We use language in interesting ways. We use it to gloss over problems, overstate impacts, diminish responsibility. We use language to promote and sell, to obstruct and impede.
Language is everywhere, used and abused, contained and unrestrained and it colours our whole world in shades of grey, black, purple and orange. Our language, our history, our future, they are intertwined all across the world. For instance, I’ve heard stories of indigenous tribes that have no word for ‘surrender’. Surely living in a context where surrender is literally not an option impacts the way that you see the world. If you live somewhere without a word for ‘thank you’ is it because you are an ingrate? Or that you live in an environment where it is a foregone conclusion that what is for one, is for everyone. A society of unparalleled sharing and appreciation of one another.
I can’t help but notice every day, the language that we use informs the way we treat each other, and I thought, what if we could change the language. Even the internal language among ourselves.
What if we changed the way we speak about people in need, from being language around their problems to being language around our responsibilities.
People are no longer ‘homeless’, as in, being without a home.
They are In Harm’s Way.
We are no longer talking about victims of domestic violence.
We are talking about people who are In Harm’s Way.
When we are talking about people who are uneducated, unemployable and of poor mental health. We are talking about people that have been left In Harm’s Way.
Leaving people in harm’s way. Shifting the language from what disadvantaged haven’t got, or haven’t done, to what we haven’t done, or what we do by leaving them unassisted might start to humanise the problems, to change the understanding and empathy of others.
We are not simply ignoring ‘illegal immigrants’, we are leaving them In Harm’s Way.
Think to your family, think of yourself. Think of people you know and people you don’t. Do you see any reason to leave people in harm’s way? It’s not about handouts, queue jumping, dole bludging, it’s about recognising a basic need for us to recognise harm and remove people from its influence
Over the coming weeks, every time you see an article or hear someone refer to a ‘refugee’, ‘asylum seeker’, ‘homeless person’, ‘drug addict’ consider not only their problems, or the cause of their problems, but their situation as it is right now.
Regardless of fault, before we consider whether or not we are bestowing outrageous and gratuitous privilege on people, before we get upset on the impact of the most disadvantaged people on the rest of the world, we need to first ask ourselves;
Are we leaving them in harm’s way?
Changing attitudes is a long path, battling against a long history of language that speaks down to people in need, but by changing the language of responsibility and taking some of it on board for ourselves, surely we can start the slow journey to a real equality of opportunity.
Take the time to change your inner monologue, take the time to change the words you use to the people you know, and as always, just be nice.
Josh Reid Jones - Founder of The Just Be Nice Project and Odin Sports