Monday, September 27, 2010

Talking Means ... What?

A new beautiful rock circle left in the wilderness by Hot Springs Wizard

by murph

On September 23rd, Montana posted a comment on the last posting which I think is very important. One part of his comments; “what about when we string an entire sentence together with each word in the sentence interpreted according to the experience each has with that word. see what i mean,? in reality there is no truth in actual comprehension as to what another says,”

What I take that to mean is that we can never really understand what another person is thinking by what they say, or write for that matter.

I have touched on this subject before, several times. I want to examine this in a bit more detail. Montana, if I put it out there different than you see it and misrepresent what you said let me know. Anyway, this is my expansion in my own style on the subject.

I assert that communication between humans is tenuous at its best. This statement is based on what Montana said and my own experience and study of the process.

All language is a system of symbology, that is, sounds strung together that mean something relating to the external reality we experience.

This symbology is unique to the individual person due to the fact that all of our individual experiences are normally unique events relating to the individual, with same exceptions. But, in almost all cases, the interpretation of those events will be different than other individuals sharing the event. This has been tested over and over again to the same conclusion.

There are thousands of volumes written on the study of what people mean when they are communicating. Copi and his “Symbolic logic” I consider one of the best.

This symbolism gets in the way of understanding and can have disastrous consequences.

The only solution I can see to this problem is for human to develop absolute empathy, that is, the ability to know what another person is feeling or thinking when talking or writing. Doesn’t appear this will happen, at least in my lifetime.

It does appear to me that the understanding of another person’s use of verbal symbols can be very enhanced by close association for an extended period of time, depending on similarity of experiences and interpretation of those experiences.

What this lack of understanding of the symbology in communication lends itself well to what we call propaganda. That is, the convincing of people to accept a particular notion of reality by the twisting, spin, redefinition of words, and the way the words are strung together to produce an emotional reaction. We are being besieged by this in the news in all its various forms, but principally TV. Look at how the advertising industry uses this. With little exception, we are presented with something for sale that is associated principally with some aspect of sex, or inadequacy, or fear, of desires, or---, on and on. We are whipsawed back and forth by this propaganda to experience fear, hopefulness, anger, sexual frustration, caring and a multiplicity of other abstract emotions as a means of control of our perceptions of the reality around us. In all cases that I can think of, this propaganda always contain assumptions that are not presented as such. This appears consistently in religion, politics and personal communication. If a person is attempting to truly point out his perceptions of reality, he must also include his assumptions. An assumption is a statement that can be backed up by observations, (the most common way of making assumptions) empirical testing, or even theoretical assertions, and is hardly ever addressed. We are all guilty of that omission. There is good reason for this. It would complicate communication by orders of magnitude, and the assumption is that there is a common experience that can be included and drawn upon, which I have shown above to be complete nonsense in almost all cases that can be sited. So we abbreviate our communication by making assumptions that the listener has a shared experience and perceives it the same way. Thus, as Montana says, “in reality there is no truth in actual comprehension as to what another says,” Also, notice how words are twisted around to mean something else. I had a very good friend that once insisted that greed is a very good thing; we have greed for food and for air etc. I never did get a response to the question as to where in hell he got that definition nor that the common usage of the word had nothing to do with that concept. I’m old enough to notice that over my life time, principally from the main stream media, how key words have been spun into meaning something quite different than the original meaning. That particular process seems to be speeding up in my perception. Notice what the word “terrorist” now means. Go ahead, look it up in a dictionary older than 20 years and compare it to a new dictionary. Wikipedia goes on for pages in the discussion on its meaning. There evidently is no agreed upon definition internationally. And yet, the word is slung around within the media and conversations and assumed that the reader/listener knows what you are talking about. The operational meaning from old dictionaries and old political science texts indicate it is a means of scaring (terrifying) civilian populations into compliance by threats or use of violence, principally killing. In its discussion of “terrorist” it says; “In November 2004, a United Nations Secretary General report described terrorism as any act "intended to cause death or serious bodily harm to civilians or non-combatants with the purpose of intimidating a population or compelling a government or an international organization to do or abstain from doing any act".[18] And; "Criminal acts intended or calculated to provoke a state of terror in the general public, a group of persons or particular persons for political purposes are in any circumstance unjustifiable, whatever the considerations of a political, philosophical, ideological, racial, ethnic, religious or any other nature that may be invoked to justify them."[22] One more; A definition proposed by Carsten Bockstette at the George C. Marshall Center for European Security Studies, underlines the psychological and tactical aspects of terrorism:
Terrorism is defined as political violence in an asymmetrical conflict that is designed to induce terror and psychic fear (sometimes indiscriminate) through the violent victimization and destruction of noncombatant targets (sometimes iconic symbols). Such acts are meant to send a message from an illicit clandestine organization. The purpose of terrorism is to exploit the media in order to achieve maximum attainable publicity as an amplifying force multiplier in order to influence the targeted audience(s) in order to reach short- and midterm political goals and/or desired long-term end states."[25]

But I guess that is just plain old collateral damage to accomplish a political end. Now days, a “terrorist” insists on adherence to Constitutional principles. How weird is that?

Here is a report that is worth while going through.

Want some more? Take a look at this little news story and tell me who is being a terrorist if you haven’t read about it yet.

As I stated above, it appears to me that long association with others can lead to a better understanding of what they actually mean in the verbal symbols they use. Maybe what Jesus really was talking about when he stated that you should love another as yourself?

Of course we still have to deal with the psychopaths that are going to be found in any human society. And god knows, our supposed leaders are not going to be concerned with shit like this. They consistently manipulate verbal symbols to get the reaction they desire from the listeners. It’s all about manipulating perceptions. Dig Obama, a very charismatic speaker, but he is no less guilty of this than Bush or any other elite out there vying for power and money. At least he knows how to use a complete sentence.

So where does this leave us? Because we don’t really have alternatives, as I see it, those people that are aware of the problems in communicating with symbols (language) will continue to try and clarify and define the mental processes behind the symbols so that the people they are trying to communicate with have some understanding of the points made. Notice how long the regulars of this blog site have been around and how much change has gone on in perceptions. It appears to me that we have achieved at least partial understanding of what is being said. None of us will ever have total understanding; our backgrounds are just too varied. But, we keep edging toward the total understanding. I suspect that as this kind of understanding increases, emotional closeness also increases between people and that is an anathema to those that hold power over our lives since their goal is to divide and conquer, which they have for the most part been successful.

All of this leads me to question whether or not I actually understand Henny Penny (our oldest hen) when she talks to me. Sigh. Just how much common experience do we really have? Lol.
So now, your assignment if you choose to accept it, is to go through this posting and look at the assumptions I have made, (remember the old TV series Mission Impossible?). Are they common to your experiences or not?

A lovely setting sun captured by our own Montana Freeman..

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Fat LIke Me - Bracing for the Onslaught

Rhubarb custard pie and veggies from the backyard.

colorful carrots, ready to blanch and freeze

by freeacre

I attended the “Food Summit” at the Bend Community College, and it was really quite the event. I was amazed by the participation of so many different people, agencies, farmers, chefs, and individuals - all wanting to be involved in the food localization and sustainability movement. It was well organized, with a renowned main speaker, lots of seminars on different topics, a coming together to share what we learned, and a circle at the end where people committed to what they are going to do to make a difference. Also impressive to me was the large number of younger folks who were in positions of responsibility for the event itself and also for raising the awareness for the pressing need out there for sustainable food. Interestingly, the most underrepresented group was sitting county commissioners or city council representatives. I guess they are not as yet real interested in the problem of “food insecurity” in the area. That’s what they call hunger now - “food insecurity.” Statistically Oregon is second only to Mississippi in food insecurity.

I learned that there are big problems with the local production of food, difficulties with distribution, rules that favor Big Agriculture, and limitations imposed with certification, licensing, permits, and fees to sell locally produced food. On the one hand there is a big push to encourage people to eat healthy, lose weight, and encourage food security. But, on the other hand, Big Agriculture and Big Grocery lobbyists seem to have written the rules to serve themselves. Another surprising problem is that people seem to have forgotten HOW TO COOK! Yup. Over half the people surveyed in Madras, for instance, reported that they don’t know how to cook food from scratch. I guess many people are not watching The Food Channel or picking up any magazines or cookbooks that surround them….hard for me to fathom. Maybe the schools should include cookbooks in their reading programs. I’m serious.

I came away with the renewed purpose to teach people what they can grow and raise in their backyards and to teach them how to cook it. I am hoping that we will be able to use the kitchen at the Grange or Senior Center to present cooking and preserving classes to those who need and want to learn.

But, I attended a session on Health that turned out to be part of a national effort to fix the “huge” problem of obesity in this country. I learned what an enormous liability fat people are to the insurance companies, employers, and everyone and everything you can think of. We use up more gasoline because we are too much of a load in autos. We take off to much time from work because of problems linked to overweight… on and on.

So...just could not resist sending this letter to the young yuppie professional women working for a couple of local hospital programs involved in the new push to identify and fix fat people, and who led the workshops:

Dear Kati and Beth Ann,

After attending the  Food Summit yesterday and the presentations on Obesity and Health, I must write to tell you of my concern. I was the obese woman in the room.... I am, of course, more than that, but when the focus is on weight, "obese"  becomes the definitive perception.

Although I agree that obesity is a very real health challenge in America, I fear that all this emphasis on "teaching obese children and adults how to eat according to the food pyramid" is only going to target the overweight population by the insurance companies and the corporations. In the long run, it will not reduce the weight of the vast majority of obese people, but will insure that we will have a new population to discriminate against. The fat person will become the new "Negro", as the term was used in the old days to keep brown people marginalized and out of the mainstream moneymaking track and in "their place". It is already a reality, and soon it will be justified by all kinds of statistics that prove that we are just a liability to the country and to employers of all kinds. If two people apply for a job, even if the fat person is more qualified, which one will an employer hire? The fat person who is seen as a potential high medical risk that will inevitably cost the insurance company and/or employers more money? I think not.

After all, our economy is contracting due to outsourcing so many of our jobs. They are not coming back. A new segment of the population needs to be taken out of the running for the decreasing number of jobs. Eventually, all sorts of laws and penalties will be instituted on what will be viewed as lazy, ignorant, slobs who are "scientifically" proven to not be worth their weight in anything but scorn. Their genetic code will be labeled substandard. They will be relegated to housecleaning and janitorial jobs with no benefits of any kind. Have you ever watched the movie "Gattaca"? If not, I recommend it. You can rent it from Netflix, and it stars Uma Thurman, Ethan Hawk, and Jude Law.

Just as the American Cancer Society focuses on "finding the cure" for cancer while ignoring the causes of it, the anti-obesity campaigns will focus on eating disorders while ignoring the many other root causes of obesity. Those causes, to my mind are: contaminants in our foods which mimic estrogen, the decreased quality of our soils which render our vegetables lacking in nutrients, the side effects of many of the prescription drugs which makes it almost impossible to lose weight while taking them, the stress most common in the working class, the cost of nutritious food, lack of sleep, the effects of spending too much time in front of the TV set or playing video games, and lack of unstructured free time to play outside for children. Also, of course, the marketing of high fructose corn syrup, chemicals and dyes, in almost all foods marketed for kids or commuters.


Yes, obesity is an important issue. We are being poisoned and fattened up like cows in a feedlot by  Big Agriculture, Big Pharma, Big Business. And talking about it is not going to change it. Eating according to the Food Pyramid is not going to change it, since it was bought and paid for by Big Agra. I never gained as much weight as when I followed the Dean Ornish program for weight loss and heart health. My metabolism seems to be ruined. Even though I was a vegetarian for years. But, that's me. What I am saying is that there is no one right way for everybody. The vast majority of folks who are obese are desperate to lose weight and try everything - mostly to no avail. But, weight loss is Big Business and a lot of people are making big bucks on it.

Personally, I think that it would better serve people to raise consciousness on the issues of poverty, stress, lack of free exercise programs for children, low self-esteem, the side effects of pharmaceuticals in our food, water, and not making a living wage. But, that won't happen. The big money won't let that happen. In this global economy, they need us to be peasants.  Obese people are going to be marginalized and then persecuted in the ways I have said and probably many more that I have not thought of yet. Just watch.

As I have said, I grow my own food and live as sustainably as I can. I am going to organize cooking classes and canning classes once I get the Grange kitchen certified. I am doing this on my own. No legislation involved. Nobody telling me that I "have" to. I will not be paid for it. But pretty soon if the trends continue toward curtailing liberty and choice, the authorities will tell me that I can no longer eat my own food that I grow on my own land without a license, permit, or micro-chipping my animals - all in the name of "food safety."  Then, I guess they will have to kill me for my own good.

Like it or not, fat or thin, smoker or non-smoker, we are all going to die. If I choose to risk dying at 70 rather than 90, it is my choice - or should be in a free society. The only way the young people today are going to have a chance of "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" is if the whole system gets off our backs. Personally, I think it would take an asteroid hit. As our solar system approaches the center plane of the galaxy, this solution gives me at least a glimmer of hope.

Duck and cover.

I bet they have not received a letter like that before…