Feature Article of Thursday, 25 October 2012

Columnist: Turkson, Sylvester

Let there be peace or war:? And there was....

‘Of all the weapons of destruction that man could invent the most terrible and the most powerful was the word. Daggers and spears left traces of blood: arrows could be seen at a distance, poisons were detected in the end and avoided. But the word managed to destroy without leaving clues’
Paulo Coecho.

In my primary two class room, there was a notice hanged on top of the blackboard that declared: ‘Don’t speak vernacular.’ Those three words were so strong and mighty that the desire to speak vernacular was killed by those words staring like a police man ready to arrest a culprit.
Words are very powerful, to me the most powerful asset on planet earth, all over history, some people have left a good legacy by what they said, others have being tagged terrorists by just a line of statement uttered.

In the Bible, the Book of Proverbs is very rich with wise sayings and has much to say about the significance of well- chosen words: "A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger."
Have you ever thought about this: God Almighty never really created anything, it was as simple command like an angry father commanding a son “Sit down here!!!” and the small boy does just that. All God did was to command things that were not to be as if they were, ‘Let there be light, and there was light,’ “Let the water under the sky be gathered to one place, and dry ground appear,” and it was so. (Gen 1vs3&9)
Words, especially from those we consider leaders, can guide us or deceive us, make us knowledgeable or ignorant, violent or peaceful, sad or joyful, wise or foolish.

The Quran advises us, "A kind word with forgiveness is better than almsgiving followed by injury..." A commentary on the meaning of these verses says that the tongue affects the ear. The ear affects the soul. The soul affects the entire body. Every word makes an impression on the listener. But the deepest impression made on the listener is either a kind word or a harsh word.
One of the sacrosanct tenets of Islam is the giving of alms, (Zakat), which is often times displayed when celebrating Eid al Fitr and other festive seasons , If Muslims are advised that a kind word is better than almsgiving; it therefore goes to mean that much premium is laid on speaking good words than any of the 5 tenets of Islam.

Whichever way we look at it, there is no doubt that what we say or write could have impact on our lives, December 7th is just some few days away from us, it is my plead and earnest appeal to our leaders to be very mindful and watch over the words they use. Party differences be put aside, no room for retaliating each other. Mahatma Gandhi said ‘An eye for an eye only ends up making the whole world blind’ so that after December 7th, students can still go to their lecture halls without fear or torment, our mothers can go to ‘kantamanto’ (A market centre) to ask about the price of a bag of perfume rice since Christmas is just at the corner. Much blood has been spilled by it, a drop of two or three powerful words make millions of people think, fight, imprisoned, and cry, a careful and wise usage of it is like honey, it can build bridges for hatred and anger to walk on it amiably.

In Buddhism, one aspect of the Eightfold Path, Sama Vaca, is most often translated into English as Right Speech, which suggests that one should constantly practice the speech they want to make before it comes out, being mindful of one’s purpose in speaking.
The following story illustrates well the power of words: An old teacher spoke to his students: "Tonight I would like to speak to you about wise speech. According to the Teacher, wise speech is that which is truthful, gentle, helpful, spoken from a kind heart and is timely."

In his story to them, he made the students understand that harsh words are very powerful and can turn joy into sadness, friends into enemies, and words have been the course of most wars in the world.
A young pupil said, "Sir, I do not understand how this can be. A stone can bruise, when a knife cuts, it lives a scar, theft can deprive, but words are just sounds, having no substance, words are innocent and less scary, I strongly disagree with you when you suggest they are so powerful."

The master replied, "If you weren't such an ignorant idiot, you'd understand. So sit down, shut up and stop interrupting." The worried young man fell silent immediately, his joy for the day was completely smashed, about ten minutes later, the student’s face was frowned and had red eyes, and it was obvious to the whole class he was upset, his whole body started shaking.

The old master, turned to him, "You seem perturbed. Your gentle outlook is shattered. What happened to you?"

"Sir you poured harsh insults I did not deserve on me, why did you do that? I don’t think you are the great teacher you pretend to be. I am disappointed in you!" he retorted.

The old man responded, "Ah, I see. It was my words that had such a transforming effect upon you. It seems that now you know how powerful words are? Show me the scar or mark that reflects the pain I have inflected on you? So now you and I agree that speech can be quite powerful."

Abraham Lincoln said something very powerful that I want all loving Ghanaians to give it a thought: “America, (Ghana) will never be destroyed from the outside (Western countries), if we falter and lose our freedom, it will be because we destroyed ourselves.” No country can put ours into jeopardy, as the title of my article goes, “Let there be peace/war, and there was....” Based on what we opt for it shall be unto us.

I have this counsel for the two biggest political parties in Ghana. To the NPP: “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” Ephesians 4vs29 and
To the NDC: “Whoever guards his mouth preserves his life; he who opens wide his lips comes to ruin.” Proverbs 13vs 3.

Sylvester Turkson
Communications and Public Relations Officer
Christian Rural Aid Network, (CRAN), NGO
Cape Coast