It is an interesting moment for me to talk about equality. I have spent the last few days holding my breath and grieving for Nairobi, for everyone suffering at the hands of those who do not believe in respecting differences. While this was especially close to my heart, every day, all around the world, such tragic incidents occur, demonstrating the need for an understanding of diversity, and an appreciation of the same. When I discuss these issues with others, I often use the word ‘equality’.
At the chalk art festival in Victoria, one of the children I spoke to was asking me about the CWM piece. I explained the concept of the ideas being mobilised by words, concluding with “and they can now move towards ‘equality’, and talking about it’, as I pointed to the blocks that formed the word. The child paused and stared at the Idea character on a Word boat for a bit, appearing to consider the story in front of her. She then asked, “what’s an equality?”
I stopped chalking immediately and joined her in staring at the characters I had been drawing. This question I had not anticipated. It was my turn to consider. How could I explain this word without using a zillion other complicated words, and convey its meaning to this child, who was looking expectantly at me? Without being able to Google, “how can I explain the word equality without using a zillion other complicated words and convey its meaning to this child who is looking expectantly at me”?!
I offered, after what I hope was not too long a silence, “equality means being nice to everyone even if they are different in some ways”. She responded “oh”, and nodded, processing my explanation and staring a bit longer. I talked a bit more about how different ideas are needed for the conversation on social equality.
Perhaps the essence of a word can get lost in complicated language at times. Jargon, and words frequently associated with the key word are used, but the underlying message the word seeks to convey can be obscured by a haze of complex terminology. While exploring various meanings and aspects of a word is important to avoid generalisation and oversimplification, sometimes a back-to-basics approach can work to make the message accessible to more people. The question I was asked also forced me to evaluate my own actual understanding of the word, how much more I have to learn about it, and how the world needs to get better acquainted with it.
The same goes for many, many other words. With CWM, I look forward to learning more about the words I think I know, and exchanging ideas with you 🙂