Words do more than describe the world around us.
Words can also create the worlds in which we imagine ourselves to live.
Words can change how other people see the worlds we share.
We see this in the media as those with power—and those aspiring to power—choose their words to shape how we see the world.
Being literate involves a capacity to decode the words being directed at us, as well as some skill in choosing our own words as we communicate with others.
In the context of the Australian government’s policy towards asylum-seekers and refugees, are we dealing with people “seeking to jump the line” rather than follow the “proper process” and wait patiently in refugee camps for many years? Or are we dealing we desperate people seeking refuge from violence and poverty, and appealing to our compassion? Will one set of words create a world where people vote for this political party or another party?
Similar questions can be asked (and are) about the US policy on immigrants from Central and South America, or the storming of the Capitol in Washington on January 6, or the protagonists in the current conflict between Hamas and Israel.
The words we choose and the stories we tell create the worlds in which we live. They can distract us from injustice or inspire us to create a better world.
As we master our skill with words we become world-makers, both for ourselves and for others.