Language Group (& Spectrum)
Diction Reactive Spectrum: Pacifying to Incendiary
The budding twelve year old tells her mother, “The gardener was looking at me.” The mother tells the father, “Vito was staring at Caroline’s bosom.” The father goes to the bar and announces, “The wop gawked at my daughter’s breast.” A lynch mob may form.
Depending on what culture you’re in, at what time period, the particulars are fungible: “wop” may instead be “Jew”: or “N-” [Bowdlerizing K., 2016 08 03 Offensive terms go dosido in fashion.] or “chink” …
What if the girl had told her mother that the doctor was looking at her? The priest? The president? Some invention, extrapolation, went into making Vito culpable; similar or greater imagination may get called on to blunt thoughts about a culture’s sacred categories.
A culture may be a tinderbox to find excuses further to terrorize slaves; that same culture will be stupid as stone when it comes to seeing where its true vulnerabilities lie. How many boys were “molested” by how many priests before one such report ever came to public consciousness?
In 1976 Ivan Illich’s Medical Nemesis warned us about iatrogenic harms (doctor-caused injury and fatality). The book sold, then disappeared. I have my copy, but it’s been very hard to find. All of Illich’s books were flushed from American markets. England had some, but not all. (And of course my books have never been published at all!) As concerned as I’ve been these past months about my beloved Catherine, I’ve enjoyed dropping verbal bombs into medical facilities and watching them snuff to duds. “Last month, Highlands Regional Hospital Emergency Room refused to see her, even though the doctor’s office told me to bring her there.” “Last January Dr. Picionni refused to treat her, even to see her.” Doctors, nurses, social workers, aides … put their thumb up their ass and go deaf. (2011 08 07 I see a synonym that doctors, the health industry, are using: nosocomial: means hospital-caused more than doctor-caused.)
“How come Catherine’s foot is still so swollen five weeks after I brought her to a second emergency room to treat that very thing?” “Uh, ask the nurse.” “I did: yesterday, last week, the week before …” “Uh, ask the doctor.” “I did: yesterday, last week, the week before …”
Ideas that go with the grain communicate easily. But for communication to be real, ideas that go against the grain would also have to be communicable: short of a revolution.
One of my favorite views of this homeostatic phenomenon was reported by Richard Feynman in one of his autobiographies: and so funny. Feynman was on the Manhattan Project: one of its king pins. Feynman had security clearance right into the deepest confines of the Pentagon. In the Pentagon Feynman noticed security breaches: again and again: security breaches of the most adolescent sort: safe door left open so that the combination could be read by burglars; safe combinations never set by the administrator: the default combination — which every burglar knows — still effective; safe combinations of the administrator’s birthday, Marylin Monroe’s phone number … pi, e … the easiest combination for burglars to guess.
After Feynman had pointed the breaches out for the nth time, administrators, secretaries … started pulling the curtains when they saw Feynman coming: maintaining the security breach, but covering it up from Feynman. Leave the door open to the burglars; close it to the home-critic.
I hope you see the parallels between the lynching and the closing of the curtain.
Notes on more to come: Notice that the above is another phenomenon that may be viewed as a spectrum: in one direction lies that which increasingly enflames us; in the other, that which absorbs energy, inhibits ignition. The question always remains: is our spectrum linked efficiently to survival? Or have we opened our own walls, repelling the wrong invader? Shaw noted that societies always have the front gate well-manned but leave the back gate wide open: and have no roof at all.
Tangent: I’ve always loved fictions where the commandos don’t weight themselves down with weaponry: the target enemy will always have plenty of weapons once you infiltrate their stronghold. No need to carry artilery to Navarone: take their big guns and use them against them.
I am also reminded of the fraternity party at which the drunken brothers decided to punish the band they had hired for the party because its personnel included a Jew and a Black. Since both Jew and Black were my roommates (and I had nothing but contempt for the brothers) (though it was their beer I was drinking) I went around whispering to the brothers that some guys were about to cause trouble. They forgot completely about their Pogrom and concentrated on defense. No attack came. And the band played on.
People are so malleable: if you know which buttons to push: and are willing to push them.
My thoughts for the above were mostly worked out in the 1960s.