For some time now, our governments, at every level, have been bandying about the word austerity. No sooner had Philippe Couillard become Premier of Québec that austerity became the guiding principle of his new government.
Austerity was the spark that three years ago pushed students into the streets for an entire semester that we dubbed le printemps érable. Austerity is the reason families and public servants alike protest side-by-side to voice their discontent with planned cuts to services and social programs. This term has become part of our daily language. So frequently have we heard it blaring from our radios, the news headlines, and social media that many of us have ceased to remark on it, employing the word almost mindlessly.
In contrast, seldom is the word “prosperity” used. Prosperity has shifted from common usage to a rare occurrence in the everyday language. And yet, what a catalyst this term represents! It can mobilize forces, rally a protest, and activate a movement – especially during an election. But, here we are at the end of a 78-day federal election campaign and none of the party leaders articulated a plan that aims at achieving prosperity. Yet prosperity would have made a perfect campaign slogan.
Public conversation is key in promoting ideas, in working towards common goals. We accuse our political leaders of lacking vision, we dream of a “projet mobilisateur” that will rally citizens and governments to work towards a more prosperous future.
Perhaps we could begin to articulate that dream by replacing the word austerity with prosperity. Let’s give it a try. The headline reading: “Austerity to balance the budget” could now easily read: “ Prosperity to balance the budget. The headline, “Government says prosperity is truly necessary to reduce the public debt” will galvanize more positive opportunities than, “Government says austerity measures are necessary to reduce the public debt.”
While words alone cannot promote entrepreneurship, or boost the economy, they are effective harbingers of our actions. Words work on our psyche. They nurture our soul, stimulate our mind, and free our spirit. If we are serious about ensuring shared and sustainable prosperity for the future, we need to start with changing our language!