Tuesday, July 29, 2014

AND SO IT BEGINS...(AGAIN)

Hello, Honors Language and Literature Scholars.

The link below will bring you to a startling and disturbing, yet historically all too familiar story...

Read carefully.  Then, comment to how this article illustrates the destructive power of words--in this case, used in propaganda.  Most of you have studied World War 2 in your Humanities and Language/Literature courses of the past.  If you have not, now is the time.  We will be talking about WW2 in the context of both literature (The Book Thief) and Language (Language and power, propaganda).  You have probably also heard the phrase, "History repeats itself."

Let me be the first to tell you, if you have not already been told:  this phrase is only true if we do NOT study the events of the past.

Words have power.  This news is not good or bad, it is fact.  This power can be used to destroy and kill.  Words are often where war begins.  This is currently where we are in Europe.  One group of people, who have, throughout history, endured horrific suffering and discrimination, is in that world of suffering once again.  The question is, what are WE, those who know and study history, those who refuse to tolerate evil and cruelty, going to do about it?

Here is the irony: just as words can create problems, they are also where the solution begins.  What will we say?  Will we speak up?  Will we use our voice to stand up against this now before it goes too far....before we are led, again into a world of destruction and chaos?

So now I ask you: what are your concerns?  What do you see, feel, hear, when you read the words in this article?  Sophie Scholl, German Resistance fighter, once said, "Stand up for what you believe; even if you are standing alone."  At the age of nineteen, Sophie was  convicted and killed by her Nazi government for her words of resistance. She dared to stand up against her government.  Why did they react this way?  Why did this young girl create such a stir?  Because words have incredible power.  They begin and end violence.  They begin and end wars.  They can bring life and death.

How will you use your words today?

I would love to hear your thoughts on the article.  I think you all have the potential to be great leaders.  Be the hope the world needs.

http://www.newsweek.com/2014/08/08/exodus-why-europes-jews-are-feeling-once-again-261854.html



20 comments:

  1. Words are said to be very powerful whether they are written or spoken. People need not read a particular research on this item to prove that words indeed have power over others. Interestingly, words have the ability to inspire. They can emanate different kinds of thoughts and emotions into people causing for a sort of ripple effect into the soul. This is the basic reason why words are considered to be so dominant over acts of violence or evil. To make a verbal connection with someone is something very powerful and I believe that it can stir the greatest emotions inside of oneself. Naturally, the great speakers of this world have enough passion to evoke the purest emotions in their audience. If this talent was used for the acts of rebellion, you could see how it would pose a threat to a controlling regime. I believe that this is why Sophie Scholl was punished by death for speaking to her people… She was able to start the cascading effect that is a rebellion during a time where hope was lost.

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  2. I love your last sentence here. Yes, Sophie was able to "threaten" a very powerful regime with her words of truth. The powers at the time saw that she was stirring the young people. She was creating questions in their minds, and at the time, the government was not an entity to be questioned. What do you think of the patterns we now see in Europe (per the article above) and in the Middle East today?

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  3. Writing this for a second time.. because Google sucks....

    Words can have a big impact on people. They have the power to ruin or make a mood. They can also tear down someones self confidence and crush it to pieces. They can have the power to get someone killed. However, there's another side of the argument that i want to address. What happens to the power if the person doesn't care. This was brought up in Government last year as well, and reminds me of the " Literature doesn't have meaning till it is assigned" lesson we had the other day. But what happens if the person you target with these words doesn't truly care. What if, to this particular person, the meaning of the words you use are changed. Each person can interpret things differently, therefore, maybe insults or other powerful words are nullified to them because the meanings to them are changed. Where is the power in words if they cant prok emotion or even hurt someone. It is shown that words can have horrific power looking back at the story of Sophie and her followers. But, my question to you is: What power do words really have if a person doesn't care about what you have to say or do to them? It makes me wonder about the limitations of literature and what effect these people have on the effectiveness of this kind of communication if it cant even convey any type of emotional response.

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  4. I think like any power, it has endless possibilities. Yes, there are things that people could say to me that really would have no affect over me at all. But the fact that it is possible to provoke a reaction if you choose the right words or combination of words that makes literature/words a powerful weapon in the right (or wrong) hands. Nathaniel Hawthorne said it the best way when he made the comment about words just as they are in the dictionary are very innocent, but they have great power when manipulated by one who knows how to use them. I would add when to use them, too. We can figure out pretty easily even when we are young how to use words to push the buttons of people we know and love. With a little careful research and observation, one can learn how they might manipulate or move others with the right words, too.

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  5. I am horrified to learn that such extreme anti-semitism is erupting in today's world. Certainly, I knew that the nations of the Middle-East and Israel were in a never-ending conflict, but I had believed that the nations and people of the West had gotten past "the murder of a Jew because he was a Jew", after witnessing the horrors of the Holocaust.
    Old misunderstandings and hatreds live on through words. Certainly the young adults of today do not have memory of ancient grievances, so words must be responsible for the terrible and unreasonable fire that is kindled in their hearts.

    Indeed, the widespread belief among the Muslims that "9/11 was a Jewish plot, that Jews run the media and that Jewish money controls politicians" could only be spread through the power of words. Many people and nations criticize actions of the Israeli government, but it is too abstract a thing to hate a nation, whatever may be said on the surface. "Israel" makes a much less potent target for hatred than "Jew", and so words are used to shape the concept of the Jew into the most hate deserving creature imaginable. But acting against the Jews outright in Western society would have little ground to stand on, thus the undercurrents of hate are given a way out when Israel makes a controversial decision.

    Additionally, this situation gives a bit of insight into the nature of the power of words. They are not so blunt as a hammer, that their impact is assured to have effect, but must pass through a complicated filter made up of many different personal factors before they can have any effect. European officials have condemned the violent acts against Jews, speaking out against them strongly, but to no avail. Their words miss their mark in the hearts of the impassioned youth seeking an outlet for their fury at their own misfortunes, and in those so thoroughly convinced that Jews are an evil people.

    Words have brought us to this dangerous pass, and in across a whole continent we face the potential loss of an entire culture.
    Words may bring us to a peaceful solution to this calamity, but we must take care and effort to find the right words.

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  6. Duncan, your response to the article is brilliant and insightful. You show a firm grasp of the history of this situation. Certainly, layers upon layers of words and the hatred they express have brought our world to this place. You are right; it will be quite a challenge to find the words we need to clear away these layers, and it will not be accomplished overnight.

    There is so much turmoil in the world. Just when we believe we are well beyond one calamity--that we have struck down a particular form of "evil," we find ourselves suddenly in the midst of it once again. You hit the nail on the head when you talked about the impassioned youth. They are so impressionable, easily swayed, and unfortunately, angry and restless. This is a dangerous frame of mind to have in today's chaotic world. I would venture to suggest that it is our abuse of words, in that we have lost the art of true, gracious debate, that has brought us to this inflammatory place. It is the perfect stage upon which to discuss the power words have in the right or wrong hands. Thank you so much for your response. YOUR words had a powerful affect on me, as the reader.

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  7. I agree that words are very powerful. Words can lighten up someone's day, create friendships, provide information, and even save lives. However, words can also have the opposite effect and they can ruin someone's day and make them sad, destroy friendships, get people into trouble, and also take lives. It's as if words are a powerful weapon that all of us possess that we can use to carry out good deeds, or use to carry out bad deeds. It's like a gun but instead of bullets, words come out and instead of having a physical impact on the person, it has an emotional impact.

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    1. Nice metaphor! :) Yes, I agree with your assessment, and my years of experience living in this world have proven this to be true. Did you read the article? What is your reaction to that?

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  8. This article was extremely powerful and definitely portrayed how people actually are in this world and that not everything is fair. We should not live with fear in our everyday life's thinking that something bad might happen to us because of specific beliefs.
    Words are very powerful. Just like what we went over class "Sticks and Stones may break your bones, but words will never hurt you"; this can be used as an example of how words can hurt you as long as they point out something specifically about yourself and who you are.

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    1. Not only are things "not fair," they are also quite cyclical. What patterns did you see in this article that have been seen in history? What do these patterns tell us about words and how they are used by humans?

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  9. I had about a page of comment, but this site decided it would be fun to delete it all and not post, so I'm going to keep this one brief.
    This article definitely shows how words can affect vast groups of people, for the better or for the worse (in this case). However, it also demonstrates how those words can have no power if not used properly. As I would have shown if I had my full comment, the countries with high levels of prejudice are in the middle of this conflict. They are predisposed to feel anger towards the Jews because of this, and they are almost waiting to hear something that supports their views. On the other hand, countries with low levels of prejudice tend to be removed from the conflict. They aren't so affected by the message, and thus they just don't care as much. So, in short, words do have power, but only when used in the right context.
    P.S. You should have seen the comment, it was glorious.

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    1. I am super bummed I missed your glorious post! :( Next time, right after you type it, do a copy....just in case. The same thing happened to me, too. (sigh). But to your post here, yes, you make an excellent point about how we as humans tend to remain quiet and not use our words on behalf of others if we don't have strong feelings or investment in the issue at hand. This makes me think of the poem "First They Came for the Communists." Are you familiar with it? It basically states that if we refuse to stand up for groups suffering persecution, eventually, we will find it is our turn, and there will be no one left to stand up for us. Powerful stuff. Thanks for your post! (or posts!)

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  10. History indeed can repeat itself, hence why we must know our history, ensuring that it does not. I do not belive that words themselves have any power, but instead act as a representation for ones feelings, which can be so strong that they can sway others to your view. This, as stated in the article, can sway others toward kindness, or destruction. Scholl felt that what they were doing in Germany was wrong, and rather than have her influence others that it really was terrible, she was executed. Words don't have power, the people behind them do.

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    1. I agree and disagree. I would argue that it is their use of words and manipulation of words that gives them this power in the first place. Hitler was physically non-threatening, and frankly, not much to look at. He was not born in privilege, and did not have anything that would make him powerful....except his ability to speak and inspire the hearts of angry, suffering German citizens. That is what this article is showing us, isn't it? Angry, restless youth looking for a place to point their fingers for what they perceive is happening in the Middle East, specifically with Israel.

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  11. Well, I was going to read the historical article because it sounds awesome. However, I guess I reached my daily limit on viewing the website. So, here is my response to Reader Response…
    Honestly, at first, I hated the reader response theory. It seemed ridiculous and absolutely way too methodical. I told myself, “Just take the text for what it is! Don’t make such a big deal out of it”. However, as I learned more and more about it, I began to realize that this way of criticism was and has been my favorite. I love the fact that the text can be interpreted differently by anyone. It keeps the text alive. It allows it to impact people over and over again based on their different cultures and backgrounds. One of my all time favorite books is To Kill a Mockingbird because of the amazing metaphors and deeper meanings Harper Lee seems to hide underneath the actual story, waiting to be discovered and applied to ones life. Reader response bring so much more to a text than just a story made of words. It brings to life how a book, painting, etc can truly inspire someone, like the mockingbird did me.

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    1. I like how your post illustrates the pros and cons to Reader's Response here. :) There is no perfect critical theory, certainly, but there may be one we find that suits us perfectly. :) Love your comment about making the text seem "alive." That is a lovely image. Thanks for your post! Sorry you could not read the article. it is quite stunning....and scary.

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  12. Words are powerful. Some people believe that words don't mean anything until you go through something that makes you feel a certain way towards a phrase or quote. And for some that may be true (like for close-minded people). I believe that no matter who is reading a certain piece of literature or looking at a work of art, it will mean SOMETHING. It can be good or bad, like Devan said, it can have a positive side and/or a negative side. It doesn't mean that one side is more powerful than another, it just means that the way others portray that meaning will be different. There are some words that have hidden meanings and no one will ever know what they are, so in that case most people go with how they feel. Sometimes those hidden meanings could mean nothing at all and people will connect with it sooooo much that at times they will get emotional and over it, even though the meaning wasn't even meant to be the TRUE meaning. So no matter what others say, words are powerful and at times you don't even realize how powerful they are until you discover the true or hidden meanings, and even then it could mean nothing at all and you yourself will make it mean something.

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    1. This is a very thoughtful assessment of words and their power. Thank you for taking the time to develop this! :) I would love to also hear your thoughts on the article, however. How does the article specifically illustrate this power in positive and negative ways?

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  13. Yes words are powerful, and this statement can be proven just by looking out into your everyday life. From saying hi, how are you? to having a whole conversation on someones interests you can see their mood change right in front of you. Words can also be used to hurt or harm someone, even if unintentional. For example if someones relative died and you asked how are they, the persons going to be sad even though that wasn't your intention, and that can also tie into why they say choose you're words carefully.

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    1. Anthony--yes, I agree words are powerful. Can you discuss specifically how this article illustrates this? Please make sure to read the articles.

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