Fake it till you make it - in language?

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Fake it till you make it - in language?

Not trying to pick any fights or insult anyone.

A friend who suffers from chronic depression has learned all the coping strategies available, and one of the most useful is called "Fake it till you make it". This simply means to act as if you were well - serene, confident, in control - so that, through incremental small successes, you can gain calm, courage and autonomy.

It seems to me that what we sometimes call "political correctness" - and, by the way, not everyone uses that phrase derogatorily: we just don't have a wieldy alternate label - is an attempt to achieve the same kind of thing in society. We have a mental image of the society in which we would prefer. We try to act as if the society we do live in resembled the image, hoping that, thereby, it will become tolerant, inclusive and fair.

There is much wrong, and all the wrongs have generated phrases, names, forms of address, references, and caricatures. The vernacular reflects and describes the attitudes, relationships, institutions and processes that have damaged and oppressed and marginalized and belittled groups of people. 

In order to right wrongs, you must first identify them. Then you must get the majority of people to admit that they, themselves, are complicit in perpetuating the wrongs and that they should stop. You have to convince people to think differently - better. Speaking and writing differently - better - is a step toward that end.

But there are dangers. Faking it in depression may mask symptoms that would be more effectively addressed in some other way (meditation, medication, art therapy, counselling, diet....) When it doesn't work, it may prolong and deepen a "low" by adding guilt, failure and frustration. Other people who don't know you may belive the front and expect more resilience than you possess. These pitfalls don't make "faking it" less useful: you can avoid them by being aware, being prepared to change strategy as circumstances demand.

There are dangers, too, in changing language before changing the system it describes. Language may hide attitudes that need rather to be exposed. Now that the N-word is anathema, we've got media flunkies running around declaring the end of racism in America - a patent but prevelant falsehood. Now, it's far more difficult to spot, to pin down, to prove; the enemies are hiding in plain sight. And the majority of people have not grasped all the concepts of new language, partly because it's still fluid, in process, nebulous, and partly because it's not being applied universally and consistently. Including is harder than excluding, takes longer, requires more care and attention.

Is it worth the effort? Is it working? How can we do it better?


I don't know whether i chose a bad title or an unpopular topic.

I am quite certain that it's important to think about the words we use, how they affect our perceptions and ideas and sometimes even our relationships; who controls the public vocabulary, by what means and for what purpose.

If the subject just doesn't interest anyone, i won't bring it up again.*

(*except in situ - wherever an expression is used that i consider merits reflection)


i totally agree.  people think there's no racism because it's not acceptable to use terms like the nword etc.  People think we're accepting of LGBT issue because we don't use the F word and there's the odd gay person on TV...

it's all on the surface, and we have miles to go.  

the one positive though is that we've overcome that particular barrier of total public disrespect.  Sure it makes isms harder to spot, but certainly the gains of the civil rights era of the 60's has led to major gains for people.  

so i think the language thing is just one facet of change that is part of a larger process that is constantly evolving around us.  so for example, while there is still plenty of hard times for gay teens, it's certainly much better than it was even 10 years ago.

Even something that seems as stagnant as the israel/palestine thing.  There was a time when an israeli politician would never admit a need for a palestinian state.  Now, even though the peace process is a sham it is nonetheless an issue and there are people advocating for it and there is some progress being made, albeit very very slow.

but it's through constantly bringing issue like this up i think we'll be able to progress!


Yes, that's two things, and i believe they are related.

One is talking about taboo subjects. Bringing issues into public awareness is hugely important. Even if nothing seems to improve, or not for a long time, discussion is always healthy. And if some able spokesperson gains prominence, people listen, think about it, argua around the dinner table, begin tu understand, and progress is made.

The other, is changing vocabulary. That's important, too, because a whole lot of people are no longer hurt by labels that used to be thrown - more often thoughtlessly than maliciously. It's good to reminded sometimes of the real persons behind any label. Also, we can bring more compassion into our perception of other people by a change of designation. "Homeless" is not only more polite than "vagrant", it's also more accurate: it describes that person's real, physical situation, not just hir social status.

But it doesn't change hir social status. Many of us feel so virtuous saying "homeless man" when secretly thinking "bum" that we go no further. And we get no closer, because we're still repelled by or afraid of him. Putting a better name to something that needs improvement is a start. If the new name is both accurate and engaging - has emotional resonance, holds our attention - it's a very good start.