The Dangers of the Language


I know I shouldn't rail. I know, particularly in the place I am in, that I should roll over and allow the tide to swirl past me. But I can't. The principle of human dignity does not allow me to stand by and observe while we continue to treat people with such barbarity--starting from the first words out of our mouths.

I am used to HR speak that tends to refer to people in aggregate as "resources." I understand what is meant by it--both on the surface and in the subtext. On the surface, it is seemingly harmless enough, a shorthand for people and other essential material. Or so it seems--but given that resources rarely refers to "other essential material" it is really short-hand for the interchangeable mass each of whom is as incapable of the next of accomplishing the task.

People are not resources--not unless you are Pol Pot, Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin, or any number of others I could name, eminently capable of doing away with useless "resources." Human dignity rises above the level of a resource, and those of us who are true to our Christian calling need to resist with all of our might the tide of dehumanization that sweeps through our workplaces and our civilization. As small as it may be, changing the language is one place to start with this. When we can stop regarding people as resources, we can begin to understand people as they are--people. A resource is a tool or material that can be put to a limited number of uses in entirely predictable and transferable ways. This description in no way applies to any person. And when we can start thinking of people as people rather than resources, then we no longer have available to us such deplorable and evil euphemisms as "resource reallocation" or "resource sizing" to refer to the potential destruction of hundreds of human lives at corporate whim.

As I said, it's small but it is important. This morning I received an e-mail that asked me "which resources will be used to cover" such-and-such a task. I have not yet phrased my response, but I will tell you without any hesitation at all, it will sharply correct and reflect upon the original phrasing. I do not work with resources--I use them. I work with people, and I endeavor not to use them in that negative sense.

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This page contains a single entry by Steven Riddle published on October 9, 2009 6:43 AM.

October Begins was the previous entry in this blog.

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