Word Power

Do you believe that the word is more powerful than the sword? The word carries more power only if it is used to spread the truth.

At the fundamental level, truth is the most powerful thing. Although we may seem pursuing superficial material stuff in everyday life, we are subconsciously seeking the truth about how the world works so that we can benefit from it. For those who relentlessly pursue the truth, the personal satisfaction gained is beyond measure. In many cases, money and fame will come as a bonus, too, as shown by the founders of Apple, Google and Facebook, who have discovered the truth about what the consumers really want. On the other hand, you may ask, what does a dictator fear most? He fears the people will rebel once the truth is known about how he ascended to power, how he silenced his opponents, and how his propaganda machine deceived the people.

Many truths are self-evident because they are simple. Many more are hidden because they are complicated to understand. Still, many simple truths are concealed by smokescreens invented by liars. What makes words so powerful? Words bring out and spread the truth, thereby deriving power from it. Words can motivate and inspire by appealing to our inner desire for truth. In contrast, swords can only bring fears and make enemies.

Say what you mean and mean what you say. This popular maxim urges everyone to use words wisely and forcefully. It requires honesty and accountability, which some people find it hard to adhere to. Even better, putting the words in writing transforms them into a document for other people to verify or follow in the future. A written document has the extra capacity to convey trust, responsibility, and authority. Therefore, it is no surprise that some documents have assumed great importance such as religious scriptures, national constitutions, papers of scientific discovery, and books of arts and personal experiences.

Another type of document is so pervasive in modern society that we tend to take for granted. It is the contract between two or more parties. Contracts are generally divided into two kinds: business and social. The simplest business contract is a sales receipt that accompanies a purchase. A complex one involves trade agreements between countries, or an option to purchase a jetliner.

Social contracts are much less common than business contracts. A national constitution is a complicated social contract between the rulers (or government) and the people. Many countries don’t have a written constitution, especially in a dictatorship or an absolute monarchy. The absence of a constitution gives the people no specific rights to challenge the rulers in a peaceful manner. It allows the rulers to wield the sword to subjugate the people, or for the people to overthrow the government in a violent and bloody revolution.

The essence of a business contract is the binding requirement for both parties in an attempt to solidify trust, because a business deal cannot be accomplished without trust. Note that the degree of economic development in a society is associated with how widely business contracts are being employed. Comparing a rich developed country with a poor underdeveloped one, the business contract stands out as a glaring difference. In the former, business contracts are complex and widespread for the support of a sophisticated market system. In the latter, the concept of business contract is rarely understood among the population, especially in the basic matter of land tenancy and ownership.

In the absence of a business contract, people tend to revert back to the age-old power of the sword in economic activities. Employing the sword perpetuates the bullying of the weak by the strong, such as usury, child labor, land occupation, even slavery. This closes the door to bargaining and fair exchange based on trust. Then business becomes exploitation rather than for mutual benefits. Exploitation can never lead to advanced economic development. Therefore, we can say that the underdevelopment of the economy is attributed to the underutilization of business contracts that are based on the power of words instead of swords.

The final point I want to make is about the press. Have you ever wondered why the powerful hate and fear the press at the same time? They complain that the press is intrusive but forget that they attract attention because of their high status. The press never shows interest in an average person like you and me. The press likes to go after stories of corruption, scandals, and abuse of power committed by those in high positions. Why? People naturally take pleasure reading those stories, thereby increasing press circulation. This happens to work out just fine for a democratic society. The powerful need not fear the press if there is no power abuse. In case the press lies, they are welcome to sue for libel. Let truth be the standard.

Besides the government, the common people rely on the press to preserve the balance of power. If not for the government and the press, who else can the common people depend on to limit the predatory practices of the powerful? The work of the press serves the people well by exposing the truth of corruption and power abuse. In a democracy where the government is supposed to serve the people, the press exercises the power of the word by undertaking to spread the truth. On the contrary, in countries where the sword rules, you will find a corrupt government and a press that cannot speak the truth. The government is corrupted by money supplied by the rich. The press is either owned by the powerful or has already been silenced.

(October 2011)

This entry was posted in Economics/Politics, Inspiration. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Word Power

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