Wise words from wise wordsmith Jacques Rousseau on his synapses blog this morning, as he admonished some (or more) atheists for exploiting the death of SA author Andre Brink
to score political points for atheism
I can actually think of very few occasions when it’s acceptable to use the death of anyone to score political points for anything. Much like those “No Fly-Tipping” signs you see at the side of the road, this is one of those things that I don’t even think should need saying.
Evidently, I’m incorrect. (Yes, it happens.) (As does the fly-tipping).
It was the choice of words used when expressing condolence that apparently upset some atheists. “RIP” obviously doesn’t fit with their (or my) view of what actually happens when someone dies. But as Jacques points out, it’s also:
a shorthand for extending commiserations, for demonstrating shared membership of a community of caring, and for marking the passing of someone who was considered valuable to that community.
It’s not that the semantics aren’t important here. They are.
It’s more that being judgmental about people using words and phrases which are – in your view – technically incorrect, and more especially, being judgmental about them at a time when emotions are already running high, is not going to change anyone’s mind – certainly not the way you would like it changed anyway.
Yes, I’d prefer for us to use alternatives. But for any alternatives to gain traction takes time. And motivating for them, and gaining consensus for their usage, won’t be easy if you approach that task by being an ass.
Yep. There’s a time and a place for this. Neither of which were ‘the immediate period after Brink’s death’ and ‘on the internet’. Get a grip.
Personally, I’m less inclined to chase people down because of the words and phrases that they use in this context. Live and let live, and yes, educate (but do try to choose your moment more sensibly).
In fact, I even used a quote from Ephesians 4:32 for the title of this post. Just because something comes from what you consider to be a work of fiction doesn’t mean that it has to necessarily be a bad idea.
You only have to look at Willy Wonka’s Chocolate River for evidence of that.