Cultural Observation: Demoralized Language

“Public language has also become demoralized. Google ngrams measure word usage across media. Google scans the contents of books and publications going back decades. You can type in a word and see, over the years, which words have been used more frequently and which less frequently. Over the past few decades there has been a sharp rise in the usage of individualist words and phrases like “self” and “personalized,” “I come first” and “I can do it myself,” and a sharp decline in community words like “community,” “share,” “united,” and “common good.” The use of words having to do with economics and business has increased, while the language of morality and character building is in decline. Usage of words like “character,” “conscience,” and “virtue” all declined over the course of the twentieth century.26Usage of the word “bravery” has declined by 66 percent over the course of the twentieth century. “Gratitude” is down 49 percent. “Humbleness” is down 52 percent and “kindness” is down 56 percent.” -David Brooks, The Road to Character

A Lot To Be Thankful For in America

“Anuradhi Vittachi (Earth Conference One, 1989) asks us to imagine the world as a village with one hundred families:

‘If this metaphorical village consists of one hundred families… sixty-five cannot read. Some eighty families have no members who have flown on airplanes, and seventy have no drinking water at home. About sixty families occupy ten percent of the village, while just seven own sixty percent of the land… Only one family has a university education.'” -quoted in William Willimon, Peculiar Speech