The Multiples Meanings of a Single Word, and the Importance of Eloquence in Community Building

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Sometimes, we say things that take us completely by surprise. While recently driving on a brand new highway in an area known for its tight winding roads filled with cars parked where they shouldn’t be, I sighed a blissful sigh and said: “Ah, civilization.” I immediately realized just how insulting my comment was, and it made me wonder: was I actually that rude, or did I just lack the insight to express a valid idea?

I came to realize that what I was trying to express was not happiness at the area becoming civilized, but rather, at the area developing an order that I am used to and understand. Because despite the fact that to me, the roads in said area seem chaotic, there is a sense of order; it’s just that I do not understand this order. And so, arriving on a highway, with its familiar system of signs, rest stops and exits, felt like putting on a comfortable sweater: it felt right – to me.

This obviously made me realize that I have to be so much more careful about the way I express my ideas. Thankfully, only one person was with me when I made my original comment, and this person is not from the area I was referring to. But what if I had been with someone from said area? I would probably have hurt this person with my thoughtless comment. And what would the implications of my statement be? That his way of life is not considered worthy of the term ‘civilization’. If the only thing in this area deemed worthy of being called civilized is what resembles my Canadian way of life, I am dismissing cultures that are thousands of years old.

Peter Parker was told that with great power, comes great responsibility. Humans have been given the power of intellect, and the power of verbal expression. The question of if we are treating said power as responsibly as we should remains to be answered.

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