On Ostracism and Other Words

Activity Being Avoided: editing a story that’s not really working
Music In My Head: listening to a homemade playlist entitled “JMMV
Tea Being Drunk: none. I’m between students, filling time. There’s no good tea here.
Books Being Read: The Pier Falls — Mark Haddon

Epigraph

“Words are, in my not-so-humble opinion, our most inexhaustible source of magic. Capable of both inflicting injury and remedying it.”
― Albus Dumbledore, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (J.K. Rowling)

I’m not much of an activist. Truthfully, one might say I totally suck at being an activist. You really do not want me as your front man, regardless of your cause. It’s just not my thing.

That said, I can certainly stand up for something I think is important. Today, I’m standing up for words (which, of course, relate to actions and thoughts.) We’ll have a vocabulary lesson.

Let’s start with this word: ostracism. Here’s part of the spiel thieved from Etymonline:

ostracism (n.) Look up ostracism at Dictionary.com1580s, a method of 10-year banishment in ancient Athens, by which the citizens gathered and each wrote on a potsherd or tile the name of a man they deemed dangerous to the liberties of the people, and a man whose name turned up often enough was sent away.
A similar practice in ancient Syracuse (with banishment for five years) was by writing names on olive leaves, and thus was called petalismos.

 Here’s another word, teach, the etymology of which is taken from the same dictionary (which is certainly serving me well today):

teach (v.) Look up teach at Dictionary.comOld English tæcan (past tense tæhte, past participle tæht) “to show, point out, declare, demonstrate,” also “to give instruction, train, assign, direct; warn; persuade,” from Proto-Germanic *taikijan “to show”…

The usual sense of Old English tæcan was “show, declare, warn, persuade”…

These are some rather definite words. If one were to put them together, i.e. ostracise someone to teach them a lesson, the tone is hostile. This is not something we would do to express affection, love or respect for a person.

Here’s a third word: bigot. Again, let’s follow that with the wisdom from Etymonline:

bigotry (n.) Look up bigotry at Dictionary.com1670s, from French bigoterie “sanctimoniousness,” from bigot (see bigot).

bigot (n.) Look up bigot at Dictionary.com1590s, “sanctimonious person, religious hypocrite,” from French bigot (12c.), which is of unknown origin… Sense extended 1680s to other than religious opinions.

As I am not a journalist, I do not have to be objective; thus, this last word is to voice my opinion.

As a mother and a teacher (as well as just an ordinary human being), I know that kicking people out of a group does nothing to teach them how to behave within that group. While it might make some of the people feel as though the problem has been solved, it’s just been swept under the rug–and under the rug is a good place for things to fester.

Here’s a better word, one that might be more useful, all around: educate.

educate (v.) Look up educate at Dictionary.commid-15c., “bring up (children), to train,” from Latin educatus, past participle of educare “bring up, rear, educate” (source also of Italian educare, Spanish educar, French éduquer), which is a frequentative of or otherwise related to educere “bring out, lead forth,” from ex “out” (see ex-) + ducere “to lead,” from PIE root *deuk- “to lead.”

While considering these words, I (finally) signed this petition because I don’t think being ostracised will do anything to teach the police a lesson.

Allow Police Services to March & Be Present In Uniform at Toronto Pride

Leading and training: that might  help solve the prejudice that’s such a problem in our society.

These aren’t the cops you’re looking for.

 

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