Blog entry by Alan Chapman
Language, Power and Leadership
Here are connected examples of the significance of language and leadership.
Please note that in my view 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 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.
This is about Fiona Oakes and Chris Swanson - two incredible brilliant leaders...
1.1 Fiona Oakes
Fiona Oakes.... is easily one of the most incredible role models for selfless courage and fearlessness in leadership.
She is example of the enormous resilience and strength of women. This is a hugely relevant for our times.
Fiona Oakes runs her own animal sanctuary of 400 animals. She holds several world records for endurance marathons that men cannot better. She could not walk properly as a young woman, was obese and very ill, and had one of her kneecaps removed. She was told by doctors that she might never walk again.
Fiona Oakes: - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fiona_Oakes
Fiona Oakes is under-stated. She seems to have virtually no ego or sense of 'self priority' or even 'self-protection'. She is the best example of physical and emotional strength I have ever seen - male or female - and so to me is further evidence that female strength - resilience, physical and emotional - is greater than male.
Fiona Oakes - Running for Good - Be astounded -
URL - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rPovf1-E8xg - shortlink bit.ly/fiona-oakes-rfg
URL - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jWPRAjb4Nto
1.2 Chris Swanson
The tragic death of George Floyd in police custody in Minnesota on 25 May 2020, and its grim aftermath offers - and will continue to offer - hugely powerful teachings.
Somewhat lost in the mainstream media about riots, curfews, and conflicts between people/protesters and authorities/enforcement officers, is the leadership shown by the Sheriff of Flint, Michigan, Chris Swanson.
So I looked into Chis Swanson's background, and share what I discovered.
Above is a very early video that's fuller and more powerful than the edited versions that have dominated search results more recently. This is the URL: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5DoWlKS_TkA I've also created the shortlink bit.ly/flintleader
This video by Chris Swanson is very fabulous:
Significantly he talks about resilience, fearlessness - and taking the first step - facing your demons - talk to others who will support you.. Make it happen.
It's how we find courage. Chris Swanson's work is enormously powerful in good ways. So is his language and what he makes it mean. There are other paths to fearlessness. Find one that works for you.
Note that many other news outlets have carried the Flint Swanson story, although the negative violent aspects of George Floyd's death and aftermath have been the main media coverage. As ever, look at as many sources as you can, to get a blend, and see the different perspectives. Go deeper than what is offered by initial search results and mainstrearm sensationalised media, Find your own truth. Question. Probe. The truth is there when you look and use your own mind.
I repeat: 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.
Besides the positive language of Oakes' and Swanson's leadership above, there is a much more sinister and hidden aspect of language and power:
The point is this: Language is not meaning and truth. Language is what people make it mean.
Chris Swanson makes language mean powerfully good things.
But many people in power, and the power of huge economic and corporate and governance systems tend to make language mean powerfully distorted and negative things.
Some of the wisest people in history share the view that language has mostly been corrupted and is now controlled by the most powerful people and systems in our world.
President Trump offers excellent examples very often, and there is a particularly notable and easy example in his speaking and tweeting about the George Floyd protests.
He refers to 'domestic terrorism'.
The word 'terrorism' has been distorted by powerful people in politics and economics/media to mean 'foreigners who bomb and kill us'. He makes this mean also 'people of colour and Asian ethnicity and religion'.
So when Trump uses the term 'domestic terrorism' he suggests and makes the meaning that the protesters are like 'foreigners who bomb and kill us', and 'people of colour and Asian ethnicity and religion'.
In fact most acts of terrorism in the USA, and many other part of the 'white' world, are committed by white extremists.
Trump is not alone in distorting the language of 'terrorism'. Tony Blair did it a lot, and so did Margaret Thatcher. Thatcher distorted and controlled language to make horrifically wrong meanings of her leadership against the British coal miners, trades unions, the Irish people, and particularly in the Falklands War and the sinking of the Belgrano.
Tony Blair distorted and controlled language to make horrifically wrong meanings of the 'War on Terror', in alliance with George W Bush, and the huge corporations that benefited from the chaos of Iraq. There seems a systemic toxicity that makes it very difficult for any political leader to lead with love and honesty. For this to change the people who elect leaders, and tolerate their excesses and distortions, must change too, and perhaps first.
Boris Johnson, and his allies in politics and media, distort language and control meaning when they communicate and announce things. This warped control of meaning is then cascaded through the hierarchies - "He who pays the piper calls the tune..." - and so society becomes part of the distortion because we do not question it enough.
The distortion and control of language and what it means is beyond the words - distortion and control are also in the accent and tone of voice (e.g., the use of a 'posh' and 'educated' dialect, the use of long complicated and technical words, to mean that the person is in authority and should be respected).
The control of language and distortion of meaning has existed for hundreds of years - notably via the exclusive 'gentleman's club' of Latin and Greek, which like Boris Johnson's reference to 'spaffing' (a public school slang for masturbating), is still used today to exclude people from power.
Women and young people especially, and the poor and ravaged, the different and the marginalised, and all ordinary people are excluded from the gentleman's club of power and leadership, wealth and economic protectionism.
Denialism too. Mostly these people cannot help themselves to think more profoundly and cooperatively. They are deeply fearful. 'Control freaks' is an apt term. It's another distortion of language, but it's apt for wounded leaders.
A good strong leader surrounds him/herself by people who challenge and question the leader all the time.
Weak insecure leaders surround themselves by people who are a mirror image of the leader. 'Yes men' (and it's usually men). Other people who want power and wealth and who speak and use the same distorted language of control, even though many of them do it completely unwittingly. Children. And that is an insult to children.
Much of this power and control is driven by insecurity and ego, especially male bias and narcissism. 'Wounded Leaders' as the brilliant Nick Duffell's book explains. Hence the characterization of Trump as a baby. So Boris is childlike, and he plays the part and clowns around while people are dying, because he knows how language and meaning works. Trump too. They are both from media backgrounds. They understand how language can persuade millions that black is white, earth is sky, and, "We are all in this together."
Climate change will determine this eventually, perhaps catastrophically. At which event the homeless will survive the longest. This is another story, although it's all connected. What leadership do we want?
I suggest there is more far truth and far less distortion when we overhear comments from ordinary people such as, "Bollocks to politicians, I hear more truth from beggars, battered wives, and tiny children."
Ask yourself. Who do you trust in life? And then apply that thinking to the language of people in power.
The distortion and control of language and what it means is also in the clothes - the suits and ties - the flags, the symbols of authority, the red for stop and green for go - the wigs of judges, the collars of priests, and the uniforms of police and generals on parade.
These are among the systemic secret embedded controls of meaning and what we are made to think.
All politicians distort the meaning of language, or they would not have become politicians. We all do, but it becomes extremely dangerous when language and symbols are so cleverly and secretly controlled by people and systems of wealth, authority and economic power, when their aims are to protect an grow their wealth, authority, and economic power.
Follow the money.
Language is not truth. It is what we make it mean. And increasingly these meanings are made for us by those in power.
Incidentally one of the effects of catastrophic climate collapse, if it comes before a new leadership system emerges, which is entirely feasible, is that it will quickly equalise reality - during which time we will see that those with the wealth and power will fall fast into desperate anxiety and physical and emotional disintegration. Everything that maintains their power and wealth will mean nothing. The future leaders will be the truly resourceful, capable, resilient. Those who have the least. This that other big story. Think about it.
What can you do to learn more about making your own meaning?...
I urge you to think about language, and what it means. What it makes us believe, think and do. How divisively and cynically the language of power is used to fragment us all, to stop the crucial cooperation that Chris Swanson demonstrates.
Think about it. Think about Chris Swanson and Fiona Oakes and what they teach us. About truth and love and what is real power and fearlessness, and where we find it, and how we develop it for ourselves..
At its simplest the fact that 'language is what we make it mean' is very easy to understand....
For example, if you ask all of your friends to define the word 'love' or 'fear' you will hear different definitions from each of them.
So too with any other word, and the simpler the words then the more so, for example:
Ask people to define 'truth' or 'cold' or 'grief' or sad' .... or try asking for definitions of words like 'how' or 'is' or 'old' or 'universe' or 'die' or 'for'.
So when sentences are assembled, and conveyed using emphasis, the possible interpretations are infinite.
And this flexibility enables language to be controlled.
If you want to explore the subject more deeply then look at the great thinkers' work on philosophy, and the meaning of life, universe and everything. It's deeply fascinating: Enjoy. (Whatever that means to you...)
Go easy. Step by step. Your own ways. Be fearless in making the first step. Talk to others. Let it unfold and come to you, and you will become fearless for all time. And able to show others how too.