19 July 2010

The Mel Factor: What happens when your ego grows faster than your vocabulary

Current events have shown a dark side of our language: its potential as a weapon. Words are a developed cultural symbolism used to convey thoughts and ideas. Human imagination doesn't always produce words of sweetness and light, as we know. Humans also possess a built-in gatekeeper, call it conscience, morality, ethics, good up-bringing, manners, etc. which guards the door of the mouth to prevent the issuing forth of harsh and hurtful speech. What happens when our gatekeeper is asleep at his post?

Once in a while we may be so emotionally moved that we speak more loudly, more emphatically, more pointedly, or more critically than we normally would. Once in a while we may be called upon to behave in a fairly aggressive defensive manner due to an injustice. I'm not talking about those cases.

I'm talking about the person who, with little provocation, uses language to pummel someone in an effort to demean them. The word-bully who shouts insults at the top of his/her voice, red in the face, neck cords straining, and spittle flying, so full of his/her own self-justified rage as to be completely unconcerned with any feelings but his/her need to annihilate. Not surprisingly, verbal bullies are deeply unimaginative, using more expletives than logic, sort of a cross between grade-school potty mouth and seriously egocentric adult narcissism. We'll call it the Mel Factor. Some verbal bullies erupt on any hapless victim. Most tend to pick a familiar (read family) victim, smaller and weaker, which gives them the illusion of power without any of the risks. Recent events have taught us that one does not have to be a scholar to catch the public imagination by the language one uses.

Words used to belittle, intimidate, and mortify are as surely abuse as a slap to the face. The unbridled use of abusive language, combined with overbearing physicality and menace is the fallback of a small and insecure personality. Unable to reason calmly and to generously allow for differences of style and opinion, one cannot entertain a position that is not his/her own. Or will not, having assumed the self-appointed role of the all-knowing OZ. Better to not have the ability to speak at all than to misuse it as some do.

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