Wilful Words


— — — — — — — — — — -

Communication is a delicate matter. I find myself remaining quiet in many situations because of that fact.

It is definitely an art. Even scholarly articles and presentations, following strict rules of grammar and style are influenced by the subtleties of language that cannot be defined by rigid formula.

The terms of reference we learn in school have been with us, on any scale, since the eighteenth century, when families were moved in large numbers to factory towns, during the beginnings of the industrial revolution.

At that time work was in a form of voluntary indentured labour: the factory supplied the housing, and many goods and services, along with a wage… and a debt. The workers spent the rest of their lives paying off that debt, which included not only the home, but the right to live in the community.

The repayment often included the commitment of the lives of their children to the work as well. An odd situation where much of the wage was returned to the industrialists and investors in the form of debt repayment, plus interest.

In other words, the lives of the workers and their families were dedicated to the service of the industry, and very often not by choice. As part of the whole system, schools trained students to be suited to that service. Many of those schools were placed under the jurisdiction of a church.

Countless numbers of people have been balking at that system since its inception. Objections very often take the form of violent protest, not solely directed towards industry and the industrial model, but also in the form of internal social struggles caused by the enforcement of standards that are inherently degrading to human capacity and dignity (even if you ‘make it’).

Communication has played and does play a most important role in this history, in social and economic unrest, and in solving problems we face.

But, we need a change in the way we speak and write. We need to move from knee-jerk reactions that are easily manipulated, to fundamental revolutions in the conceptual frameworks of communication. Changes that carry with them both the personal freedom of expression and responsibility for the effect of that expression.

Writers in particular, from poets to journalists, have power to influence those changes. Writers write both the past and the present and in so doing set the stage for the future.

I love to see writers experimenting, not just to stir passions, or invent the next best cliche, but to explore the deepest truths of who we were, who we are and who we will be (or can be). Even though I might personally be shocked by those experiments on occasion, or not understand them, still they are as vital as breathing.

Some work; some don’t. That’s life.

Frank Lloyd Wright once said, in an interview I have yet to relocate, so I paraphrase, that what he hated most in architecture was “imitation by the imitators of imitations”.

Says a lot about writing, too (and speaking)… and many things.