Blog entry by Alan Chapman
Language and Power
Please note: I believe that leadership (helpful or unhelpful) is shown by anyone/everyone, especially when example reaches and influences an audience. Also where I refer to leaders who behave unhelpfully, selfishly, harmfully, etc., I accept that even the most psychopathic harmful people mostly are doing their best according to how they see themselves and the outer world/universe. We all see life as we are, not as life is.
So, language and power - it's more than we normally imagine
Language, especially in written and spoken words, is a fundamentally important way that we see life, and everything.
But words are man-made, and mostly by men not women, because scholars and publishers who have recorded and controlled language have tended to be men, throughout history.
This applies to basically everything else in life that is conditioned and taught and practised and imposed from top-down.
And so male bias is embedded into language.
And so, also power systems are embedded into language.
The power of wealth, class, government, religion, academia, science, business, military and police force, educational and legal systems... everywhere, is organised and constantly reinforced, throughout history and societies, by language.
For example, the centuries-old political systems of England and its connected inter-dependent legal systems, are organised by a form of language that is designed to be exclusive, and to resist and repel access by anyone who does not understand the language.
Another example is the use of 'working class' language (and content) by highly sophisticated wealthy media and other corporations to persuade 'working class' people to believe things that are against the interests and needs of 'working class' people.
The BBC is another interesting example. In many respects its output is an extension of UK Government, not least because it relies on Government to support the licence fee and the effective state-funding of the corporation, thus averting painful adaptation to a self-sufficiency model and monopoly break-up, which would be felt crucially in the salaries and job securities of the leaders of the corporation. "He who pays the piper calls the tune."
Ironically the BBC is able to offer content that at times is anti-establishment.
This is a joyous and deeply significant example - crucially useful education for us all and our future - although again the language of the debate, and the channel (BBC Radio 4) is inaccessible and unappealing to most/many of the people whose lives would be changed by learning about it - because of the elitist tone of the entire channel, unavoidably a refection of the BBC's elitist leadership:
The discussion is about the power of the ancient Greek and Roman 'Classics' - the languages of Greek and Latin and the works of Classic teachers, thinkers, writers, scientists and philosophers - and how this is still used today to protect the exclusive gentleman's club of wealthy elite 'leaders' who basically control British economics, politics, law, and the lives of the majority of Britian's people, and still many others around the world.
It's also a discussion about 'cynicism' as a form of authenticity or philosophy - and the questioning of truths, injustices, inequalities, abuses, etc - which is fabulously relevant also in how and whether humanity will be able to save itself from complete destruction in the anthropocene (sixth extinction - climate, ecosystem and economic collapses, increasingly tipping into their final stages).
The panelists Edith Hall and Ansgar Allen, and interviewer Tom Sutcliffe, are all wonderful. It is extremely accessible and easy to understand, although it would be better for humanity's survival for this sort of fabulous educational content to be broadcast on channels with much bigger audiences, and for the discussion to be explained in ways that humble folk would find more welcoming.
Why is this relevant for humanity's survival?
Simply, language has been hijacked and become the tool of power.
Language is how we see the world and how we think.
Words have meanings.
These meanings are controlled and defined and reinforced, and changed, by the people and their systems that govern us, sell to us, educate us, police us, legislate and punish us, tax us, and spend (or mostly keep/steal) our money and labour, through taxation, in partnership with financial and banking systems, and through the huge grossly profiteering corporations who lie to us and addict us to harmful, killing services and products such as processed foods (fat, salt, sugar, etc), tobacco, consumables that should be durables and repairables (the throwaway, built-in obsolescent society), big pharma (drugs that kills us and make us dependent on more drugs), alcohol, fashion (esp clothes, cars, glitz), surveillance an social media, etc, etc., all of which cause pollution (the biggest killer on the planet), climate change, and ecosystem collapse....
I'm an optimist, but really, it's time to start making a fuss about all this.
It's about all of us.
As ever, enough people can make wonderful changes happen.
Love to all.
P.S. Listen to Alan Bleakley (polymath, education, language and much more, Plymouth University). He's brilliant too: