Friday, 30 October 2009

Words are the most dangerous weapon of all

Sticks and stones can break my bones,
but words will never harm me

In fact, words are the most powerful weapon of all.

Words can bring about peace, friendship, invention, understanding and education. That happens when words are used wisely, to build bridges and solve problems.

Words can bring about war, murder, hate, riots, destruction and disinformation. That can be the result of the reckless use of words, when words are used to promote hate and violence.

An instance of the reckless and dangerous use of words has been demonstrated in South Africa's recent history. It began with a statement by the minister of law and order. Police must shoot to kill when lives are at risk from criminals. The statement was repeated by the new chief of police and the country's president.

The words have already had some unintended consequences. It seems that the criminals are not waiting to be shot dead and ensure that they shoot first if confronted by the police.

The latest example of the use of dangerous rhetoric was by the chairman of the Free State ANC Youth League. He stated that ".. Professor Jansen is also a criminal ... and I agree with the ANC President that criminals should be shot and killed."

Now the emphasis and meaning has shifted dangerously towards anarchy or fascism. The courts are no longer required to decide when a person is a criminal. My say so is enough.

More horrifying was the next statement, that "criminals should be shot and killed." Gone are the qualifiers. Life no longer need be threatened. More a "look, there's a criminal. Kill him, hill him!" mentality. What if someone acts on these words?

How many fanatics will now fantasize on going out to shoot criminals?

Julius Malema this morning denied that there was anything wrong with these words. John Robbie of 702 Talk Radio played the sound clip several times, but Malema refused to admit that the words uttered had been said. Sounding more brainless than ever, he tried to twist their meaning. The statement about Jansen was totally unrelated to the part about shooting and killing.

Words can be extremely dangerous. Almost every crime, every murder, every terrorist act and every war is started with words. The ideology that drives a suicide bomber is transmitted by words.

ANC leaders should be trained to use their brains before resorting to dangerous rhetoric. To allow these words to be uttered without restraint could lead the party and the country to a very dangerous place.

No comments: