Wednesday, April 17, 2013

It’s Our ATTITUDE That Counts

Our choice of the words we use can tell us much about our attitude and what is going on in our minds. Some of the words which appear frequently in our speech and our journalism are “fight”, or “battle”, or “war”. We use them so frequently and ubiquitously that we don’t seem to be aware of their implication other than their appeal to the human tendency to place warriors on a pedestal and to assure the flow of the adrenal hormone, epinephrine which energizes us and prepares us for combat.

Warriors, brave as they are, are actually the victims of our basal instinct to protect ourselves by using force. It is the warrior who pays the price of death, or mutilation, or captivity and suffering. It is also the warrior who causes death and destruction, often not of his own choosing, but at the bidding of a commander or ruler.

Wouldn’t it be wiser for us to learn new attitudes and more civilized emotional responses to whatever challenges we face instead of the genetic flight or fight tendency with which we were born? A change in attitude must come first and this will enable a change in behavior. We must convince ourselves, through introspection and good will, that (a) change is needed if we are to reduce the incidence of violence in the world, (b) change is possible, and (c) less violence will benefit us all.

A good start toward changing attitudes and reducing violence might be to avoid using words which connote violence when rallying to face any challenge—social, political, or international. Does every effort to correct a bad situation need to be phrased in violent terms? Would it convey our message in more constructive fashion if, instead of “fight” or “battle” or “war”, we spoke of our concerns and our intentions as goals or ideals and stated our commitment to constructive effort/cooperation in order to improve? Rather than a “war on poverty” we might call for a ”common goal to reduce the incidence of poverty”. Instead of a “fight against terrorism” we might advocate “a united effort to reduce the likelihood of terrorism”. I know, I know---this sounds soft and uninspiring—until we do enough of it to make us feel the positive energy and power that comes from joining together and realizing that we need not be savages in order to be effective; we need not resort to killing in order to reduce the action of would-be killers. We need not execute murderers (capital punishment) in order to reduce violence—in fact just the opposite. By refraining from using violence in our legal system, we can set the example that violence does not solve anything other than self defense.


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