What’s Your Word Worth?

We all do it. We say something, in the moment when said, sincerely, or perhaps just quasi-sincerely. But when what we’ve said demands action on our part, we flounder. Is this a folly of human interpersonal dialogue– a planned or accidental obsolescence of discourse? Or is it that we contract ourselves to our own voluntary intentions, only to be unable to fulfill our end of the agreement when a summons is made? Whether we can sense it or not, words can be very potent instruments of harm and not just the vehicles for salubrious creations like poetry, literature, and even helpful writings on signs (imagine roads without ‘stop’ and ‘yield’ signs).

I’ve told someone many a time that I will do something, or go somewhere, and then not followed through. For the majority of these instances, I experience some form of guilt, the intensity varying. While this guilt is often just fleeting, it still debits enough of my psychic reserve that I can’t dismiss it outright. Granted, following through on what I had intended to do would likely have consumed more (more time, more money, more energy, etc.) than the guilt itself, but I can’t help but think that something in our conscience becomes rancid when we shortchange another, even if for ‘good reason,’ and even if that other, or others, is not particularly aggrieved.

I’ll give you an example of one such occurrence that happened recently. I wanted to view a vehicle to purchase in the city that I’ll be moving to, and in order to reserve it until I arrive I had to provide the seller with a deposit. Reluctant to do so, I said I could leave a credit card on file, which would be charged if I did not attend the viewing as planned. While I had every intention of going to check out the vehicle at the time of arrangement, I subsequently reneged. This, while inconvenient to the seller, would not have prevented a sale to another prospective buyer. But in order to prevent a charge on my card, I contacted the credit card company and requested that my card be suspended. With this action, I effectively broke my (spoken) word.

There is a sacrament in the creation of contracts, and the words that comprise them; they serve as a hallowed bond between parties that wish to effect some change, with mutual involvement. Their binding nature, and the importance that we impart onto them serve to remind us that we must honor our obligation therein held. Not to mention, there almost always are legal (and often other) ramifications resulting from a breach.

What underpins the contract, however, is what accords it and those bound by it both a certain sort of power, and, of course, responsibility. Trite as that may appear, it’s precisely natural. While the contract gives us, as party, power to demand the conditions expressed in the contract, it also necessitates congruous conduct on our part. What is uniquely sublime about this sort of agreement is that it is governed by natural laws. To begin, of course, we must remind ourselves that to contract, you must acknowledge the party with whom you’re contracting as your equal. This egalitarian ethos captures what we, as humans, innately feel and know irrespective of our social conditioning and location within the hierarchical systems of society that we inhabit. Namely, that we are equal beings entitled to equal protections and treatment. Mark Passio, an alternative researcher who has given many presentations and written prolifically about natural laws, reminds us that any contract, no matter how colossal, must obey natural laws in order to be legitimate.

What plays out, however, is frequently anathema to this egalitarian principle. Social, financial, economic, and political differences yield iniquities that grimly disavow us of our falsely-held notion of equal-footedness.  Recall when, in elementary school, you were callously told ‘life isn’t fair’ by a teacher who re-affirmed your persecution when you protested an obvious wrong-doing. Well, as stinging as that exposition was at the time, it was a harbinger for the life events that would invariably follow for the majority of us.

While we — those of us endowed with a conscience — intuitively know that harm, both to another and to one’s self is immoral and should thus serve to nullify even the most stringent contract if done, we’ve also come to know that harms do take place, often with little recourse to those hurt. The injured party can protest the actions of the aggressor, demanding restitution and justice, but there is no guarantee of deliverance.

I am reminded of the countless parents whose children have been (noticeably, and severely) harmed through the administration of innoculations, not only sanctioned by the state, but also by the white-coats who have been duped/snared into endorsing them. Discounting, for argument’s sake, that vaccines are both unnatural and confer no actual immunity to their recipients, but rather depress and impair the body’s defences, what is most frightening about this process is the utter paucity of sincerity and morality on the part of the CDC, pharmaceutical manufacturers, healthcare providers, and legislators who collude to impose them on children and adults alike. By invoking terms like irresponsible, negligent, incurable, and life-threatening to describe scenarios in which innoculations are not given, and buzzwords like safe, effective, life-saving, and proven in the promotion of vaccines, an entire (false) narrative is constructed. What many parents may not know is that, in contracting with the state to have these poisons injected into their children, they are also relinquishing their power to seek damages in the event that a vaccine is demonstrated to have harmed their child. This is about as blatant a debasement of natural law as warfare is. Yet it continues.

What also continues is our involuntary conscription to activities that, if we bore the truth of their perils, would repel us, and may even provoke a revolt. In everything that we do, from swiping a credit card, to leasing and parking our cars, to downloading and installing an app onto our devices, we are contracting. We are making agreements, both overt and tacit. We are lending and binding ourselves to pacts the gravity of which may not be apparent to us until there are real, severe consequences. But just as we so listlessly and casually dispense our words to others while accepting theirs, so too we also surrender the palisades  meant to ensconce us from the plausible malevolence of others who know and exploit the true power of words.

What, really, is a word? In its written form, it’s a great many things. It is a symbol. A representation of individual phonics that, when assembled in such a sequence, produces a gestalt. Rearrange the letters corresponding to those sounds, and you’ve eliminated or transformed that symbol. A word is an idea. Not simply a representation of an idea, but an idea in itself. The idea that what we think can not only be thought, not only expressed verbally, but also textually, a physical marking of the presence of thought — the evidence of its spatial existence. But do words need to be written for us to know that they exist, that they did exist at some time? And do they need to be written as reminders that we expressed them, assented to them, valued them and what they mean or meant?  What happens if those meanings change temporally, culturally, socially, and legally? How do all of these variables affect the power of words?

What also should be asked is whether our word, spoken or written, is always a pact that we make with ourselves and with others, thus it being imperative that we give it due deference. If a word is as many things as aforementioned, then clearly it’s something very important. As I expressed earlier, those who truly understand the importance of words can capitalise on their power. We as custodians, dispensers, and consumers of words, should also appreciate and know this power.

Cara St. Louis, an education researcher described the English language as being the “most manipulable” language in common use. While this notion may be a bit foreign to those who aren’t familiar with techniques such as neurolinguistic programming and other psychological control methods, it should be understood to mean that not only is English adaptable, but it can also be used, or misused, to suit the needs of the user. In this manner it is similar to a computer programming language that would allow the programmer to encode specific functions that may be dubious in their use and execution. I don’t know that English is the most susceptible of languages to this sort of manipulation, but because I use it, I’m interested in its nature, including its weaknesses. Taken in this regard, English, and perhaps all other languages (especially those that are also written), isn’t simply manipulable, but also a tool for manipulation. Indeed, anyone who knows the insidious nature of advertising can attest to this role of language.

What happens when a person, or a people, experiences a loss of words? Imagine a person recovering from a stroke; someone whose speech centers have been jumbled and fried. This person may have any, or perhaps all, of a variety of speech disorders, ranging from a mild word-finding difficulty, to an extreme speech apraxia. In experiencing this loss of words, there is also an associated negation of one’s human agency, of identity and autonomy. Consider, as well, a child who manifests dyslexia. This child would undoubtedly have difficulties with both reading and writing, as well as with spoken language. By being alienated from language in these ways, people can be disempowered both socially and economically. But a critical thought to have is whether these same people are spared the onslaught of both overt and subliminal coded language that is intended to subvert and co-opt both individually and collectively. Of course, complications from a stroke, or neurological disorders affecting language comprehension and learning are not any sort of solution to, or defence from, the weaponization of language.

The only bulwark to protect us from the perils of manipulating words is awareness and resistance. Once you become aware that words, in all of their expressions, aren’t simply the components of innocuous communication and exchange but can also be used to inject an insidious pathogen into our separate and shared consciousness, you can mount a defence and eventually spawn an immunity. So the next time somebody wants to have a word with you, pay close attention to what that word really is.

Daniel Choudhury is a dreamer, writer, healer, and self-affirmed vagabond. He is especially interested in matters of cognitive and psychological deprogramming, nutrition and health, and culture re-creation. Read other articles by Daniel.