Wordle & War

Wordle used to remind me of hangman. The words were simple. I used it to compete with friends and family. My kids could play it.

I once guessed the word with my starter word. A fluke.


Since my children were young, and due to over my occupation with history, they cringe when I tell them that they must eat all their food because “tomorrow we could plunge in to war!”

And then I remind them of a young Jewish boy in an Italian village. Him and his mother were forced out of their home headed for an internment camp in WW2. On their way up a mountain, under guard watch, the boy’s last words to his mother were about milk.

He was cross with her that the day before, she had not allowed him to have more milk in a bid to save it. But now, on their way to imprisonment and death, there had been no point to have saved the milk.

Heavy stuff.


Back to Wordle.

Wordle was borne from love, diversity and migration.

It is the brain child of Josh Wardle, a white man from Wales who moved to America to work in tech. He devised it for his American girl friend of South Asian descent, to play over lock down.

The simplicity of the words of Josh Wardle’s Wordle is not to be underestimated. There is an equity with simple words.

Josh Wardle only required me to know words like “crimp” or “these”.

And then Wordle was sold to the New York Times.

For me there are only two positives as a result of the sale. Firstly, Josh Wardle will have made some money and no one can begrudge him that.

The second, is that I can now use Wordle as a text book case as to how “the left” damage diversity.

Wordle words like “tacit” remind me that I am super lucky to be educated highly. Words like “swill,” remind me that it is not a word I use. What the actual “caulk”?

Why did it have to go that way?

Because ultimately Wordle is part of the human condition that (i) cannot help itself but exclude and (ii) does not care to include.

It appears that new Wordle has also now banned words like “slave” and other “offensive” words.

By whose standards is “slave” offensive?

Do you know how many Vietnamese child refugees in Europe have gone missing this year? Watch this video. Most of them! They are sold in to modern day slavery. Traffickers wait outside youth detention centres in Europe to kidnap the Vietnamese children. They end up in sewing factories, or worse.

And so, Putin having first placed his troops in the Donbas region in a bid to expand, and then invaded, I can’t help but see the parallels with Wordle.

What? Are you out of your mind?


Don’t the New York Times also want to make Wordle bigger and better, just like Putin wants Russia to control Ukraine?


I have noticed how safe people seem to think they are here.

It feels that people feel “so” safe that it dissociates them from understanding how easily we can all become unsafe.

And so here is a word that comes to mind when I think of what is happening to the Ukraine. It is the word “refugee”.

If you really think you will never become a refugee, then I invite you to watch this video, by Save The Children.

Putin is no trail blazer. Hitler wanted “lebensraum” which is the term, translating as “living space” to justify annexing/invading the countries around him.

When you see Putin’s expansionism from the lens of language –i.e. he is hell bent on reuniting Ukraine to its Russian roots of language and culture, suddenly the prospect of any country being taken over by another that speaks the same language seems viable.

The above argument is a sensational case for Te Reo.


Not all people in New Zealand are here to pass out their silver years having drinks.

I make it my business to use the perceived safety here, to focus on the lack of safety those near, and those afar experience.

Mike Seawright is one of these people.

Mike delivers aid to Syria’s refugees through ReliefAid. I spoke to Mike earlier this week as I had read about the crisis in Libya where the EU are funding militias to intercept refugees in the Mediterranean. The militias then place the refugees in detainment camps.

I shared with Mike what I had learned about the horrors of what has happened to refugees in these camps. Rape, torture, starvation and slave labour. I expressed my concern about the people in Ukraine who are about to become refugees.

I joked with Mike that there must be something wrong with us discussing this stuff so earnestly of a Monday morning.

How can we get people caring about refugees and the process that makes them a refugee? What will it take for us to realise we can all become refugees?

What will it take for those of us who work, earn and enjoy safety, or those of us who do not work, play tennis in the morning and get to look after or kids, what will it take, to take on refugees crises in our thoughts?

What will it take for people to see that everyone should enjoy the freedoms we enjoy?

Instead of worrying about “offensive words” can’t Wordle instead think about words engendering values and responsibility?

I can think of some words. Bigot, valor, power, haven, peace, racial, water, cover, sleep, unity, lives, death.


We are now watching Western men in power grappling to respond to Putin. These men are using words. Words are useful. Dialogue is better than war. But the wrong words can be disastrous and take “lives”.

I am with the Ukranian Ambassador to UN, who highlighted how toothless these big men (and the odd nice women in power) groups like the UN have been over many years over Ukraine. In this video he highlights the lunacy of the situation and asks the world to rally. As an activist, who never tires for loss of breath to get people to understand the avoidable pathway to discrimination, I can see how much this chap has been failed.


As with our weak empathy for refugees, there is a long distance between our minds when we see the words “lives” and the actual recognition of what those “lives” are.

These lives are children like ours, have belongings like ours, have pets like us, get hungry like us, want shelter like us, parents like us and have likes and dislikes.

Can you imagine being told to get on a bus with your mum with all your belongings? Can you imagine having to say goodbye to your young son who will not be allowed on that bus as he must fight a war? Can you imagine leaving your old parents behind in a village that is about to be demolished by war because they will not leave their village or town?

Can you really tell me that will never happen to you?


I am glad I moved to New Zealand as it took me deciding to move here, to have the opportunity to hear a grown European professional male, reflect to me that refugees who arrived here “well dressed” could not be refugees.

I’ll just leave that there.

No, we do not have a seat at the table to avert the war that is underway, but don’t we all have a duty towards anyone displaced by war?

To quote Mike as he heads off to an undisclosed location in Europe to administer the aid he has arranged:

When we forget that refugees are people bad things happen to them. If we stop talking to people who have different views on life, divisions occur and bad things happen. History has shown us we need to engage with each other irrespective of race, religion or gender. Labelling groups not only removes their humanity but removes our ability to protect our communities.

As I finish this Substack, I am watching the UN Secretary General pleading for “humanity” live on TV.

A situation that demands people to be “human” should be the norm. But today, it appears to be signal of reaching rock the bottom.

I hope this can inform your personal and professional “lives”.

Read Melanie’s original post.