Dreams of Kindness, Love and Grace Buzz and Spin by Carolyn Bolton
I’m a word person. Words have been a sensuous companion since I learned to talk. Today, I’m a crossword-puzzle-a-day kind of woman. My favorite board game is Scrabble. I make it a point to read something of interest each and every day. I delight in discovering an author whose use of language is particularly enchanting. I read their work aloud, so I can wrap my lips and tongue around the melodic physicality of their word weavings.
Words themselves are neither good nor wicked, but their use can certainly land anywhere along a fairly broad continuum.
“Simplicity” is a concept with which I found great personal resonance. As the 1990s drew to a close, the simplicity movement was popularized and touted in the media as one of the “Top Ten Trends” in America. Overnight the term simplicity was pasted across advertisements for automobiles, life insurance policies, money market programs, retirement homes, diet plans and more.
In the dressing room, prior to my filmed guest appearance on the Oprah show in the mid-90s, the producer asked me not to use the term “simplicity” on air. Instead, my interview would focus on “downshifters and downshifting.” Why? Because “simplicity” had become a distorted buzzword without a single, clear notion. Use of the term polarized the listening/viewing audience into bias groups.
The term “medical treatment”—rather sterile, clinical and impersonal—has been transformed into a system of “health care”. The new buzzword enables HMOs to dominate the market, despite the fundamental truth that their bottom line depends on mini-mizing patient services to maximize corporate profit. Yet…the re-crafted terminology lends a warm illusion of comfort. Doesn’t it.
War spin is rich with persuasive imagery. America has “freedom fighters”. They have “terrorists.” U.S. military arsenals constitute our “national defense,” while much less sophisticated weaponry of other nations is “weapons of mass destruction.” Gets your blood pumping and your vigilance on full alert just to hear those words!
Pharmaceutical spin is full of language that induces us to swallow prescriptions without a thought. “Hormone replacement therapy” suggests that something important is missing and must be replaced. Strangely, it is the cessation of estrogen production that places a woman in the natural cycle of life called menopause. Yet hormone replacement promises elimination of the physical symptoms of this normal transition. Mainstream doctors prescribe it pretty much across the board. (As the mother of two beautiful, energetic teenagers … I often wonder why they don’t administer “hormone suppression therapy” to these budding, pubescent two-legged hormone factories—in a united pharmaceutical effort to keep menopausal single mothers like me from losing their minds! Oh yes. THAT’s what prozac is for. Almost forgot.)
“Acid reflux syndrome” is modern designer spin for 21st Century super-size-it American eating machines. Through simple relanguaging, pharmaceutical companies creatively guaranteed a steady client base who regularly pop prescription meds that prevent digestive pain. It sells a whole lot better than the very same pills when used to soothe mere “indigestion” and “heartburn.”
I keep looking for viable ways that our American spin machine can work the other direction, to create positive spin that promotes the good of the whole rather than income or power for a few.
Our society’s negative judgment of “vagrancy” in the early 20th Century was transformed by the late 1980s into a legitimate special needs segment of society to whom broad social services had previously been lacking. We began to recognize “homelessness” and create programs to serve the “homeless.” Our ability to feel empathy with someone who has no home is easily tapped, while a vagrant is little more than a low life criminal. Wouldn’t it be great if our culture’s love for buzzwords & spin worked more like this?
Rosa Parks once said, “To this day I believe we are here on this earth to live, grow and do what we can to make this world a better place for all people …” What precious words are in her message. Words have such incredible power. Words—those we choose to let in and those we choose to utter—have immeasurable impact on the quality of our circumstance. On our contentment and fulfillment. On our lessons and the direction of our growth.
If the notion of ending our cultural bent toward using words for spin seems too daunting, perhaps we can focus on creating spin—a holistic point of view packaged in words—that elicits empathy, heightens understanding and strengthens the common good.
Carolyn Bolton is a writer, speaker and nondenominational minister who serves in the professional capacity of public relations and communications staff in the general aviation industry. You may contact Carolyn by e-mail at [email protected]with your comments on this article