Right in the centre - Words are important


By Ken Waddell

Neepawa Banner & Press

Some older people may remember a school textbook by the name of “Words are Important”. It’s true, words are important.

It is sad to see how words and phrases have been downgraded over the years

Canada has always been called a land of opportunity in a very positive way. Why then, has the word “opportunist” become so negative. People will disparagingly say,”He’s nothing but an opportunist.” Being an opportunist is, and should be, a good attribute but it has been trampled into the mud. Have to wonder if it jealousy, wrapped in laziness that has brought this negative reaction?

Back in the day, when I was a politician, people would ask, again negatively, ”Why do you want to be a politician?” I would answer that I wanted to be a politician to serve the community and I would make no apology for being a politician. I would say I am a good politician and quite frankly, I believe I was a good politician. I worked hard at it and so did my wife and many supporters. I spoke reasonably well and I believe I served well. I feel reasonably good about the two times I served as mayor of Neepawa. I wasn’t as successful at the provincial and federal level, but I learned a lot and at times, that experience has paid off for our community and region. The words I spoke and wrote over the years have, in a small way, contributed to the successes of this region.

I also have no illusions of grandeur as the roles I have played could have been filled by any of dozens of other people.

Shaping our society today is the  bad use of words and the use of bad words. We all use words sloppily and often with very negative intent and effects. It’s not uncommon to hear anger expressed as, “I could have killed them.” Manifested to its literal extent, that threatening sentiment has resulted in thousands of deaths in mass shootings over the decades. If words are important, then we have to treat them that way.

Back in the day, and maybe to some extent today, a child would be scolded for saying they were going to “kill” somebody or even some living creature. When a large percentage of people were farm based, they knew the real meaning of kill. You killed chickens, hogs or cattle for food. Kill was a real and meaningful word. Killing is final and farm folks knew that as fact.

So was death a real and meaningful word, as in addition to the death of elderly people, most families had felt the sting of infants dying, mothers lost in childbirth and fathers dying in accidents. Families in the 1900s knew all too well about family members dying at the battle front. Death was taken seriously.

Today, not so much, as killing and death is glorified or trivialized. TV shows, movies and video games depict death as fun, glorious and thrilling. There is a detachment from reality and one has to wonder if many murders and mass shootings are rooted in a sick thrill search set apart  from reality.

The same slippage in the value of words can be attached to how loosely society speaks about sexual assault. Sexual assault has always been wrong, and always will be, but it’s hard to tell today by the way the music and entertainment industry seem to claim rights to unconstrained sexual assault. It is hugely old fashioned to say that sexual activity was meant to be between two people in a life long commitment, but it’s a true ideal. I didn’t create that ideal. Neither did the Muslim, Jewish or Christian or many other faith groups God did.

Words are hugely important because they illuminate intentions and conduct. If we truly want better outcomes from our intentions and our conduct, perhaps we should choose our words more carefully.

Disclaimer: The writer serves as a volunteer president of the Manitoba Community Newspaper Association. The views expressed in this column are the writer’s personal views and are not to be taken as being  the view of the MCNA board or Banner & Press staff.