The Power of Language (Part 3) 

Read parts 1 HERE and 2 HERE

J.E. Rash 

Mahatma Gandhi said:

“Your beliefs become your thoughts,

Your thoughts become your words,

Your words become your actions,

Your actions become your habits,

Your habits become your values,

Your values become your destiny.”

If we accept that this is true for the individual, is it not also true for a society?  What are the words, actions and habits of our society today?  What does that say about our values and our destiny?

Part three in this blog on disruption examines the power of words.  How does the language we use in terms like “disruption” and “deconstruction” reflect the values of our society and ultimately, how will it affect our destiny?

Those who would stop and ask themselves this question (and then take the time to seriously contemplate the answers) already understand the subtle and yet obvious reality that negative language gives rise to negative actions.  Negative language comes out of negative intentions and/or fear– negative in the sense of selfishness, greed, narcissism insecurity, and ignorance.

Albert Einstein, who watched the rise of Nazism and the Nuclear Age, said, “Three great forces rule the world: stupidity, fear and greed.”

When we speak of those most destructive of forces we understand that what is meant by stupidity is not academic ignorance, rather it is the inability (or unwillingness) to associate ones own well-being with that of others, it is the replacement of interest in ‘truth’ or ‘facts’ with “alternative facts” (i.e. lies) and dramatic reactions to real life situations, heroic posturing around the “I” mentality: 

“I alone can solve your problems” “ I have all the secrets, the know how, the means free you from the oppressive forces of ‘other,’ of the enemy lurking around the corner, living across the street…”

Once that framework has been established we can begin to see how pernicious the viral-like capacity of this mentality is.   We live in a time when every day we have to upgrade our  antiviral tools, digital and pharmacological.  We should not be surprised that we also have to upgrade our own internal “anti-viral” systems; to counter the daily viruses of hate and bigotry that we are all exposed to.

Looking at the language of today’s political environment we see that it takes a daily if not hourly dose of inflammatory language, hate and bigotry to sustain the ‘crowd effect’ – the constant news cycle and 24-hour cable news platform amplifies every word in an echo chamber until it (the hate and bigotry and prejudice) becomes the norm. This slash and burn philosophy (if it is a philosophy)  is  bad for good governance and shows an outright neglect, disrespect and lack of concern for the long term legacy of previous generations. Perception is as important as reality.

Without progressive and inclusive vision/thinking we lose tremendous amounts of opportunity to shape a better destiny, to create relevant employment opportunities, to give better educational opportunities and provide for the health and future of our dear ones. Health Care must not continue to be Health Care-Less/ness

The analogy to transformation within corporations should not be lost. The harmony and collaborative environment that promotes vision and creativity requires a clear, values based goal, not just a monetary goal. Seeing each individual as an integral part of a network of ideas and mutual goals result in outputs that are beneficial not only to the corporation but also its employees, or in the case of government, not only the institutions but all the citizens.

Just as negative gives rise to negative, positive gives rise to positive; positive solutions, positive language, and positive frameworks.  Strategic ways to transform an enterprise, for or not for profit, can be done in a way that optimizes individual and collective potential.  The world of positive solutions is open ended and measurable, values based and humanistic, as well as customer or client oriented standards and goals.

There is much to be positive about.  Our cultural norms and values remain deeply anchored in Universal values. Today’s mentality is in many ways collaborative and open source. What is lacking is a clear path to take emerging leaders and assist them in becoming transformative  leaders who will take a new mentality and more diverse talent into the Marketplace and Social Service sectors. People who understand the necessity of creating a Legacy of postive change for as many people as possible are as Dr. Ira Kaufman calls them Catalytic Leaders.

Can we recapture a values-based leadership model in corporate board rooms? I believe that a sustainable future lies in start ups with socially responsible components and in governance that seeks equitable solutions to the vast array of challenges led by individuals committed to a truly civil civil society for all citizens. The next generation can end partisanship and embrace collaboration. 

Can this be accomplished through the popular disruption methodology? Certainly, I doubt it when disruption is used for gaining and sustaining power or undermining existing positive rights and values.

Disruption, like any tool, can be used for good or for bad.  We must watch our thoughts, our intentions, our words, and our actions to ensure that they not become the ideological rationale for greed or exclusivity or just market share, but rather are linked with values that reflect social responsibility and duty to the ‘other’ not power based on fear of the ‘other’–whether competitor or neighbor; person in need or society endangered it is a postive values based society that can truly and literally save this nation and this world.

Change is a biological as well as psychological reality that we all must accept, from the individual level to the global level, but how and why that change or transformation takes place can be markedly different. Transformation based on affirmation can be a far more effective change agent than deconstruction. Pausing to account for oneself, ones company, ones mission, ones institutional culture is positive; it preempts being accounted for by outside forces.  Weighing ones actions / plans and strategies carefully preempts those actions from being a weight upon individuals or companies or communities.

In my next, and final blog in this four-part series, I will look more closely at how we can facilitate positive transformation and constructive interruption, rather than deconstructive disruption.

J.E. Rash is President and Founder of Legacy International ( Mr. Rash’s career includes studies in law, cross-cultural communication, and comparative religion; work in advertising and media; and the design of training programs and curricula for educators, parents, and youths. He has traveled extensively throughout the US and to Greece, India, Israel, Japan, Mexico, Pakistan, Spain, Syria, and Turkey to lecture on education, conflict prevention and resolution, dialogue, democracy and civic education, and inter-religious understanding.  His most recent book, Islam and Democracy, has been distributed in English, Russian, and Kazakh. He has also recently launched Legacy International Ventures (LIV). Drawing on four decades of regional experience, Legacy International Ventures is building a holistic business model that integrates values-based entrepreneurship with shared value for all stakeholders. Through people-based tools, a ventures incubator and digital technologies, we accelerate the efforts of social venturers to impact the most challenging local and global problems.