by Lincoln Sayger
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There is a relationship between words and order.
Perhaps this is why political camps want to control words. Perhaps they feel that controlling the words will control the order of the world. In truth, while words have great power, they are not powerful enough to alter reality. The only way words can change reality is by changing perception, which changes behavior, which can turn a lie into a true fact, or an accurate statement into a lie. However, this convoluted path of power does not allow the words to change the fabric of reality, only the accuracy of a fact that was already malleable, such as a statement of what portion of a group believes something, or how many people put money into a bank, or how many people live in a region. The force of gravity or the density of a rock cannot be changed by altering the words used to describe them. Whatever definitions we choose for the words we use, the realities described will be consistent under those definitions.
The same is true for non-physical realities that do not describe statistical measures such as those mentioned above. Metaphysical and spiritual realities do not change if the words used to describe them change meanings. The words may be altered to describe a different concept, but they do not change the original concept, which remains. Only our understanding of the original concept or truth may be muddied by changing the meaning of words we used in describing them. And as our understanding of a word changes, statements made before the words changed may become false in our understanding, but even these are not truly changed, because it is our perception that is false, not the statements themselves, for the concepts they described remain true when the words are viewed in their original context, in the same way that a row of jars does not change in number because they are viewed from an angle that hides some jars behind others, nor because they are seen by one so near-sighted that he cannot bring the farthest jars into focus, nor because they are seen by one who has no understanding of what a jar is.
So, reality is not changed by changing the meaning of words, but people can lose the knowledge, wisdom, and truth of the statements that use those words when the words are changed for unsound reasons. Thus, efforts to maintain language purity are useful to any people. This is not to say that languages should not develop over time to meet the needs of new concepts and situations. But it should be that language should change to represent shifts in meaning, not merely shifts in sentiment, such as a people avoiding the use of hare for a sort of rabbit because a prominent official has thinning hair. People often point to linguistic drift as a reason for dismissing concerns about proper usage and status-marker mistakes, but if we do not maintain purity of language, communication, the conveying of ideas, is hindered.
The co-opting of words to obscure their meaning is sometimes used to try to shift word meaning based on sentiment, but this is a dangerous practice, for it denies not only the specific and present reality but the presence of reality in general, as well. Long-term understanding of the world around us is thus distorted for short-term and uncertain gains for some faction. Words are destroyed because someone does not like the current order, but the order is not destroyed because the words have become like dulled shears beaten with a rock, unable to do the job for which they were developed. A false story is told with words that were previously reliable, and the truth is transformed into a lie. The truth remains, but our connection to it as a people is severed because the words have been severed from their proper meanings.
Society should beware of this practice and avoid rewarding it, for mutilating words to sneak proposals past those who disagree with the proposals prevents everyone from speaking clearly, and speaking clearly is one of the pillars of understanding, and understanding is one of the best defenses against bigotry and prejudice, and bigotry is one of the seeds of injustice and discord. The more plainly we speak, and the more honestly we allow people to exercise their rights to free thought, free speech, and free political expression, the easier it will be for society to reach agreements on peaceable terms within which we can all live.
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