The whole and its parts

The whole & its parts

Authority is spreading

A key sentence in marketing I’ve learned to see is “people like us do things like that”. The basic idea is, that it is possible to recognize groups of people through their common beliefs and habits. It’s how people define belonging among each other.

What it doesn’t imply, is an evaluation of what people like us do. What it says, is that there is a high probability that people in that group will not question what they do as they are engaged with it.

It describes the habit of groupthink. May it be for critical attitudes or submissive attitudes.

Whatever that group has chosen as attitude becomes the authority in the group, it’s what others seek to align with. One of the most visible forms of it is the chosen language.

With chosen language I imply, a language containing specific vocabulary. Words or ways to express themselves which make it easy to determine who is an insider and who is an outsider. Among the variants of such languages are the national, professional or generational languages.

A type of language that has started to emerge with the ever-growing presence of the wish to sell products and services can be termed “selling” language. It’s the basic idea to develop descriptions of products and services in such a way that they become attractive to others. Examples of it, most of us learned to doubt are words like new, better, best, most, innovative and premium.

Where it has become transformative of the language commonly used, is when the wish to persuade others of one’s ideas and methods is institutionalized by early adopters until it becomes hype. It’s the moment in which outsiders stop enquiring into the terms used. The terms used gained the aura of being magical solutions. Once language spread, people become afraid to question the vocabulary. Questioning it becomes a threat as it would show that they are outsiders. Instead, a lot of them take up that vocabulary without being sure to be able to explain it. Belonging is more important than understanding. The belief now is that if that vocabulary exists, someone made it right. The number of people using it now serves as proof of its usefulness.

We eventually end up with a perceived need to accept vocabulary as it is being used. When words lose their specific meaning for a general understanding it thus becomes necessary to create new words to be able to explain what was meant. As “surface” language spreads, it’s taken to be right and having authority.

It’s a path on which the art of searching for a nuanced understanding, that is of seeking to find our meaning, disappears.


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