Thursday, September 07, 2017

Words are not violence - Denyse O'Leary

From the James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal,

In her recent New York Times article entitled “When Is Speech Violence?” Barrett contends that speech that “bullies and torments” ought to be prevented because “from the perspective of our brain cells,” it is “literally a form of violence.” She points to scientific findings showing that “Words can have a powerful effect on your nervous system. Certain types of adversity, even those involving no physical contact, can make you sick, alter your brain—even kill neurons—and shorten your life.”

Professor Barrett is a respected psychologist and she cites studies in neuroscience that support her statement that verbal abuse can bring on stress that causes physical damage. Let’s not question the science she cites. Let’s agree that she is correct in saying that chronic stress is bad for an individual, perhaps even life-shortening.

The problem is that there is no apparent connection between chronic stress and merely listening to someone speak, for a while, no matter how provocative his words may be. More.

Reality check: How did today's pensioners get through all these years reading letters to the editor in a free press?

People who think words are violence tend to think that violence is words. Hence the self-righteous campus warrior swinging the bicycle chain.

One wonders how much of the Gospels we would have to cut out if we were told to censure the Lord Jesus' provocative words. Or anyway, words that offended someone.  Doubtless the Lord is an upcoming target.

See also: Campus starts shovelling snowflakes off sidewalk

5 comments:

Peter Black said...

Denyse, I would have been inclined to ride quite close to common, current thinking, that words can be (or at least be tantamount to) a form of violence. However, in this post you've brought an interesting, if not somewhat arresting, perspective. Thank you. ~~+~~

Rose McCormick Brandon said...

Denys, I always enjoy your pieces and look forward to them. A thinking woman who inspires others to think. Bravo.

Glynis said...

Good thoughts but wondering if the person who was bullied or abused with disparaging words would be able to see them as not being the same as violence. 'Cut like a knife' comes to mind. :( 'Tearing my heart out.' And so on. Food for thought, though.

Marianne Jones said...

I respectfully disagree. People who have grown up being bullied with words have been known to commit suicide. Words kill and words heal. We are admonished throughout Scripture to use words carefully. "Speaking the truth in love" comes to mind. This is an important topic in today's world, where civility and respect are being drowned out by insults, ridicule and vicious name-calling. We as writers are especially aware of the importance of words. God placed such a high value on words that Jesus is referred to as "the Word." Words are weapons of violence and tools of healing. They are life-giving and soul-destroying.That is why it is so vital that we handle these tools with reverence.

Marianne Jones said...

I respectfully disagree. People who have been damaged by the words of bullies have been known to commit suicide. Words are so important that Jesus is referred to as the Word. Scripture admonishes us to be careful with our words. We as writers are especially aware of the importance and power of words. Words are used as weapons of violence and tools of healing. This is an important topic in today's world, where civility and respect are being drowned out by the voices of insults and mocking. I have noticed that the fewer rational arguments a person has, the greater the tendency to ridicule and stoop to name -calling. We need to speak the truth in love, and let our conversation be gentle, especially where we disagree.

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