The leverage of language LO24375

From: AM de Lange (
Date: 04/17/00

Replying to LO24366 --

Dear Organlearners,

Michael Chender <> writes:

>Here in Nova Scotia we have just had a particularly brutal
>budget passed, with major cutbacks to social services, and
>government, business, and the social sector are at each
>others' throats. It occurs to me that we are poverty-stricken
>by a language of fragmentation that makes it difficult for each
>side to imagine cooperation with the other. For example, to
>many in business, the great mass of unemployed are "whiners'
>seeking "entitlement." We have no ready language to distinguish,
>and thus envision, the "unwillingly unemployed" from the
>"gratefully unemployed."

Greetings Michael,

Your description "language of fragmentation" made me think very deep.
"Fragmentation" is for me the opposite of "wholeness". Thus you could
also have said "It occurs to me that we are poverty-stricken by the lack
of wholeness in language that makes it difficult for each side to imagine
cooperation with the other."

Jan Smuts, statesman, soldier, scientists and father of holism (1926,
Holism and Evolution) said the same thing unnumerous times, but obviously
not in exactly the same words. A lack of wholeness will make us poor in
any creative outcome -- even in the use of a langauge like English. Hence
it is not the language itself which is fragmented, but the
"consciousness". This lack of wholeness in the "consciousness" causes the

I have put the "consciousness" in quotation marks because I am not sure
what word to use in English. I think in my own language in terms of the
word "wete" rather than "bewussyn"="consciousness". Unfortunately, when
our dictionaries translate "wete" into English, they give "wete"=
"knowledge" while they also translate "kennis"="knowledge" and
"kunde"="knowledge". The German word for "wete" is "Wissen".

But for me there is an important difference between
"wete"= "knowledge"
"kennis, kunde"="knowledge"
The only way how I can make you aware of this difference is to
refer to two words in English which have retained the same stem
as our "wete" from the ancient Germanic roots. They are the
words "witness" and "wittingly".

Furthermore, the following may help to understand the word
"wete" even more. Our word for the English word "science" is
"wetenskap". The literal equivalent for "wetenskap", even though
this word does not exist in English, would be "witting+ship". The
German word "Wissenshaft" says very much the same thing.

The word "witt"="wete" encompass much more than
"kennis"="knowledge". Knowledge is the result of learning. But
"witt"="wete" is the result of all the processes in our spirit,
learning. Thus it includes even those things which we recognise
seperately as creativity or faith -- things which can be infuenced
by our learning, but which are not the outcomes of learning.

Our actual consciousness, not "consciousness", has to be a whole because
it cannot emerge without wholeness. Its like the whole earth -- seas,
continents and islands. But our "witt" ("wete") can emerge in separate
phases like islands in the sea, or break up into several continents from
one original continent which has emerged. I am convinced that it is this
fragmentation of our "witt"="wete" which impoverishes us so much.

By allowing this "fragmentation" into "science"="wetenskap", this
impoverishment also afflicts science to disintegrate into inumerous
specialisations. Each specialisation can still generate a lot of
information, but such information is closed to all the other specialities
because of the fragmentation between the specialisations.

>Similarly, the social sector attacks "business interests," failing
>to distinguish between compassionately pragmatic and greedily
>defensive points of view.

I like your use of the word "distinguish" very much. In our langage
Afrikaans we use the word "onderskei" for it. The literal English for it,
again a word which does not exist, will be "under-skey". (The word "skey"
is obsolete in English now.) The "onderskei" means that on the skin 'n
"skeiding"="separation, division" is made, but underneath the whole is
still acknowledged. But when a "onderskeid"="distinction" becomes an
actual "skeiding"="separation" which goes to deeper than the skin to even
severe the bone, then it is not possible to exchange meaning between two
(or more) parties any more. Each party is then doomed to understand merely
its own meaning and misunderstand the meanings of all other parties.

>I would appreciate any pointers towards work on specific
>and pointed use of language to provide the groundwork to
>enable a systems-based view to root and flourish in society.

Michael, I think that the use of language, although very important, is not
the only activity which we should give attention to. Nevertheless, I
think that since we have to begin somewhere when beginning to heal our
fragmented wholeness, the best activity we can begin with is the use of

With care and best wishes


At de Lange <> Snailmail: A M de Lange Gold Fields Computer Centre Faculty of Science - University of Pretoria Pretoria 0001 - Rep of South Africa

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