Hugh Mackay, social commentator, ‘The Good Life’; how our values are reflected in our language

What this has done is produce a culture that promotes “personal identify and individuality at the expense of connectedness and cooperativeness and communality and even at the expense of egalitarianism,” says Mackay. “We are now caught up in the marketing of brand ‘me’”, much to our detriment. Signs of this include the proliferation of the prefix ‘my’ in front of everything and the huge popularity of social networking sites like Facebook which Mackay refers to as “a bragging medium. One of the signs of the damage that’s being done by the ‘utopian complex’ is this obsession with me and how I’m feeling.”

He notes that author Lily Brett has hit on a couple of words that are symptomatic of our predicament, one being ‘excellence.’ “Everything now is a ‘centre of excellence’: a primary school, a car show room, excellence in mental health care. We hope that everyone is doing their best but excellence is an exception,” says Mackay. As is ‘awesome’, another word that’s way overused. For example, when I called Telstra the other day, the operator replied, “that’s awesome” when I told her my name. “So the language has been ramped up to match this idea,” Mackay says.

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