Right Language to Release the River of Health in the Medical Industry

Abstract

Performance artist Laurie Anderson appropriated an idea from beat writer William Burroughs a few years back. Language, Anderson sings, is a virus. The words we choose lock in ideas and discharge reverberations. They subtly evoke personal, professional, and societal power relationships. Language is a virus.

By extension, changes of language can shift power relations. The removal of a conquest name of a former US president from the highest point in the northern part of the western hemisphere is a case in point. US President Barack Obama re-anointed Mt McKinley as Mt Denali, the name used by the indigenous people whose descendants still live in its presence. The act replaced a European surname linked to cultural suppression and colonization with one that honors the first human inhabitants.

The renaissance of indigenous medical practices is effecting a similar renaming of what many view to be the high point in the development of medicine. “Traditional medicine” has for decades been misused to describe biomedical and industrial practices that are less than a century old. Better to qualify this medicine with “conventional” or “bio-.” Let “traditional medicine” indicate practices that carry the weight of history. These choices move toward right language.

Key Words: Language, health, healthcare system

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