Reclaiming the World by Redefining Our Words
In the early 2000s, I read an article entitled, “Whose development is it anyway?” for one of our course assignments in graduate studies. It was unforgettable and has led me to look at the realities and illusions of development work. So, although part of my work is in the field of development, I opt for the words humanitarian, community-building or empowerment to describe an aspect of what I do.
The main reason for this is because the word development has been co-opted, used to drive agenda, and comes from a lot of assumptions rather than real understanding. Take for example the word underdeveloped, immediately there is a hierarchy based on economic growth, and presumes that development is needed by one from another (country, town/city, region).
There are so many words that have been co-opted and unconsciously define the world at this time. Words have power but we cannot access this power if we have relinquished it to someone else. The worlds contained in words are diverse as human beings on Earth but we rarely experience that because we take these words literally, especially when they come from those who have authority, those who often have power over us.
One word that has taken over is Terrorism. How simple it is to use this word to sow massive fear and reactivity, without question. The moment we let this word drive us to unconscious acts, it is as if we have built our own prison — trapping not just our fears but our capacity for compassion and empathy and our own freedoms. Remember, this is a co-opted word, a label with a utilitarian purpose – to divide, to incite fear, to drive an agenda. Is this a word to describe humanity, human beings, ourselves? This world is not about terror, more than anything Earth is about Love.
Let our experience be about the words that define us. Let us reclaim the world by defining the words and reclaim our words to define our world.