Tyranny of words

“You ask, “What is fire burning?” Robert replies with a knowing look, “Oxidation.” You are awed into silence, although “oxidation” means no more to you than “burning.” Neither does it to him. By using a synonym with more letters, he takes his place as your intellectual superior. He is often unable to perform or describe the operations which give validity to the concept of oxidation. How often are children put in their places by such fraudulent means? How many professors instructing the young keep their positions because it is widely held that they know a subject when all they know is the symbolization connected with it? The fact that one knows the names of insects or plants does not make him a competent biologist.” Tyranny of words Stuart Chase.

Activism if it is to be most effective means we can’t tailor make it to suit our personal needs – the activism has to fit the problem not the other way round. One thing that keeps those in power happy is if those in opposition spend most of their time writing articles and books to criticise them and show them the errors of their ways. Because they know if we are busy doing that we are not helping to organise a resistance against their power, which if we think about it, is the most effective threat we can make to their interests.

If we are to be useful to communities we need to understand the problems from the perspective of the people in the communities. Rather than speaking truth to power, but more speaking (and listening) to people. Why is so much time taken up explaining things to the powerful and thinking up strategies? This is usually the work of folk who don’t want to do anything useful like organisation. Strategies, if they are meaningful, develop through activity, not the other way round.

“We have physicists, geometricians, chemists, astronomers, poets, musicians, and painters in plenty, but we have no longer a citizen among us.” Rousseau