Thursday, 30 August 2012

Mind your language: the role of language in creating and destroying with thx to @davidbewart

I love this video embedded below. 
 It has come to me on Twitter from @davidbewart
I strongly believe in the power of words.  

In a civilised and secular society like ours, I know it is not fashionable to believe that words can build up or tear down.  I put as evidence though the words Whitlam spoke on 11 November 1975.
Well may we say 'God Save the Queen'; because nothing will save the Governor-General. The proclamation you have just heard was counter-signed 'Malcom Fraser' - who will go down in history as 'Kerr's Cur'.
And nothing did save the Governor-General.  He became a pathetic figure in the public life of Australia.  However, the Malcolm Fraser curse has not come true.  In fact, late in their lives, they have become friends. Perhaps this means, that as important as words are in creating or destroying, actions can nullify our words.  In short, bad deeds can mock good words and good deeds can overcome bad words.

Since Julia Gillard came to be Prime Minister of Australia many destructive words have been pour forth against her and about her.  Large sections of the Australian polity believe these words go beyond the political argy-bargy and indicate a deep-seated mysogyny among a lot of Australian men - well educated and not; influential figures and not.  Then there is the asylum seeker debate and the topics of climate change and carbon pricing.

Australia's political discourse has become distinctly uncivil.  Those of us with long political memories can not recall anything as witless and excoriating as the recent and current discourse of Liberal and National Party politicians and their influential allies in some sections of the media.  Added to this are the bigots, the racists, the ignorant and the ill-informed. A quite disgusting dawn chorus!

What a great disservice we perpetrate when we don't mind our language.  If we don't allow for another valid perspective; if we don't carry a widespread love and respect in our beings from which we can give voice.  A change of words, respectful and intelligent discourse among us all can change things.  It is the difference between confidence in troubled times, instead of fear.  It is the difference between hiding behind an insular xenophobia and opening ourselves to new ways of being on this planet.  Our lives could be so much better if we just remembered to mind our language.



Feminists and supporters across the country are calling for an end to use of language that is symptomatic of violence towards women in current political commentary.

“We accept that debate, commentary and opinion are important avenues for public discussion and information about issues that affect us all” said spokesperson Betty Green

“Violent hate speech directed at women political leaders reveals a concerning acceptance of abusive tactics in public life”

While we expect that from time to time such discussions and conversations will be passionate, dynamic and robust, we do not accept that the language used should ever express sentiments which are reflective of violence against women.

We have heard or read about comments and statements in a variety of media directed at Julia Gillard the first female Prime Minister of Australia that deeply concerns us. 

Influential commentators and leaders have suggested placing her in a bag and drowning herat sea (Alan Jones June 2011, July 2011), kicking her to death (Grahame MorrisFeb 2012) and having a “target on her head” (Tony Abbott March 2011), “burn thewitch” placards (Carbon Tax Rally March 2011) and the persistent use of the language “liar” and “bitch”

Comments such as these may well be described as “off the cuff”, “the rough and tumble of politics” however, we find these comments disturbing and troubling.
Violence against women is not a trivial matter. In Australia 1 in 4 women will experience some form of intimate partner violence in their lifetime, and cost the Australian economy approximately $13.6 billion per year.

On average 76 women are killed annually in Australia at the hands of their current or former partners.

“We and our supporters are saying clearly that this trend is not acceptable”

Attitudinal change has been identified as a key strategy in reducing violence against women in this country. Millions of dollars in public campaigns and initiatives work towards this end

If we as a community accept speech reflective of violence towards women as being “par for the course” in public life then we undermine each and every one of these efforts.

Coalition for a Feminist Agenda: Contact person: Dr. Betty McLellan: Phone: 0410 218 990.
Women Everywhere Advocating Violence Elimination:
Contact:  Dr. Elspeth McInnes. Phone 0421 787 080: Email: or
Betty Green: Phone: 0417 331 759:  Email:

Further reading:
Pyne extends his tongue tip to the speaker Anna Burke

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