Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Reflection on Language


Language is not simply communication, it is also manipulation. This is true of all language because when we guide someone through language to understand something as we do, we are devising a kind of map that guides the listener to the point. We are, through intent and skill, managing what is and is not perceived. The difference between this and something we might call propaganda is only the difference of intention behind that guidance. It is what Keats sensed when he said, “We hate poetry that has a palpable design upon us.” It is what Orwell understood when he said, “All art is propaganda.” Thus the language in everything from a poem to a casual conversation carries in its nuances the potential to free or ensnare our humanity. Those who do not respect that power have the potential to misuse it, while those who do not respect humanity have the potential to abuse it. The former is ignorance; the latter is evil.