Biologist Paul Myers is upset with President Bush, the Republicans, the Discovery Institute (proponents of Intelligent Design) and "the theocrats, faith-healers, and snake-oil artists." Dr. Myers feels that they have betrayed "the promise of the Enlightenment" and "the cause of civilized humanity." While Dr. Myers' intentions to defend the Enlightenment and Civilization are noble, I am concerned that he may have inadequatedly consulted with his enlightened colleagues in other departments. The reason I am troubled is found in his language of violence.
Dr Myers calls for a vigorous attack on those who have betrayed the Enlightenment and Civilization. Even more heart-wrenching were his metaphors of weaponry:
I say, screw the polite words and careful rhetoric. It's time for scientists to break out the steel-toed boots and brass knuckles, and get out there and hammer on the lunatics and idiots.
Ouch. One can only imagine all the real victims of steel-toed boots, brass knuckles, and hammers, who read this call for action and had to relive their violent past. In our Global Village, those of us who strive to promote Enlightenment and Civilized values stress Peace, Tolerance, and Fairness. Certainly there is plenty of room at humanity's table for all sorts of viewpoints. I'm worried that Dr. Myers is unintentionally betraying our efforts to promote these values with his reliance on metaphors of violence. When metaphors of violence are used, they only encourage a like response and the cycle of violent language continues, adding to our Culture of Violence. I would plead with Dr. Myers to consider the more enlightened approach of using non-violent metaphors.
In 2002, Dr. M.J. Hardman held a workshop entitled The Language of Peace. It was sponsored by the Community Coalition Against War & Terrorism and held at the University of Florida.
If we did not speak of most of our daily work as some sort of fight or battle, or hear others speak in a constant stream of their fights and battles, our overall health might be better, for example:
"Johnny don't fight at school. Your mother is helping the war on cancer. Your father has his battles everyday at work. Your sister has to attack her studies. We just can't have you fighting at school."
How might the above be redone? The workshop will draw on the creativeness of the audience to weave the threads that could lead us to non-violent, non-hypocritical language for those of us who would wish a non-violent or at least a less-violent society.
For example, to beat a dead horse involves not only futility but the notion that, if the horse were alive, violence would lead to success or compliance. Some suggestions, drawing on cooking, are to unbake a cake or to unscramble eggs; or we might use to blow up a popped balloon; or, drawing from weaving we might say to reknit cut threads.
For Dr. Myers to more effectively defend the Enlightenment and Civilization, I would again plead with him to replace his violent, aggressive metaphors by weaving the same concerns and goals using the threads of a peaceful language. One can simply scroll down Hardman's web page to come up with more civilized ways of getting the point across.
For example, instead of writing, "It is the leaders and enablers who must be vigorously attacked," Dr. Myers should borrow from weaving metaphors and write: "We need to help people see the dropped stitches in the arguments of the leaders and enablers."
As for the brass knuckles and hammers, those must go. Instead of saying, "I say, screw the polite words and careful rhetoric. It's time for scientists to break out the steel-toed boots and brass knuckles, and get out there and hammer on the lunatics and idiots," borrow from the metaphors of cooking:
"I say, their pastries have a bad taste. It's time for scientists to break out the aprons and mixing bowels, and get out there with a better cake."
Or what about drawing from metaphors of knitting and weaving?
"I say, their sweaters have holes. It's time for scientists to break out their knitting needles and multi-colored yarn and knit something that is much more pleasing to the eye."
Can't we all just get along?