Speaking with Authority

The society is dynamic. It constantly changes and all these changes are clearly reflected in our language and speech. Language is like a history book of society, it remembers and stores everything what had ever happened or had any value for society. Accordingly, evolution of language had always been used by scholars as an indicator of the values currently prevalent in a society. Specific words that were implicated or commonly used by a certain generation always reflected the overall condition of the social environment. For example, courtesy words were once an integral part of the American language, yet now are not widely used. Phrases like “feel the funk” or “far out” were commonly used in the 1970s and were said to reflect the laid back and overall liberal atmosphere of those years.

Nowadays, much criticism is directed towards the mainstream way of speaking. A good example of the critique that the way of speaking is garnering today is expressed by Taylor Mali in the video Speaking with Authority. Through the video, Mali challenges and questions the youth on their speaking habits and further expresses the reasons why this habit should be changed. This paper will explore the various ideas presented by Mali regarding the current norms of speaking and his critique of these norms. I will also draw the parallels in concepts described by Plato in Allegory of In the video, Mali mockingly describes the younger generation’s way of speaking pointing that uncertainty and the lack of authority seem to be the norm. This uncertainty is most apparent whenever words like “you know” and “like” can be inserted in any part of the sentence.  Alongside these inserts, statements are always delivered in an interrogative manner when there is no need to do so; hence, it leads to the “bandwagon of uncertainty” as Mali coined this phenomenon. He claims that these changes further demonstrate how inarticulate the young generation is. It became "uncool to sound like you know what you are talking about or believe in what you are saying", thus young people mostly do not invest anything personal into their words.  Having a less profound vocabulary seems to be a fad with which most if not all young people seem to be obsessed. Challenging this fad can be easily branded with many variations of derogatory words.

To further illustrate the points that Mali is trying to forward I will relate to Plato’s Analogy of Cave. In the Analogy of Cave, the shadows cast on the wall were seen by prisoners shackled to the opposite wall. The prisoners then only had a limited conception of the world. Prisoners were exposed only to shadows apart from which they had no other understanding of reality. Similarly, the way modern youth speaks is like shadows on the wall that only seem real. The youth’s idea of what is and what should be is limited by the degree of their socialization. Thus, the way they act and speak characterizes their stand in the society – uncertain and conflicted with so many ideas.

But what does this evolution of language really point at? Are we just supposed to accept this new component of language as we have accepted other changes? As Mali expressed, “It is not enough to question authority, you have to speak with it too.” With all the information and ideas presented through various forms of media, it is quite easy to be confused and stand under the shadows of uncertainty. But this should be seen as a challenge. The world would not stop changing and if young people coil up and refuse to challenge themselves to be intellectually firm. Indeed, the bright prospering future for young people will bleak if they will continue to “bandwagon of uncertainty”. The young minds should challenge the norm and think more critically. They should be not simply critical about surrounding world, but also think about deeper meaning of their actions.

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