It’s my new side gig – railing against words and phases that have risen like pretty poison mushrooms on the fertile ground of humanitarian-speak.
Innovate. Introduce something new! We’re all seduced by ‘new’ – as if the old known and workable stuff we already have is not good enough.
When a mind can integrate – meaningfully – the pieces of known ideas scattered all around, can power ‘em up by making connections, then we got genius – and not the IQ kind. See the Helsinki Bus Terminal Theory. And stay on the bus.
Social entrepreneurs. (Let’s throw in Hipsters and Creatives). A sort of public masturbation with words, good for showing off, sounding important, forming cliques, but way too precious and ironically, isolating.
Social actors. This phrase shows up in application for grants to support development programs. (I wonder at the minds hammering out these dizzying documents, relentless in their quest to find new word orders for same information.) For me, ‘social actors’ conjures visions of auditions for improv theater. What’s wrong with people – men women, children, cops, politicians, donors, and bureaucrats? Even ‘stakeholders’ is better.
Gender-based Violence. Gender is a polite word used in applications for credit. Adding the ‘–based’ neutralizes it with clinical detachment. SEXUAL add VIOLENCE and you begin to acknowledge the horror adulterating the lives of too many women and girls.
Social media. An oxymoron. What electronic media is not social? We’ve got chitchat masquerading as personal relationships. But, on rare occasions, you do have a shot an unexpected connection.
Recently, I was crazy enough to consider a UN “Call for Proposals,” those lobotomies on paper where the same question is posed in five different ways, each of them rife with terms like ‘social actors” and ‘innovations’ to ‘fill the gaps’ without ‘duplication of efforts.’
The answer I wanted to give (but passed on the whole project): The world is awash with human beings in need; duplication of efforts seems improbable. Visit a slum, get the stink of fear and desperation up your nose, ask what people need, and come through for them. Talent is everywhere. Distributing opportunities to use it is the task at hand.
For extra points: the word ‘Don’t’ – not euphemism but a point of view. Consider all the knee-jerk messages we all put out starting with ‘Don’t.’For a whole week, practice re-stating every one of them as a positive statement. It’ll take some effort, conditioned as we all are to discourage rather than to inspire.
Stay safe. Make those tackles. Remember to call your mom.