Conversational Knives and Daggers

An unseen part of a writer's job - even for people who write only as a hobby and can't really consider it a job - is correspondence. From brief one-time replies to full-fledged conversations that can develop into personal friendships, it's easy to get bogged down in various forms of correspondence. Pen pals can accumulate rapidly, and as conversations get philosophically deeper or more intense and proliferate, it can become overwhelming to maintain many simultaneously. Those conversations can feel like the most rewarding aspect of being a moonlight writer - they can also feel like a self-punishment mechanism at times.

It's easy to slip and hit send in email when you're tired or in the wrong mood, or juggling too many things and feeling rushed. That's often when little conversational daggers slip into conversation unintentionally or in response to perceived slights, real or imagined - or sharp conversational knives come out of the drawer, ones that are meant to provoke an effect or thrust a point across. Often they succeed in provoking effect or making a point, but they frequently seem to miss the intended target and deflect in unpredictable ways and those little conversational weapons can inflict a good deal of harm, injure feelings, cultivate misunderstandings, cut off a conversation altogether, or kill a friendship. Even an unintended dagger that results from a simple misinterpretation of meaning can stab at the heart, or create confusion between correspondents.

I'm becoming more aware of conversational daggers - they seem ubiquitous in the realm of political conversation. Labels like "liberal" and "conservative" communicate little real meaning since they're purely relative and interpreted in so many different ways, but they do convey "us" and "them" attitudes. Bundling individuals into political packages makes it easier to see them from a neatly packaged perspective according to sex, race, religious or social background, geographical area, or nationality. Politics uses a warlike language of knives and daggers that makes war inevitable - we become so accustomed to thinking and speaking in political terms, and bundling people into packages for the sake of easier mental handling, that we forget to respect them as individuals. Brandishing words about carelessly, especially loaded words, contributes to the perception that we live in a den of thieves and cutthroats - and political thinking enables people to mug each other with the legislative pen instead of the pirate's sword.

Individualist philosophies of anarchism reject the political premise of bundling people into groups, and encourage the turning of conversational weapons into conversational ploughshares that can furrow grounds of common understanding to cultivate kinder communications in.

Until mankind dispenses with conversational knives and daggers, people will always need real ones for self-defense. Those people who believe that disarmament will make for a safer society overlook the real dangers of emptying weapons while pointedly using armed language - that's no road to peace, but all out war on civilization. If there's a need for any kind of disarmament to protect society, the need to disarm the language we use deserves top priority - only afterward may the laying down of physical weapons produce a more peaceful society, and that must be purely voluntary in order to remain peaceful.

Until people start thinking and talking peacefully, and put down their politics, I say the more arms the merrier. At least visible weapons serve as a reminder of the proliferation of invisible weapons in society, and offer genuine protection against them - it's easier to use invisible weapons aggressively, and harder to observe the terrible harm they inflict. Violence begins with the way people think, and talk about others, and talk amongst each other. No matter what final tragic form violence may eventually take, it is the inevitable result of forgetting where violence begins - in our own hearts and minds.


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