IG’s Peace Blog

Peace and its many aspects

A few thoughts about culture

If you have doubts about all that I and others have said about how violence has penetrated our cultures, I would invite you to carry out your own subjective “experiment”.  Pay attention to the language around you, particularly to the figures of speech and expressions.  I have, over time, been surprised by how often we use very violent expressions to express things that are not directly associated with violence.

The one that always comes to mind first with me is from a few years ago.  A major U.S. network was covering a working class family in a major American city in a sort of “reality show” format.  Unexpectedly, the husband lost his job.  When he was interviewed about it he said it was a “bomb.”  OK..that is a common enough expression (though it certainly reflects what I’m saying here).  But then he went on to say something like (I can’t guarantee these are his exact words–it was some time ago) “It was a twenty megaton bomb”.  Well, of course, this is hyperbolic, but I had to wonder if the (relatively) young man in question had any real idea what he was saying.

Let’s consider one or two examples from sports–no need to belabor this because in most societies the relationship between many sports and military type activities is close.  Let me start with myself.  As I have mentioned a couple of times, I play golf (getting better, but still not “good” 🙂 ).  This is generally considered a fairly genteel pastime.  However, when I hit a good drive (long, fairly high, nice loud “pop”) I can hear my own inner voice saying “Boy, you really killed that one!”.  Poor ball…DOA 🙂 .

I can remember a few decades ago seeing the Hall of Fame basketball star Bill Russell, telling the following story.  He was, for a brief time, the player coach of the Boston Celtics.  One game (maybe in the playoffs, I’m not sure) when his team had just pulled ahead of the opponents after scoring several unanswered points.  Russell called a time out, and in the team huddle everybody was excited about how well they were doing.  Russell himself said something like “Yeah!  We’re gonna kill  ’em!  We’re gonna kill ’em!”.  Later as he walked back out on the playing floor he apparently thought to himself something like:  “What the h*** is going on here?  Here I am running around in shorts talkin’ about killing people! ”

Here is a more mundane, but not necessarily less disturbing example.  The French equivalent of “Dig in!”–what we sometimes say colloquially in English before we start to eat a meal–is  “Attaquons”, which literally means (Let’s) Attack!  Given the quality of French food (most of the time) I find it hard to regard it as the enemy :-);  but there you go!

So, open your ears and hear what you can hear!

IGbarb says:  “Never mind ‘sticks and stones’, words definitely can hurt us!”


August 13, 2010 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , , ,

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