>people were as smart as us 50, 500, or 5000 years ago, and they talked about the same things and they invented new words
I agree with that, but intelligence has nothing to do with respect or sensibility. While I wrote my previous posting I had my mother in law -who is 83- in mind. She is as clever as anyone can be and uses to employ pejorative words when referring to some groups of people, specially when referring to incapacitated children. And the worst of all, she means them.
From this attitude I can deduce that or my mother in law is specially mean, which probably she is, or that when she was younger everybody talked the same way, which must be true too. And I cannot help but imagining a time when everybody talked this way and despised openly every other who was different.
And the words they invented were mainly meant to be descriptions of the differences between “normal” ones and different ones. For example my mother in law calls “tontito” (silly, idiot) to children who I learned to call “mongolico/subnormal” when I was a kid. Now I call them “Down children”. The first words were descriptive of the limitations or physical aspect of those children and the last one is, simply, a syndrome name. So in this case I think the evolution has been positive. What is more important, when my mother in law was my age she could employ those words in a scornful way and, probably, only the child’s parents would have been offended. Now, I can tell you, the worst arguments I have had with her have been about this kind of speaking and, of course, it not only offends me but almost everybody else.
I agree that lots of changes are still needed in our attitudes but I think that we have changed more in the last few generations than in thousand years of history.
I’m still thinking that words by themselves, in a very subtle way, can act like casts molding our thoughts and attitudes. It surely is easier for a kid being cruel with an idiot than with a Down’s syndrome.