Let’s eradicate the language that is needlessly dividing the nation

Matt Charlton, CEO at Brothers & Sisters, on how to change language to create a more united society

You could easily argue that we need to kill everything that has happened in the last 10 years, ever since the 2012 London Olympics.

Then, we felt truly unified. We cried with pride when an athlete from a clear immigrant background won three golds. And Channel 4 made us realise that people with disabilities were superhuman, compared to everyone else who was just human.

We need a cultural clear-out to rediscover this soul. A decade is a short time, but society today is unrecognisable from those hazy days of 2012, and that’s because we now live surrounded by division caused, I believe, by language. The old ‘sticks and stones may break my bones…’ adage our mothers trotted out a generation or two ago was only true in its most literal sense then and today, with the internet a platform for every last person to have their say, is even less so.

I’d kill any language that causes division. The word Brexit. The words Remainer and Leaver. Kill them all. They create divisions which are pointless. They feel like words relating to a generation sailing into the sunset. They create an us and them that is without nuance or shade.

Let’s talk about prosperity…

Because that is a word that unifies. The only thing we’ve exited with any clarity is prosperity. Prosperity opens the door to ideas. How to get back on a path to prosperity is the only language we need to hear in 2023.

Let’s kill the word woke…

Another word used to create division. It has become yet another cultural shorthand to categorise people who hold different views, especially across generations. The irony is it’s too late to argue against it as our children are growing up much more sensitised to each other’s feelings than we ever were, and it’s influencing all of us. Even McKinsey have measured that the cultural influence of Gen Z now stretches up into multiple generations.

In marketing terms let’s kill the phrase ‘brand purpose’.

Not to flee back to some old fashion idea that brands should stick to selling, but because for Gen Z and younger Millennials, brand purpose doesn’t go anywhere nearly far enough. They expect brands to join them in helping tangibly change the world for the better or shut up. Purpose cannot be a box that’s ticked, it has to be a behaviour, an attitude, a fundamental foundation of a business. So from that point of view they see all brands having the same purpose which negates the entire exercise.

The overarching point of this piece is to remind us all how seriously language manipulates, and when you link that to a media landscape that is both saturating us with messages and rewarding writers with money every time something gets a click online, you have a recipe for real disaster.

To that end, if I may, one last thing to kill would be financial gain based on clicks. Together with language, it is the rotten cancer that will continue to stop us unifying. And if it can’t be killed, then let’s just disable it by clicking on everything everywhere so it becomes meaningless.

Featured image: Channel 4 / Super. Human.

Matt Charlton, CEO, Brothers & Sisters

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