I saw someone talking the other day about the language that is being used in announcements about covid. It was fascinating, and surely resonated with me – you know how I love the power of words.
Basically he was saying that there were two major areas where the language being used is actively working against the required response from people.
The first is the use of battle and war language, which provokes emotions like fear and anger rather than positive action. For example, fighting the virus, rather than eliminating it, or reducing its effect, and front-line workers rather than essential workers.
The second poor use of language is in the imposition of government rules, rather than calling on personal responsibility. He suggested that we all have a tendency to react against rules, and few of us trust our governments to have our best interests at heart, so the combination of these two provokes frustration and rebellion rather than compliance. If it were fact-based information from the scientists and medical experts on viruses that came to the fore, with requests for personal responsibility and care for others, instead of rules, more people would respond positively. For example, here are the reasons why staying at home is advisable wherever possible
His statement clarified for me what I find so frustrating about this whole period. Instead of taking care of ourselves and others, we are urged to fight an invisible enemy. Instead of consistency in the rules, we have massive and obvious inconsistencies: compromise to placate vested interests, delays in action despite scientific advice, considerations other than our health playing a large part, and no trust in our common sense.
Surely an appeal to our common sense would work better for most – a small minority may not respond, but it would be less than now. And surely saving people from being at risk of dying is more important than economic or political considerations in the short-term.
OK, that’s my rant!!
And all this is also a reminder that each of us has a part to play. Our language is also powerful and influences those around us. We can take personal responsibility, use common sense, listen to the facts rather than the ‘message’, and we can talk in that way when the topic is covid. – as it so often is!
May we all do our best to look after ourselves and others, and find ways to safely make our lives work, no matter what.