Watch our language

Mariah Carey is hitting the headlines this week, not for her diva behaviour or music for once, but for acknowledging her mental health and that she has bipolar. Although she may not be a singer I like on many levels, however I have empathy with those that like myself that have mental health conditions, and having friends with bipolar I know the ups and downs even with medication can be horrific to deal with.

However, it is the language that I have seen used that disturbs me the most. Headlines that say she IS bipolar…would we say someone is cancer or diabetes, of course not so why do we say it with mental health? Why does this matter? The way language is used shapes how we see things, and in turn perceive the world around us as words evoke images and ideas. If I said my skirt today is blue and purple I’m sure you all will have an idea of those colours having seen them throughout your lives and interpret how it looks. By calling Mariah bipolar rather than saying she has it has a way to conjure up images of stereotypes from movies or TV shows of what this disease is like and continues the stigma as believe the stereotypical crazy mental health hospital patient. Their individuality is lost as seen as a label not a person. This negativity can effect their self esteem, hope for the future to accepting of help and negatively impacts on recovery to reaching out for help when they need it in the future.

The difference between physical and mental health in the ways we talk about them is from the past filled with scientific misunderstanding to social ignorance, which had those that have them seen as witches to possessed by evil spirits, or even as a sign of weakness or failing. The reality is that these illnesses can happen to anyone; they are biological and arise from a combination of genetic predisposition and environmental impingement. We can no more ‘be’ bipolar than we can ‘be’ cancer. We cannot ‘just get over it’ and is not ‘all just in your head’.

When we have an opportunity with social media to humanise or dehumanise others when we talk about mental or physical conditions, so please think and use your words carefully.

© Fi S. J. Brown

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Tribes, literacy, and language loss

Today is the International Day of Literacy, which often makes me think of anthropologist Wade Davis work on languages. According to Davis half the languages of the world are on the brink of extinction. Imagine what it must be like to be the last person that spoke, read, and wrote your native language with no way to pass this knowledge. This happens every two weeks on average to someone around the world. Davis states that this means within a generation or two we will lose half of humanity’s legacy.

As you read this, you may think doesn’t matter, we all speak English and/or wouldn’t it better if there was one language for all, would we all not get along better then? Sure, but let’s make it Icelandic, Liki or Kazakh. Perhaps now we can empathise and understand what it may be like not to have anyone to speak our native language, read books to websites, or write stories and songs to share with others. For many of us a world where people could no longer speak, write or read English seems unimaginable given how much is spoken, written and said in it daily. By losing languages we’re losing more than a solitary voice in the dark but a way of life, customs and traditions.

The following quote is from Stephen Corry who is director of an organisation called Survival International that ‘champions tribal peoples around the world. We help them defend their lives, protect their lands and determine their own futures.’
“Every time another tribe becomes extinct and their language dies, another way of life and another way of understanding the world disappears forever. Even if it has been painstakingly studied and recorded, a language without a people to speak it means little. A language can only live if its people live, and if today’s uncontacted tribes are to have a future, we must respect their right to choose their own way of life.”

So as we go about today speaking, reading, and writing in our various languages on Facebook to E-mail and text think about this. Also, consider not just how lucky we are to have the gifts to do so, because they are gifts that not all humans have the opportunities to learn these even now in the second decade of the 21st century. Equally, embrace our diversity in all its beautiful colours that enrich the world, even removing but one colour from the rainbow would change the world around us forever before it’s too late.

© Fi S. J. Brown

Language

On this the day of International Literacy, I think of anthropologist Wade Davis work on languages; he states that half the languages of the world are on the brink of extinction. Pause for a minute and think what that means. To be the last person that spoke, read and wrote your native language with no way to pass this knowledge on. Amazing that every two weeks on average this happens to someone around the world. Davis states that this means within a generation or two we will lose half of humanity’s legacy.

As you read this, you may think doesn’t matter, we all speak English and/or wouldn’t it better if there was one language for all, would we all not get along better then? Sure, but let’s make it Chamicuro, Liki or Kaixana. Perhaps now we can understand what it may be like not to speak our native language. For many of us a world where people could no longer speak, write or read English seems unimaginable given how much is spoken, written and said in it daily. By losing languages we’re losing more than a solitary voice in the dark but a way of life, customs and traditions.

So as we go about today, reading and writing in our various languages on Facebook to E-mail and text think about this. Also, consider not just how lucky we are to have the gifts to do so, because they are gifts that not all humans have the opportunities to learn these even now in the second decade of the 21st century. Equally, embrace our diversity in all its beautiful colours that enrich the world, even removing but one colour from the rainbow would change the world around us forever before it’s too late.

© Fi S. J. Brown