Jon wrote another article for the Huffington Post:
What’s in a Word?
Communication is a pregnancy of sorts. In a speaker’s mind, a thought is conceived, then spoken, heard, and then ultimately gives birth to new thought in the listener’s mental landscape. For example, when I say “tree,” a picture builds in your imagination, a new life-form within your mind; a platonic idea of oak or maple appears out of nothing within your thoughts. This mental icon represents your understanding of the word. (Incidentally, this apprehension is independent of the speaker’s intentions).
In many ways, words are metaphors pointing to the objects they represent. The word “tree” is not a tree; it is simply a placeholder for the real thing. Our understanding of the world is built upon a deeper set of presuppositions. Meaning demands meaning. Reason demands reason: 1+1=2, only when we agree upon the meaning of these symbols. The same is true for words. Words are our framework of meaning. Every one is a metaphor reaching to something beyond it’s simple spelling and articulation.
Words have incredible power. Words create worlds. The words we use define ourselves and the world around us. They shape our reality. Our words determine our ideologies.
In India there is a group of people who have been oppressed for over 3000 years. They are called the Dalit. They are relegated to the worst jobs, cleaning sewers and removing the bodies of dead animals from the roads. Even the cows, whose bodies they clean from the side of the road, are treated with far more respect. Over the coarse of time, the identity of the Dalit people group, (also called the “untouchables”), has been stripped of all dignity. “They have been oppressed not just economically or even physically, but also ideologically,” states Jean- Luc Racine and Josiane Racine, who goes on to say that ultimate freedom will come when the Dalit’s define themselves in a new way. According to the Racines the question becomes, “Which new identity will sustain the emancipation process?”