dangerous an effective employer of words can be.

Great Responsibility with this “Power”

Since we have determined that words have power, brain power at that, it is obvious that we, as a society, have completely misidentified the power of words and go about our business blurting comments with absolute disregard of the trail that these statements leave behind.

We are clueless as to what we do when we use vulgarity and cruelty, as nobody thinks that these mean statements work like declarations in the human brain. If you do not believe this, ask yourself how come Psychotherapy uses nothing but language to re-route the brains of traumatized people? As language builds, it can also destroy.

What does this have to do with any of us?

1. Words leaves breadcrumbs.

Words are free. It’s how you use them that may cost you – KushandWizdom

Language, and the power of words, are the outlets of the thinking process. For example: When you write music, you are showing what your brain power is capable of creating. When you write, or speak, you are showing what your brain power is capable of believing. What comes out of your lips (honestly, that is) is a mirror image of what is going on in your head. Think about it. Literally.

2. Words are extremely prone to manipulation

The usage of words through language is a powerful tool because it is the first step to communication.

It does everything:
• delivers news
• tells truths
• tells lies
• directs
• commands
• heals and hurts

It is precisely because of all these things that words are easy to be made to serve anyone’s purpose. They can fit any narrative. Using enough of the same words, whether they are true or not, can cause entire philosophies to be born. It’s a powerful tool we all possess and an important responsibility for everyone.

Questions, Comments, or Suggestions? Email me at bob.hall@thenewsreflection.com

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