Harold Pinter: The Evil of Words

Interview with James Grissom

How often do they say 'In the beginning was the word' when they are about to present an award to a writer? How often do they say this when someone is being reproached for a promise broken or an affection betrayed? But you said! I heard you.

Words have power--there is an obvious if asinine statement. Words, however, for all the power and beauty and solidity they may provide to a thing or to people, are also evil, and I do not mean merely by having as their motive cruelty or the desire to do damage: Words are evil when they are not invested with the respect they deserve; when they are cast about freely and thoughtlessly.

I am becoming more and more alarmed by the utter meaninglessness of words today, even as the words grow softer and sweeter by the minute. People 'care' a lot, then do nothing with anything but their facile tongues to show that they do. People are 'outraged' or 'concerned,' then sit in the same place and metaphorically cluck over some indignity they will soon forget.

People are 'thinking' of you and 'praying' for you, but the intention--so beautifully rolled off the tongue--never reaches their feet or legs, and so no action occurs: No help, I am here to tell you, is on the way.

But they meant well, and they said so. You heard them!

This is when words become evil in our private, so-called real world, and as we grow up in this environment where actions never correspond to words spewed, our writers and poets and actors are also polluted. Words in plays now are splayed across the page like the peas of an errant child with a swift spoon--they mean nothing, and the actions do not correspond with the facility of the writer.

It gets back to the word. The word has to mean something, and the words have to emanate from someone who means something, intends something, does something.

Hell, for me, would be total silence, and this will occur, will arrive, when people refuse to say anything they are not willing to back up with their actions. And the words will cease, and the inaction--the evil act of not doing--will be accompanied by silence.

And that, for me, will be the end.

© 2014 James Grissom


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