The Dictionary of Peace

Sanguine. How often do you hear people use that word in conversation? Yeah, I don’t hear it often, either. But I wish we would. Would that a larger proportion of the population sought out more expansive vocabularies. Would that more people attached value to knowledge and its quest. Lately, as we hear a man who has been elected president speak at a level of vocabulary suited to conversation with third-graders (save for the expletives), it seems the level of intelligence of the population at large is dipping into the single digits. Language, through the extent of vocabulary, offers a good measure of intelligence. Not that mathematics does not; comprehension of mathematics, too, provides a gauge of intellect. But the extent of one’s grasp of his mother tongue parallels, I think, the extent of one’s understanding of the world in which one lives. The correlation is imperfect; I know of plenty of people whose vocabularies far exceed mine who are deviant monsters, suitable targets for public service euthanasia. But, as a general rule, the larger the vocabulary, the more knowledgeable the person. I suppose that statement proves my bias. Many people who are unfortunate enough to live in poverty have not had the same good fortune as I to pursue education; that does not equate to a lack of intellect but, rather, a lack of opportunity. So, I may be arguing against myself as I think this through. But I think the expanse of one’s language does mirror the expanse of one’s intellectual capacity. That’s true, in my mind, regardless of whether the limits on language were imposed by circumstances or by the capacities of one’s brain.

This little conversation with myself awakens me to an uncomfortable realization that I may, indeed, unintentionally equate poverty with ignorance. That’s not where I intended to go with this. And it’s not what I believe; at least it’s not what I think I believe. Poverty is not a symptom of inferior intellect or knowledge; it is the outcome of systemic deficiencies. Sometimes, those deficiencies might be exacerbated by inferior intellect, but even people whose intellectual wherewithal surpasses the rest of us can be beaten by “the system.” And, back to my mention of the soon-to-be Cheetoh in Chief, deficient language skills (or, at least, deficient usage) does not necessarily parallel poverty; in some cases, speaking and behaving like a third grader with under-developed empathy and compassion goes hand in glove with obscene wealth.

My conversation this morning troubles me. I wish I were more of a tea drinker; I understand sitting quietly and drinking tea tends to bring peace to one’s perspective. I am drinking coffee and feeling an unquenchable desire to operate a guillotine. Perhaps I better go read “The Dictionary of Peace.”  Is there such a book?

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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