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The weight of words

personperson Don't believe everything you think'Merica! Veteran
edited August 4 in General Banter

This is an observation I've been making and a bit of a rant.

Words change meaning over time, they don't have a fixed definition, and that is fine and good with me. Definitions of words often have a certain moral weight behind them, pedophile, murder, generosity. When we think of words like these they have an emotional force behind them.

What I've been noticing though is that often people use words with slightly different meanings as if they have the same moral weight. I expect if I went back and looked this wouldn't be a new phenomena and occurs all across the political spectrum. A word that I've noticed fall into this category is violence. Violence has implied intention in it's definition. I've noticed violence used as synonymous with harm lately, today I heard someone refer to the harm caused by Flint, Michigan's lead in the water supply as a kind of violence.

Words change meaning, what bothers me about the way this word, and I'm sure others, are being used is that the meaning has subtly shifted to take intention out of them while simultaneously being wielded as if they held the same moral weight.

As a Buddhist, I've come to believe that intention is of primary importance in determining the morality of a thought or action. But in this word, as well as in other places, the import of intention in actions seems to be disappearing.

I don't think its just an issue because of misapplied morality, but it also weakens the impact of the words themselves. If speech is now violence, then it becomes justified to use actual violence against someone who's words hurt you since punching someone and verbal abuse are equivalent.

ShoshinCarameltailkandoKeromeDavid

Comments

  • ShoshinShoshin No one in particular Nowhere Special Veteran
    edited August 4

    @person said:
    The weight of words
    If speech is now violence, then it becomes justified to use actual violence against someone who's words hurt you since punching someone and verbal abuse are equivalent.

    It would seem that this is already the case and has been happening for many years...

    When a person ( not necessarily you @person ;) Hmm... I guess it could be you ;) ;) ) makes a derogatory remark about someone and that person takes offence (as many people do) and punches the him or her out...

    It's funny because words are just words, (vocal cord vibrations 'heard' pen & ink 'seen' ) but they can be moulded into effective. deadly weapons...

    War of Words (arguments)... Words of Mass Destruction ( WofMD = Gossip, rumours)

    At times a sharp tongue can cut/wound like a sharp knife...whether they just lash out or precision aiming for maximum effect...

    They are often used to disguise or get in the way of the truth...Hmm Kellyanne Conway comes to mind with her alternative facts ....

    personkando
  • personperson Don't believe everything you think 'Merica! Veteran

    Good point, though I guess I was thinking more about speech you don't agree with rather than fighting words that are not protected under free speech in the US.

    The way politico's spin and distort meanings of words for some other end than understanding or truth is bothering me more than it used to.

  • ShoshinShoshin No one in particular Nowhere Special Veteran

    Slightly off topic ( but I guess body language is just as important too)

    Just recently we (Aotearoa NZ) have had Ms Southern & and her partner in slime Mr Molyneux pollute our fine shores...For the most part NZ pride itself in being open and tolerant but this couple couldn't find a venue that was willing to let them spew out their pseudo-science racist rant 'hate speech'...

    I found observing (with the sound off...) the couple's over the top 'forced' body language was somewhat amusing, when they were being interviewed by a local TV reporter...

  • personperson Don't believe everything you think 'Merica! Veteran

    Well, regarding those types of speakers, not ever having paid attention to anything they've ever said, I could disagree with everything they say, find it offensive and hurtful and at the same time defend their right to say it.

    Freedom of speech is what allows minority groups the ability to stand up and advocate for their rights. If we start banning non fighting word speech because we find it offensive then what's to stop a Trump majority from banning the speech of minority voices it finds offensive?

    Personally, I tend to seek out views and opinions I disagree with as much if not more than ones that I do. I've seen lots of people talk about things and make arguments that I may disagree with 90% of but maybe I find something of value or hearing it strengthens my own position. I read things by people that hate me for who I am, where I live or what I believe and I find it uncomfortable or even hurtful.

    If no place wants to give them a platform to speak that's fine, nobody is forced to allow that. But if being hurt by words is the same as being hurt by a knife what does that permit people to do in return? And what does thinking about it like that do to one's mental resilience?

    I don't like hateful, hurtful speech. But I like the marketplace of ideas and the freedom to talk about unpopular things more.

    ShoshinCarameltail
  • ShoshinShoshin No one in particular Nowhere Special Veteran

    True @person
    However I guess it was a case of freedom of choice winning out over freedom of speech ,ie, local venues 'chose' not to entertain their racist homo/trans/Islamophobic verbal diarrhoea rant....AKA candy coated hate speech in the guise of freedom of speech ...

    Debating is one thing, it for the most part is mentally healthy, but with people like them that is, their mentally conditioned state ...Mental Awareness Disorder...(Mad for short) one can't argue/debate with a sick mind ...the local reporter found this out the hard way...however he did pull them up on their ranting, which they didn't take to kindly to when he did :)

    kando
  • lobsterlobster Veteran
    edited August 5

    ... me on a good day ...

    Right speech is a manifestation of dharma.

    The intent, expression and emphasis on wrong speech, wrong hearing and ignorance clutching is the opposite. B)

    In Sufism and Kabbalah, words create whole worlds and have layers of possibility.
    https://shingondharmazazen.wordpress.com/2007/12/24/the-paradox-of-universal-sufism-by-pir-zia-inayat-khan/i

    By all means be aware of fake news, infantile twitter, baby talk but if possible also consider the power inherent in:

    • Reframing
    • Tongue swallowing/biting
    • Skilfull wrathful speech (careful now - not easy)
    • Shingon (True Word) or layered speech
    • Weightless words that lighten our load

    http://bodhi.sofiatopia.org/tantra.htm

    kandoShoshin
  • personperson Don't believe everything you think 'Merica! Veteran

    @lobster said:
    Right speech is a manifestation of dharma.

    The intent, expression and emphasis on wrong speech, wrong hearing and ignorance clutching is the opposite.

    I'm not sure if I'm translating your meaning properly, but to the extent that right speech entails kind, beneficial speech for each of us as individuals I wholeheartedly agree. To the extent that right speech means enforcing our ideals onto others I disagree.

    Dialogue and speech is the only means we really have against ever ratcheted up ideology and a resorting to violence to resolve differences.

    Carameltail
  • KeromeKerome Love, love is mystery The Continent Veteran

    It’s difficult to raise standards, easy to lower them. All that it takes for things to slip is a bit of catchy jingoism, while to inspire people to take up right speech is hard. There is a never ending flood of words on the internet, and often those who talk the loudest spend the least time thinking about their words.

    kandolobsterpersonShoshin
  • kandokando northern Ireland Veteran

    @Shoshin said:
    Slightly off topic ( but I guess body language is just as important too)

    Just recently we (Aotearoa NZ) have had Ms Southern & and her partner in slime Mr Molyneux pollute our fine shores...
    I found observing (with the sound off...) the couple's over the top 'forced' was somewhat amusing, when they were being interviewed by a local TV reporter...

    That woman is not human, she's some kind of alien from a race evolved from mutant stick insects. No human being moves like that! :p I turned the sound off after the first two minutes also @Shoshin, the body language said it all!

    Shoshin
  • personperson Don't believe everything you think 'Merica! Veteran
    edited August 5

    @Kerome said:
    It’s difficult to raise standards, easy to lower them. All that it takes for things to slip is a bit of catchy jingoism, while to inspire people to take up right speech is hard. There is a never ending flood of words on the internet, and often those who talk the loudest spend the least time thinking about their words.

    The thought of compelled speech or some sort of new blasphemy laws scares the heck out of me. Minority and unpopular speech needs to be allowed or the danger is the majority can impose its will. I defend the right of the KKK to speak not for their benefit but for my benefit. The balance of power won't always be on your side, if the standard of allowing free speech is lowered, right speech can also be infringed upon.

    IMO removing intention from the word violence to make it mean simply harm lowers free speech standards.

    KeromekandoFearless0124
  • ShoshinShoshin No one in particular Nowhere Special Veteran
    edited August 5

    Words are just an interpretation of one's thoughts that are freed from the restraints of the mind...At times when thoughts are translated into words, they can end up getting lost in translation So... ...

    If my speech were truly free ...(taking into account the thoughts sapping through the mind in all directions, continually occupying mind space) I would be a babbling idiot (well more of a babbling idiot than I am now...thanks restrant ;) ) ....and if you don't believe me.... just listen to the freed speech of Ms Southern & Mr Molyneux ... :)

    kando
  • lobsterlobster Veteran

    @person said:
    To the extent that right speech means enforcing our ideals onto others I disagree.

    Dharmic right speech is a personal possibility ...

    Dialogue and speech is the only means we really have against ever ratcheted up ideology and a resorting to violence to resolve differences.

    Perhaps the alternatives are always available ... The stimulation and attachment to conflicted ideas and engagement by opposition is part of the situation. The solution may be outside the impediment:
    http://newbuddhist.com/discussion/6920/buddhism-and-conflict-resolution
    https://www.mediate.com/articles/cloke10.cfm

  • kandokando northern Ireland Veteran

    Freedom of speech is a tricky one as the people most likely to exploit it are so often violent. I would use this forum as an example and wonder what it would be like without our awesome moderators? I've been on one other site where the mods were either asleep, drunk or possibly even dead and to call it bedlam would be an understatement. The misuse of words is an act of violence in itself, and I love words :)

    lobsterShoshin
  • personperson Don't believe everything you think 'Merica! Veteran

    @kando said:
    Freedom of speech is a tricky one as the people most likely to exploit it are so often violent.

    Remember the suffrage movement used freedom of speech to gain the right to vote. The civil rights movement pushed back against segregation via free speech. In the US there was a period of time where [McCarthyism] (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/McCarthyism "https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/McCarthyism") tried to suppress peoples right to free association as being unamerican and turned into a communist witch hunt.

    I would use this forum as an example and wonder what it would be like without our awesome moderators? I've been on one other site where the mods were either asleep, drunk or possibly even dead and to call it bedlam would be an understatement.

    Maybe there is a distinction that can be made between social communities and the larger sphere of ideas? Understanding intent and the effect of words on a small scale is easier and more targeted than applying laws or controls at a society wide level, it suppresses too much and gets abused.

    The misuse of words is an act of violence in itself, and I love words :)

    What I worry about is who gets to decide what words and thus ideas are out of bounds, the good guys won't always have the power. At some point in time all ideas push against socially accepted reality. Getting into the business of banning words sets a precedent that may work against you in the future.

    I've heard the right words used in a hateful way and the wrong words used in an innocent or neutral way. Is it the word or idea itself, or the attitude of the speaker that is important? People can be cruel, people can argue ideas in bad faith, and people can say very similar things in kindness or in good faith. The harm is in the intention rather than the words themselves.

    Equating speech with violence is a first step towards making certain speech illegal. Since physical violence is illegal, if we begin to think of speech in the same terms then it would be just to ban words as well. The whole notion is very disturbing to me, maybe free speech is sacred to me?

    Keromekando
  • lobsterlobster Veteran
    edited August 9

    @kando said:
    I've been on one other site where the mods were either asleep, drunk or possibly even dead and to call it bedlam would be an understatement.

    I was moderator on a Buddhist forum where one of my fellow moderators died (I have an alibi). :p Most of them are asleep and drunk on their Buddhist 'power' and expertise.

    Pah! (it is an expression of disgust - as in DJ trump is a potass - Pah!) Our moderators here are outstanding. B) Wide experience of life not just being outraged by wayward semi-Buddhist crustaceans ...

    The most important thing is humour and compassion and @karasti one of our moderators enjoying her real life summer has outstanding common sense. I like common sense. It is the Middle Way that I deviate so regularly from. I hope she may post again in a while ...

    I was of course removed as moderator, because I rarely questioned forum members but moderators require special scrutiny. Tee hee! They did not like their killer insight questioned ... o:)

    Long Live the Dharma Revolution ... <3
    Buddha is The Jeweled Word

    kando
  • KeromeKerome Love, love is mystery The Continent Veteran

    @kando said:
    Freedom of speech is a tricky one as the people most likely to exploit it are so often violent. I would use this forum as an example and wonder what it would be like without our awesome moderators?

    I reckon the forum would still be awesome. Most people here have a good sense of right speech, and — I get the impression, I could be wrong — often choose not to say something when they feel they don’t have a positive contribution to make. Hence almost every post on this forum is worth reading, and almost every link worth following.

    But you are right, that too is a credit to the moderators who do an excellent job weeding out undesirables who try to join.

    kando
  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator

    We do our best, but equal credit is due to the long-term members who are a virtual family, and who know, far more often than not, where the line is drawn. It's thankfully as rare as hen's teeth that the Mod-keisaku even needs waving... Admonishment from me is usually confined to a private word, and fair to say, argument is very rare. Newbies who end up with a sense of entitlement, throwing their weight about are usually shown the nearest exit.
    I have been here 13 years.
    I love this forum and all who stay. Either for a cuppa, 3-course dinner or of course, the long haul... <3

    personkandoKundolobster
  • kandokando northern Ireland Veteran

    @person said:

    Remember the suffrage movement used freedom of speech to gain the right to vote. The civil rights movement pushed back against segregation via free speech. In the US there was a period of time where [McCarthyism] (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/McCarthyism "https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/McCarthyism") tried to suppress peoples right to free association as being unamerican and turned into a communist witch hunt.

    I would use this forum as an example and wonder what it would be like without our awesome moderators? I've been on one other site where the mods were either asleep, drunk or possibly even dead and to call it bedlam would be an understatement.

    Maybe there is a distinction that can be made between social communities and the larger sphere of ideas? Understanding intent and the effect of words on a small scale is easier and more targeted than applying laws or controls at a society wide level, it suppresses too much and gets abused.

    The misuse of words is an act of violence in itself, and I love words :)

    What I worry about is who gets to decide what words and thus ideas are out of bounds, the good guys won't always have the power. At some point in time all ideas push against socially accepted reality. Getting into the business of banning words sets a precedent that may work against you in the future.

    I've heard the right words used in a hateful way and the wrong words used in an innocent or neutral way. Is it the word or idea itself, or the attitude of the speaker that is important? People can be cruel, people can argue ideas in bad faith, and people can say very similar things in kindness or in good faith. The harm is in the intention rather than the words themselves.

    Equating speech with violence is a first step towards making certain speech illegal. Since physical violence is illegal, if we begin to think of speech in the same terms then it would be just to ban words as well. The whole notion is very disturbing to me, maybe free speech is sacred to me?

    Absolutely agree on free speech @person,, it must never be tampered with, it just scares the hell out of me when it's used as an excuse for racist and sexist hatred and to ferment fear and hysteria. Intention is the force that propels the words, for good or ill.

    lobsterShoshinperson
  • kandokando northern Ireland Veteran

    @lobster said:

    I was moderator on a Buddhist forum where one of my fellow moderators died (I have an alibi). :p Most of them are asleep and drunk on their Buddhist 'power' and expertise.

    Pah! (it is an expression of disgust - as in DJ trump is a potass - Pah!) Our moderators here are outstanding. B) Wide experience of life not just being outraged by wayward semi-Buddhist crustaceans ...

    The most important thing is humour and compassion and @karasti one of our moderators enjoying her real life summer has outstanding common sense. I like common sense. It is the Middle Way that I deviate so regularly from. I hope she may post again in a while ...

    I also need people around with good old common sense @lobster. As for the other site It's the old conundrum beloved of sci-fi of who watches the watchers! :)

  • lobsterlobster Veteran

    @kando I have to watch myself, too much uncommon sense and I get accused of talking gibberish, which I am fluent in ... :3

    The important thing is @federica does not allow me a pet troll. She is quick to spot dharma trolls, dharma know it alls and unkind/hurt people. B)

    It is the intention, motivation to be of help, to practice and inspire and support. That is the Metta Way, Friendly Way, Middle Way ...

    I'll join. Oh I did ... o:)

    And now a word from our hero and His :p
    https://studybuddhism.com/en/essentials/universal-values/honesty-trust-and-friendship

    This post sponsored by Raising Trolls for Fun and Prophet (not ‘Muhammad the Unholy Profit’ incidentally) who is free for trolls ... 😉💗🤪

    kando
  • kandokando northern Ireland Veteran

    The troll management programme here is first class, there must be a Home for Sulking Trolls out there somewhere, in the ether......... :)

    lobsterKundo
  • kandokando northern Ireland Veteran

    Also the link is brilliant as is HHDL. He has a way of putting the most complicated things (for me at least!) so simply and it always touches the heart. <3

    lobster
  • ShoshinShoshin No one in particular Nowhere Special Veteran

    The weight of words

    Words can (and often do) weigh heavy on some people's minds...

    I'm under the impression it's to do with one attachment to this psycho-physical phenomenon..(P-P P)

    We hear or read what's been said/written then start to process it, deciding whether it's wholesome (beneficial to 'me') or unwholesome (detrimental to 'me') or neutral ( means nothing to 'me' )...

    If the words are agreeable with the P-P P (the bait's taken) then there could be a boost to ones ego, and if it goes against the grain (the bait's taken) then unease arises...If it's taken as neutral it just flows on by...

    I'm guessing the Buddha was onto something when he said...
    "Sabbe dhamma nalam abhinivesaya" (Nothing whatsoever should be clung to)..

    It's a hard habit to break...but it is breakable :)

    kandofedericaperson
  • lobsterlobster Veteran

    @kando said:
    Absolutely agree on free speech @person,, it must never be tampered with, it just scares the hell out of me when it's used as an excuse for racist and sexist hatred and to ferment fear and hysteria. Intention is the force that propels the words, for good or ill.

    I am not scared but angered by ill will. It hurts everyone. Angry words or thoughts are not skilfull but 'saintly' is not on my CV.

    Words are power. Poets, press and speech get banned by Fake pResidents. By fake I mean frauds, divisive, haters. Selfish, frightened little tRumps.

    And now back to the things we love:
    Metta, Love, Happiness, Wisdom, Compassion.
    Good words.

    kando
  • kandokando northern Ireland Veteran

    @lobster said:

    @kando said:
    Absolutely agree on free speech @person,, it must never be tampered with, it just scares the hell out of me when it's used as an excuse for racist and sexist hatred and to ferment fear and hysteria. Intention is the force that propels the words, for good or ill.

    I am not scared but angered by ill will. It hurts everyone. Angry words or thoughts are not skilfull but 'saintly' is not on my CV.

    Words are power. Poets, press and speech get banned by Fake pResidents. By fake I mean frauds, divisive, haters. Selfish, frightened little tRumps.

    And now back to the things we love:
    Metta, Love, Happiness, Wisdom, Compassion.
    Good words.

    Truer words were never spoken @lobster <3

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