Words, spoken in seconds, can echo throughout history.
Words so simple, yet so profound. Words that changed the world, forever.
Which brings me to ‘The UKIP Apology’ (perhaps not yet part of the modern lexicon but I live in hope). You know the one I mean: UKIP candidate makes grossly offensive comment about foreign / gay / female person; UKIP candidate’s grossly offensive views are splashed across the nation’s press; UKIP candidate apologises profusely for ‘any offence caused’, grovelling for our forgiveness for his ‘mistake’ when he was
tired / tricked / taken out of context / talking honestly and openly without realising his honestly expressed but grossly offensive comments were being recorded.
Because of course he didn’t mean to offend anybody. One of his best friends is gay, and he’s watched every episode of ‘The L Word’. And, his mother is a woman. Hell, his cleaner is from Eastern Europe, and he even pays her £2.50 an hour. How can he possibly be a bigot?!?
The insincere apology, the ‘UKIP apology’, gets right on my tits, and it should get on yours too. Because we live in a society blessed with the hard won freedom of speech, a freedom that is used – perfectly legitimately – to express all manner of views including those that are highly offensive to many. Nobody needs a lecture on why this is important, on why exposing opinions and beliefs to rigorous, informed scrutiny that exposes ignorance and intolerance for what it truly is, is essential in a civilised, progressive society.
Words can galvanise the spirit and stir the soul, moving human beings to acts of great courage, of defiance, of selfless humanity.
And every insincere apology by a public figure, every snivelling, simpering word of false contrition by someone in a position of influence – be that a politician or the heavyweight champion of the world – is an insult to those that have stood by their words and steadfastly upheld the courage of their convictions, often at great personal cost and in the face of threats to their livelihoods, or indeed their lives.
Words have power and we ought to respect them by standing by our own. If you are going to be knowingly controversial or offensive then have the balls to own your words instead of issuing a meaningless apology designed to save face but instead creating a second one.
Say it, stand by it, or shut the fuck up and don’t inflict your empty words on the rest of us.
Our words separate us from our fellow creatures and place us at the top of the food chain. Language helps us to overcome our limitations, it allows us to problem solve and harness the power of nature, it allows us to co-operate and unite behind ideas and common goals, it allows us to share our dreams of a better future and to make these dreams a reality. Language has allowed human beings to create a world in our image, for good and for ill. Our words have put man on the moon; they have sent millions more to their graves.
Do you want your words to lift others up or bring them down? Will you inspire and encourage or denigrate and belittle? Are you going to see things you don’t like and ask why, or imagine the possibilities of what could be and ask why not?
Choose your words carefully for they have a power beyond what you may believe. Every single one of us changes the world with our words, whether it be through the lives of millions of people or just one. It is said that sticks and stones may break my bones but names can never hurt me, but that isn’t true is it? Bones heal, quickly and often stronger than before, while words can stay with us for life, fighting against the evidence of our achievements and convincing us that we aren’t good enough, just as we were once told many years ago.
Or they can inspire us to emerge from our darkest depths, serving as a reminder of the strength that lies within us and reviving an indomitable spirit that was once nurtured by the loving words of a wise mentor.
Make your words mean something, choose them carefully and choose them wisely for they can be the greatest gift that you ever give and the harshest wound that you ever inflict.
Our words can endure long after we are reduced to dust, living on in the beating hearts of those that survive us.
Make them matter.
Bigmouth Strikes Again – The Smiths