As I’ve mentioned, I am a reader. Some years ago, I read Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project. (Who doesn’t need more happiness?) Rubin is also a bibliophile, salt and peppering her work with literary allusion when not extrapolating from literature outright, so I enjoy her work. Her system for achieving more happiness was far too systematic for me, though. Guessing that may’ve been feedback she received; her next book, Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives, is all about doing more of the things that make us happy and less of the things that don’t. Turns out habit formation is no more forumlaic than happiness and largely depends on who you are. Rubin identifies “Four Tendencies” influencing habit formation—Upholders, Questioners, Obligers, Rebels.
All this preamble to say I am a Questioner. Among their characteristics, Questioners are “often willing to do exhaustive research” (20). Yep.
I’ve also mentioned I love the podcast On Being. Last week’s episode, “The Opposite of Good Is Indifference,” featured a conversation between Krista Tippett and Arnold Eisen about 20th century mystic, religious intellectual, and social change agent, Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel. A quote attributed to him has resonated with me all week:
Words create worlds.
A Questioner, I spend my evenings researching food insecurity (hunger?), poverty. Every source agrees, words matter. How we talk about ________ matters.
In nursing school, we were taught conflation of the individual with his or her diagnosis de-humanizes. That patients are “clients.” So in the anti-poverty, anti-hunger field. In 2006 Mark Nord with the USDA led efforts to replace the word “hunger” with “very low food security.” Despite immediate backlash, the new terminology stuck. “Food insecurity” is considered more accurate in the American context if less emotive. “The hungry” or “homeless” is thought reductive. Emergency food organizations serve clients, not “poor people.”
I’m still pretty new to this. It’s taken some time for me to learn the jargon, and a Questioner, it really matters to me that my words be well-informed. What kind of world does “food insecurity” create? I ask that question having just read the Medium article, “Saying ‘People Experiencing Homelessness’ Will Not Influence Change.”
I’ll have to keep researching, ruminating on this. What I know, though, is many doing this work, myself included, probably don’t spend enough time talking with the food insecure/hungry. And our questions might sometimes be the wrong ones, generating answers that create a world where people are still hungry and homeless.