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Use Your Voice

I wrote this essay for a radio show I am broadcasting today, and thought I would post it here as well.


Many, if not all, violent conflicts arise from a lack of respectful dialogue. Most people yearn for a foundation to stand on, and these foundations can vary in their quality. Some people are drawn to political discourse and action, some to religious beliefs, others gravitate to a sense of family or community, and then there are those—in my mind, the truly impoverished—who cling to material things and hoard money for a sense of security.

We are all seeking security; indeed, true security is a function of community and spiritual practice, at least in my life. Because human life is diverse, there are many different ideas about the essence of security. In this country, since September 11th, 2001, we have heard the relentless and impassioned calls for “national security,” and also for the right to “freedom.” The problem, as I see it, in both of these nationalistic buzzwords, is that they encourage Americans to idolize commodities and consumables. When George W. Bush, his associates, and the capitalist Americans that fall into the same camp, make speeches about “freedom,” they are speaking of a freedom to consume without conscience, as well as freedom to impose global capitalism on developing countries. These are the underlying forces driving the war on Terrorism abroad and at home, as well as the war on civil liberties in America.

A large part of the war on civil liberties and so-called “Terrorism” is a confrontational approach—the infamous “with us or against us” style of George W. Bush. Such a linguistic approach alienates and divides; it polarizes populations into separate camps. Indeed, in declaring that people are either “with” or “against,” this type of language creates the conditions for a stark reality of oppsoing, often warring, factions.

This is the power of language to shape and co-create reality. I believe it is important to note that this power to shape and co-create reality is a defining characteristic of language, and to my mind it’s most powerful attribute. Equally important to note is that language and its power is not the exclusive property of any one ideology, political party, religious group, or race. Rather, language a defining factor of humanity, and every human’s birthright. Language does have the power to polarize and divide men and women, but it also has the power to define values and community, and most important, language is the tool we use for dialogue.

Perhaps the problems of the world are not as stark and drastic as they have been presented by the popular media and people in seats of power. Perhaps instead the root of humanity’s problems lies in a failure to engage in respectful dialogue, to use the birthright tool of language for constructive, positive ends. When individuals realize that language is indeed an open-ended tool, theirs to use for good or ill, they find themselves in a position of responsibility and power; they also may find themselves in a space where suddenly the impossible seems possible—not easy, necessarily, but certainly possible. Using language as a tool, we can co-create, recreate, and shape our own personal reality. By reshaping or re-coloring the linguistic filters through which we daily and habitually view the world, we are able to create dramatic changes in consciousness. These changes not only affect our personal consciousness, but they have the power to affect the consciousness of others as well. Indeed, our thoughts, speech, and actions are powerful tools that are ours to use for good or ill, for the healing or destruction of the world. We start with little steps, little changes, and these by themselves can create immense ripples and revolutions in human consciousness, in the same way of the well-known butterfly flapping its wings. Yet even in that proverb, which states that a butterfly flapping its wings in China can create a devastating wind on the other side of the world, the tool of language is misapplied. By simply re-visioning this saying into something along the lines of, “A butterfly flapping it’s wings in China has the power to send a breeze that will extinguish fires in South America,” we can refine the power of language to serve a more healing purpose.

Nearly every human being has the tool of either spoken or written language, and even those without the capacity to speak or write should be able to communicate in some way, perhaps only by simple bodily expressions. Yet a smile can smash walls and free prisoners. Consistently applied, and utilized in groups as well as by individuals, positive language and constructive dialogue holds the power to transform a bleak, ravished, depressed world into a vibrant, polyphonic, hopeful globe of amazing beauty and variety, which is another birthright of every human being, and one that has been denied to all of us for too long.
Re: Use Your Voice

Kindest Regards, Pathless!

Just wanted to chime in quickly. While I may not agree with placing blame on conservative politics, I think your essay is very good.

I see both sides of the political spectrum as being equally capable of doing horrible things, or great things. I am in total agreement that respectful dialogue is key to moving forward and correcting injustices. Thanks.