In many online debates about language and oppression, when I talk about how people need to consider the impact of their actions on others, I get the same sort of response.
What sort of future do we want to live in? One where we are too scared to say what we think? Too afraid that we will hurt someone’s feelings?
Well, I’ll tell you the sort of future I want to live in.
I want to live in a world where nobody is afraid to say what they think. But it is a world where we don’t need to be afraid, because we always think about the consequences of our actions. It has become second nature…. no, it is first nature to us. It is a world where people think about other people before they think about themselves.
When we think about others as part of our everyday life, when we are aware of the consequence of our actions, when we learn how language affects behaviour, we speak our minds without harming others. It is a world where people are no longer afraid to hear what others will say.
I want people to say what they think. Just so long as they think about what they say.
It isn’t particularly difficult, and it is not at all scary. I often think that those who are afraid of this sort of world are merely afraid of admitting certain things to themselves, about how they know their behaviour is inappropriate and harmful, that they need to change, and that change is scary.
In this future world vision, there is still harm. People still say hurtful things. People always will. But in this future vision, people try to understand. They listen to other people and are aware of the needs of others. In this future, when people do cause harm, they realise it, apologise, and make amends.
I like this future world. I can only hope that, as we – the social warriors among us – keep making small steps, opening the eyes of one person at a time, we will bring it into being.