WE SPEAK ENGLISH BUT THE WORDS MEAN DIFFERENT THINGS TO DIFFERENT PEOPLE
You can take that headline–WHY WE MUST WRITE– several ways, depending on the tone and emphasis on each word: WHY. WE. MUST. WRITE. Read it out loud for yourself. Read it four times with an emphasis on a different word each time.
I’ll save you the agony of figuring out my intention. Writing–preferably in complete sentences will be our salvation. The art of clear communication is waning. Texting, abbreviations, tech language have replaced simple sentences. It may not happen in your lifetime but we will eventually replicate the proverbial Tower of Babylon
Are You Listening to the Words ?
When I say “We Must Write,” I want to convey a “We had better; we have to, or else. This is a fair warning” kind of must. Why? Because If we do not put thoughts and words on paper, our cultures, our knowledge base, our history, everything we know, the words we use and why we use them, and when–will all be lost. And we will be screwed. Because we will not know how to communicate with each other. Look around. It’s already happening. Too many of us are listening to the wrong people. It has become chic to come across as macho and intimidating, while admitting no wrongdoing and claiming to know just about everything.
Almost 80 percent of people I meet today are 35 years old or younger. These are the Millennials, or Millennial generation, those born after 1980 and the first generation to come of age in the new millennium. They’re friendly and outgoing and usually more fun than old(er) people (like me) but they do not know much about our country’s history. In fact, they don’t know much about anything that shaped our country, including the arts. Ask them to comment on the teachings of Plato or Aristotle and their faces go blank. Try having a discussion about the Golden Era of cinema. They may know Scarlett O’Hara but they never heard of Vivian Leigh.
I do admire, however, their fearless penchant for writing. Their blogs, journals, and diaries offer the full 411 on food, travel, fashion and beauty. Not that there’s anything wrong with that but none of it is salient to the deeper and more serious issues we face today as a human race.
Worse, the “published” writing I see today, both personal and–gasp–business, is riddled with grammatical gaffes.
Greeting card image courtesy of Zero Gravity, LLC
These “scrivants nouveaux” know a few names from the Civil Rights era. Some now recognize the name Joseph McCarthy because of recent upsets in our administration regarding collusion (or no collusion) and communist Russia. But most never heard of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg. They do not know we still have thousands of troops in South Korea or why we do. They cannot point to Iran on a map. They don’t know Africa is a continent.
Thankfully, we have it in writing. They can learn about it if they want to and the mid Millennials–circa 20 to 30 years old- seem eager to take in as much info as they can digest.
FACT: The US has nearly 40,000 personnel in Japan and 35,000 in South Korea, and uses Guam as a ‘permanent aircraft carrier’- The Guardian
I Hate To Write
I feel a wave a sadness when I hear people say “I hate to write” so I don’t want to discourage young people from taking up the craft. Writing can be such a catharsis and I think people can benefit from writing something every day. I’m sure those Neanderthals got their frustration and creativity out by carving crude symbols on cave walls and it’s a good thing they did because oh, the stories those walls tell! I just wish the writing I see today conveyed slightly more sophistication and depth of knowledge. A little more thought; a little more care is all I ask.
I can understand an aversion to writing. I just hope we do not have as many people who feel the same about reading. Yes, we–or some of us–must write, but we–all of us–must read. And we should read a variety of across-the-board literature–fact and fiction–and know the difference.
Our growing indifference to learning disturbs me. Our writing phobia disappoints me. There are so many opportunities that pass us by in this age of publishing technology. I did not have the opportunities we all have today when I struggled as a writer to publish my first legitimate article in Seventeen Magazine. That was in 1976. Today, each of you with a desire to express your feelings and experiences, have can write and be heard by millions. It doesn’t matter if your sentences end with prepositions. There are editors for that.
I want all of us to write, no matter how much you hate it, or love it but feel you’re not good enough. By writing, you will do something to reverse the country’s growing penchant for ignorance–a state of affairs we must avoid if we intend to continue to learn and evolve.
Listen to this space. Do you have something to say? Here’s your chance.