The migration of ideas carried by words

Words are never interchangeable. Word playing or playing with words says more than the terms used in language: it also carries ideas which shape our individual and collective thought

One example struck me a long time ago: how, by borrowing the vocabulary of the army, our societies have become militarized.

There isn’t a single international body, a single company, a single association that can escape this dictatorship of language which has been imposed on them since the 80s of the 20th century, under the influence of the IMF and the World Bank: they imperatively need to build their strategy which includes main and secondary objectives; the targets (a particularly deadly word) are often populations or people; in order to measure the consequences of the expected results, impact studies complement the strategy; mobilization is often mentioned, in particular within associations.

This system, structured with a logical framework and where the ultimate decision, even if one revels in words like concertation, inclusiveness and participative dialogue, goes downward hierarchically, has shaped a world whose key words have become: efficiency, performance, productivity, profitability, growth and, of course, their opposites too: restructuring, relocation, closure, unemployment, precariousness.

It is now difficult to develop a project without going through this rigmarole and, consequently, trapped in this ready-to-think, to innovate outside the technical field. This military vocabulary has produced a disciplined world, like the army, rigid and cold, rational and rigorous, which leaves little room for fantasy, imagination and intuition, and even less for poetry, affectivity or emotion.

It would be important to take seriously the new vocabulary, derived from climate issues: Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), ecological sobriety, energy transition... so that it could carry its dual load, intellectual and practical, and really manifest itself in political choices while disseminating changes in individual and collective behaviour.

In view of a necessary and urgent mutation of the paradigm of our society to move towards a world more united and less aggressive towards our environment, infiltrating the vocabulary carrying these ideas would be a sound investment which would allow us to change our mindsets, just like the military vocabulary has shaped the way we think and act, which still governs our world. This would contribute to the migration that our societies need in order to move towards societies that are relieved of the servitudes of consumption and freed from the useless objects that clutter them and contribute more to their anxieties for the future than to their happiness.

Imagining and thinking about these new social and environmental relationships with the right words, or even with words that remain to be invented, is the big challenge that awaits us.


Last modified on Wednesday, 18 March 2020 16:04
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