Semiotic codes

Simply stated, semiotic codes are the conventions used to communicate meaning.

Codes can be compared to puppet masters that control the words and semiotic bundles that people use when speaking and listening. For many people, semiotic codes are largely unconscious, functioning mainly as limits to communication or as givens.

Some examples of codes might be the ready-made formulas of politics or the ordinary assumptions of any culture anywhere.

Codes work well in most cases when we do ordinary or formal things, but they inhibit thought and communication when we want to go beyond ordinary or formal interactions and behaviors.

Unconscious, unexamined, or strongly-held codes can be a disaster in interpersonal relations if one or both (or all) parties are rigid in their definitions and understanding of the codes being used. These are the sorts of conditions that lead to absurd exchanges at the dinner table and are one of the main reason most of us learn never to talk about politics or religion at most gatherings.

Gathering for dinner itself is a code. On Thanksgiving we are expected to break bread without breaking the code of silence on politics or whatever else your family can’t or won’t talk about. There is not much the individual can do to change this because the harder you try—no matter how good your intentions—the more it will seem that you are breaking the code, being aggressive, or threatening the (probably fairly weak) bonds that hold your dining unit together.

Many years ago, Charles Berger and Richard Calabrese proposed a theory about communication known as the Uncertainty Reduction Theory. This theory deals with how people initially get to know each other. It proposes:

…that, when interacting, people need information about the other party in order to reduce their uncertainty. In gaining this information people are able to predict the other’s behavior and resulting actions, all of which according to the theory is crucial in the development of any relationship. (Source)

The basic idea is that we humans need to reduce uncertainty in order to understand each other well-enough to get along. If we succeed at reducing uncertainty sufficiently, it then becomes possible to continue to develop relations.

The theory works pretty well in my view, but the problem I see with it is reducing initial uncertainty is much the same as feeling out semiotic codes, discovering which ones both (or all) parties subscribe to. As mentioned, this works well-enough for ordinary and formal relations, but what happens next? For the most part, most people then become trapped in the codes they seem to share.

What happens next can even be seen as sort of comical as people over the weeks or months continue to reduce uncertainty while confining themselves even more. Very often, if you try to go a bit deeper, you will be seen as breaking the code, disrupting convention, even threatening the group.

This is the region in which intimate relationships can be destroyed. Destruction happens because the parties involved are trapped in their codes and do not have the means to stand outside them and analyze them. Obviously, this leads to either reduced or turbulent speech.

I think the Uncertainty Reduction Theory might be extended and amended to include a stage two theory of uncertainty reduction. FIML practice would constitute a very reasonable stage two as FIML is designed to remove uncertainty and ambiguity between close partners.

Notice that FIML itself is not a semiotic code. It is a tool, a method, a procedure that allows partners to communicate without using any code at all save ones they consciously choose or create for themselves.

It seems clear to me that all established interpersonal codes are ultimately limiting and that people must find a way to analyze whatever codes they hold or have been inculcated with if they want to have truthful or authentic communication with their closest partners.

Most codes are public in the sense that they are roughly known by many people. But all of us have idiosyncratic ways of understanding these public codes and all of us also have private codes, idiosyncratic codes that are known only to us.

Sometimes our understanding of our idiosyncratic codes and/or idiosyncratic interpretations of public codes is not all that clear to us. One reason is we do not have good ways to access them. Another reason is a good many idiosyncrasies are sort of born in the dark. We muddle into them privately, inside our own minds with little or no opportunity to share them with others. Indeed, as seen above, to try to share them all too often leads to disruption of the shallow “certainty” that adherence to the shared code has provided.

What a mess. We need codes to learn, grow, and communicate with strangers. But we have to go beyond them if we want to learn, grow, and communicate with the people who are most important to us.

FIML is a sort of stage two Uncertainty Reduction Practice that allows partners to observe and analyze all of their codes—both public and private—in real-time.

Why is real-time analysis important? It is important because codes can only be richly and accurately analyzed when we see clearly how they are functioning in the moment. The “psychological morphemes” that appear only during brief moments of communication must be seen and analyzed if deep understanding is to be accomplished.

Bank Whistleblower Alayne Fleischmann

I admire Fleischmann, as I do anyone who tries to do the right thing.

Maybe the day will come when accurate lie-detectors will put honest people like her in power while removing the sociopaths who now occupy so many of the high-chairs.

The following clip is part of a longer interview that can be accessed by a link that will appear on the screen near the end. No one who reads this site or many others should be surprised to learn that criminal fraud was at the heart of the crisis of ’08. William Black, in particular, has made this point many times over the years.

People like Fleischmann are the real heroes of our world and we should look to them far more than the celebrities and talking-heads that so crowd our imaginations.

Repost: How delusions are formed

Delusions must start somewhere.

A recent study (Emoticons in mind: An event-related potential study) convincingly demonstrates that our responses to emoticons as simple as a colon next to a parenthesis :) are similar to our responses to real human faces.

Clearly, this response has been learned. No infant is born with that response and no one anywhere had it just a few decades ago.

Our tendency to respond to :) as a face arose with its use in email and texting. This response is now a well-established “public” response to a “public” semiotic. In this context, public means “understood and shared by many people.”

A public semiotic is a sign with wide currency. It is a unit of culture and often of language itself. We can see in the case of the emoticon :) that a new sign can arise due to unique circumstances and that that sign can come to have a deep meaning for many people.

The sign :) seems quite beautiful to me because it is very simple, very easily produced, and very telling about how our minds work. If the elements of the sign are reversed (: people no longer respond to it as a face, though of course we could learn to do that if the reversed sign were used that way more frequently.

I remember the first time I saw a derivative sign ;) and wondered briefly what it meant. If you had a similar experience, you may be able to remember how such a simple sign can bloom in your mind and go from something that is unknown to something of considerable significance in just a few seconds.

That is an example of the birth of a sign, the birth of a semiotic in your mind.

When the semiotic is public, we strive to learn what other people mean by it. When it is private—that is, with a meaning known only to us—there will be other, often very significant, implications.

What would a “private sign” be like? A straightforward example might be a code we use in a diary. Such a code would have at least one visual sign whose meaning is known only to us.

Another kind of private visual sign might be a facial expression that we have come to interpret differently from other people. My guess is everyone has a good many of these. That is to say, the “idiolect” of facial expressions we each use to understand other people is at least as various as different idiolects within a spoken language.

Now add tone of voice, posture, accent, word choice, topic choice, and so on to this mix. Each of those areas of communication uses signs that can and always will be interpreted in a wide variety of ways, including private ones.

Now, consider how an individual may get lost in all this. If someone ever smiled at you as they hurt you, you may have learned to be suspicious in your interpretation of human smiles. Or you may employ your own smile in ambiguous ways.

Now consider all the signs of communication and how many possible interpretations there are. Then consider the study linked above which shows how deep our responses can be to something as trivial as the sign :).

One way we form delusions occurs when our interpretations of communicative signs become too private and/or do not correspond well with the interpretations employed by other people. The other way we form delusions occurs when our interpretations of signs does correspond well with the interpretations employed by other people, but those other people are wrong.

In “public” situations—professional, commercial, business, school, etc.—it is fairly easy to communicate well enough based on established norms. But in interpersonal communication, you can only take “established norms” so far. At some point, you will have to understand your partner and be understood by them in much greater detail than “established norms,” or public semiotics.

Here is a newspaper article on the study linked above:  Happy days: Human brain now registers smiley face emoticon as real facial expression.

End-user cultural consumption as narcissism

I don’t really like the term narcissism because it is vague and in important ways can be applied to almost anyone.

The concept does have value though in that it is widely recognized and understood and does seem to point to something real.

Narcissism basically means being excessively selfish, self-centered, or vain. We can imagine a narcissist as someone who is trapped in a hall of mirrors, or trapped in their own imagination. Being trapped by your own imagination sounds paradoxical. But we can indeed become trapped when the terms, elements, or substance of our imagination is trapped in something else. Just as our bodies can be trapped in a prison cell, so our minds can be trapped within limited concepts, a limited sense of our options.

I contend that end-users of culture (virtually all of us) are trapped. A better term than end-user might be retail consumer. In this sense, we could say that retail consumers of culture are trapped by what they are consuming. I avoided the word retail above because it implies buying things with money. What I mean is accepting cultural norms as real or complete or good enough when they are not.

Rather than define narcissism in the usual ways, let me now define it based on signaling. A narcissist is someone who exhibits “unnecessarily reduced signaling.”

What does that mean?

Unnecessarily in this context means it doesn’t have to be that way. Reduced means there could be much more. Signaling means any and all communicative signals—words, expressions, gestures, actions, etc., but especially words.

A retail consumer of a culture, thus, unnecessarily accepts reduced signaling. To put it another way, end-users of culture are trapped  by what they have consumed or “bought.”

Retail implies wholesale while end-user implies that the thing used was made or designed by someone else. For cultures, this implication is exactly right. Very few people make culture, though culture most definitely is made by some people.

Why are end-users or retail consumers of cultures narcissists?

They are narcissists because they are trapped within the reduced signaling of the culture they have “bought.” The wholesalers of culture, those who have made it, don’t think the signals are “unnecessarily” reduced; they want them to be that way. They want end-users to accept their ideas and do what they say, which is what most people do.

Most end-users have no idea they are trapped and do not consider themselves narcissists. But they are narcissists because they are completely stuck at the retail level. They have little or no control over how they understand things. And they have almost no control over how they speak to other end-users or how they hear other end-users.

How do I know this? One way is this: people almost everywhere are capable of complex understanding, be it tying flies for fishing, knitting, doing engineering, designing a home, etc. Nearly everyone exhibits complex understanding of at least a few things.

But almost no one exhibits a complex use of communicative signals. This is so because communicative signals move quickly and usually move through sound (speech).

Without training, it is very difficult to isolate and analyze communicative signaling in real-time. And if you don’t do it in real-time, there is no other way to do it. Even if you have a tape and a video of a communicative exchange, it is impossible to be sure of your analysis after the fact.

Real-time signaling is quick and complex. A single mistake can change the course of a conversation in one person’s mind without changing it in the other person’s mind. From that point on, mistakes will multiply.

What all of us normally do almost all of the time to correct for this problem or difficulty is we reduce our signaling.

And what do we reduce it to? We reduce it to cultural norms. Like narcissists, we assume that other end-users think like us, speak like us, and hear things in roughly the same way we do. If there is any confusion, most of us run quickly toward the nearest retail cultural artifact, thus blurring the real exchange and permanently trapping ourselves in end-user culture.

The mores, taboos, and preferences of culture become what we think we are. And that is a profoundly reduced package from what we are capable of. If you have any complex skill or understanding of anything, take a moment to compare it to how you conceive of your own mind during acts of communication. Or the minds of others during acts of communication.

I bet your understanding of how to take care of your tropical fish or do your favorite hobby is better and more detailed than how you conceive of your communication with others.This is the narcissism of the cultural end-user. It’s a small, made-by-others, prison of ideas within which the individual, maddeningly, resides.

If you do have a complex conception of communication, I bet it is strategical, designed to get you what you want and is thus narcissistic in that sense.

Rather than end on this depressing note, I can add the way to fix this problem. Do FIML or something very much like it. Once you can control, analyze, and fully understand real-time communication, you will be free of or have the means to get free of the reduced terms of retail culture.

____________________

Update 11/4/14: Another way to view end-user cultural narcissism is through the concept of “narcissistic supply,” which is “…a type of admiration, interpersonal support or sustenance drawn by an individual from his or her environment and essential to their self-esteem.”

Retail consumers of culture require narcissistic supply that validates their cultural consumption, admires it, praises it, agrees with it, and conforms to it. Retail culture is deeply characterized by fairly set patterns of mutual narcissistic supply that permit only slight deviation from whatever its norms are. My guess is scam artists and psychopaths learn how to work the patterns of narcissistic supply to get what they want. Scam artists often deflect moral judgement against themselves by saying that they were only able to fool people because those people wanted to believe. There is much truth in this defense though, of course, wanting to believe is not the same as wanting to be fooled or cheated. In a similar vein, retail cultural narcissists are capable of a sort of psychopathic behavior themselves in that they cannot bear to have their supply-values ignored or disrespected and will lash out, often with great vehemence, at anyone who does not comply with their need for supply.

Charles Barkley On The ‘dirty dark secret’ in the black community

The names are different, but the game is essentially the same in all cultures. Culture is a lowest-common-denominator set of controlling concepts. And every culture in the world discourages serious thought about itself in many important ways. Ethnic and religious myths are built on this, as are anti-ethnic and anti-religious myths. As is all politics. There is no escaping the herd mentality of whatever culture you happen to be stuck in. In this sense, culture is sort of “democratic” in that loosely-defined groups of low-minded idiots will always seek to and often succeed in pulling down anyone who is perceived as smarter, different, or better in some sense of the word.

Culture is a simplified fractal set of the language(s) it uses. Individual humans are fractal sets derived from the culture(s) they live within. If you step out of this matrix, even with the best of intentions, you are going to have a bad time. It doesn’t matter which culture it is. It’s essentially the same wherever you are.

Barkley is speaking about the American black community, but anyone anywhere in the world can, and many should, say roughly the same thing about their culture. The human mind is potentially wonderful and language is awesome in its capacity to express, and even culture has some good stuff as it gets us started in life. But wherever you go, culture is like a cage of light or darkness in the adult mind.

Yet another example of how irrational we are

The gist of a recent study, and there are more than just this one, is that people form strong opinions about others based on their faces—their shapes, prominent features, eyebrows, etc.

An article about the study, which is behind a paywall, can be found here: Impressions shaped by facial appearance foster biased decisions.

The authors of the study suggest a few ways to mitigate the facial effect, but admit that “more research will be needed.”

I doubt there is much anyone can do to mitigate the face effect, the lying-sack-of-shit-effect, the phony-persona-effect, the self-deceiving-fake-personality-effect, or any of other ways that people fool themselves and others.

Similarly, ideologies have not fixed the problems of bad government and never will.

In my view there is only one thing we humans can do to ensure that we get good leaders in society, honest workers at all levels, and real friends—develop accurate brain scans that can test for conscious lies and psychopathy.

Technology like that could be used to do more harm than good. But it could also do a lot of good. Any system of government will work if government officials are all honest. The same is true for education systems, businesses, science, and many other endeavors with significant social ramifications. If the people in those systems are all verifiably honest and verifiably well-meaning, the efficiency of society will increase tenfold if not more. Trust among the population will increase apace and most of us (save the psychopaths and scam artists) will be greatly relieved knowing that members of Congress really are upholding their oaths, teachers really do have their students’ best interests in mind, scientists really do believe their data, police really are there to protect and serve.

I don’t see any other way to raise ourselves out of the mire of deceit, error, mistrust, cruelty, and usury that has characterized all human societies for all time. Nothing changes in our minds when we change systems and ideologies. On the scale of society, only technology changes us.

(On the scale of the individual, change can happen due to personal and interpersonal effort.)

MacDonald on Shipman

In his The Rise and Fall of Anglo-America, Eric Kaufmann described liberal Protestantism as one of several liberal traditions in American history. Although it had its origins in the 19th century, by 1910 there arose a liberal Protestant elite committed to “universalist, humanitarian ethics.” Elite Protestants (but not the great mass of Protestant Americans) were opposed to immigration restriction in the 1920s and were at the vanguard of the Civil Rights movement in the 1960s. They embraced the dream of universal humanity, and they developed idealized images of Jews who, after World War II, had assumed the leadership of liberal causes in the U.S. (Bruce Shipman and the Idealized Image of Jews among Elite Protestants)

An anthropologist on Rotherham

I think we are going to have to consult with anthropologists if we want to figure out what happened at Rotherham and what to do about it.

The anthropologist Peter Frost does a good job of analyzing Rotherham in his essay Rotherham: The search for answers. Here is a short passage:

 First, most Britons have been living in denial. Few wish to believe, at least openly, that organized gangs are preying on school-age girls. Fewer wish to believe that the gangs are overwhelmingly non-white and largely Muslim. And even fewer wish to believe the extent of the problem: perhaps one in ten of Rotherham’s white families, if not more. It all sounds like vicious propaganda that only ugly hate-filled people could believe.

Yet it’s true. So what comes next?

Frost argues convincingly that the root of the problem is not “racism” or “Islam,” but culture because, as he says assimilation to British society

…does not mean giving up the restraints of one culture and taking on those of another. It means the first but not the second. Immigrants leave an environment where behavior is restrained mainly by external controls (shaming, family discipline, community surveillance) and they enter one where behavior is restrained mainly by internal controls (guilt, empathy). To the extent that assimilation happens, external social controls will weaken and may even disappear, but they will not be replaced by internal mental controls. There is no known way to give people a greater capacity for guilt and empathy than what they already have. No such psychotherapy exists. This is true even if we assume that population differences in these two traits are due solely to cultural conditioning, and not to inborn tendencies.

Please read Frost’s whole piece as the short quotes I have used do not do his argument justice.

A proper analysis of Rotherham must go much deeper than political memes or the maddeningly shallow emotions of political correctness, for as Frost writes, humans are not “…interchangeable units in a global community. Each human and each community is a product of adaptations to specific circumstances, and what works in one set of circumstances may not work so well in another.”

Henry Kissinger on the Assembly of a New World Order

History offers no respite to countries that set aside their sense of identity in favor of a seemingly less arduous course. But nor does it assure success for the most elevated convictions in the absence of a comprehensive geopolitical strategy. (Source)

Worth reading. Seems a a major problem showing now is many countries lack a “sense of identity.” A multicultural nation may identify with its ideals, but the variety of cultures within it will cause the ideal to suffer through different interpretations and competition between the various cultures, which usually are little more than ethnic groups.

I can envision a future world without strong borders wherein political “nations” are based on psychological types organized via electronic media. I can also envision a future world wherein every place is culturally like Ukraine—many groups, attitudes, and types but no coherent vision among them for anything.

The USA is not at Ukraine-levels of disarray but it does appear that whatever “identity” we have as a nation is weak and that fewer people than ever even know what traditional fundamental American values are, let alone agree on them.

Some of this is due to multiculturalism, but there are many additional factors, chief among them being excessive non-democratic control at the top—new world order types guiding the ship of state without democratic input.

Nationalism in Ukraine (and elsewhere)

I am so sick of hearing Ukrainian nationalists being called “nazis” or “fascists” that I was going to write something about it. While researching the subject, I came across an article by Anne Applebaum who says much of what I wanted to say and surely says much better.

Her essay, from May 12 of this year, can be found here: Nationalism Is Exactly What Ukraine Needs: Democracy fails when citizens don’t believe their country is worth fighting for.

Please read it as it may shake some of the horrid stereotypes of Ukrainian “nazis” and “fascists” out of your head.

Here is a short passage from her essay:

Ukrainians need more of this kind of inspiration, not lessmoments like last New Year’s Eve, when more than 100,000 Ukrainians sang the national anthem at midnight on the Maidan. They need more occasions when they can shout, “Slava UkrainiHeroyam Slava“Glory to Ukraine, Glory to its Heroes,” which was, yes, the slogan of the controversial Ukrainian Revolutionary Army in the 1940s, but has been adopted to a new context. And then of course they need to translate that emotion into laws, institutions, a decent court system, and police training academies. If they don’t, then their country will once again cease to exist.

I don’t mind adding that if European multiculturalism keeps going at its present heady pace, more of Europe will find itself in a Ukrainian limbo, controlled by others since all sense of self and tradition have been lost. In the USA I truly fear a continued erosion of fundamental American principles, rule of law, individual rights and responsibilities, individual freedom, etc.

I am not sure how the US can continue with our present form of government since almost none of it works as intended anymore. Most believe, rightly, that there is no point in voting as the will of the people is typically uninformed and, anyway, consistently ignored by those who pretend to represent us.

In Tibet and Taiwan, we see other examples of small nations being consumed by one large one. Check out the history of Inner Mongolia to see where that leads. Or Hong Kong: Hong Kong braces for protests as China rules out full democracy. That should read “any democracy.”

The world today is made up of huge powers (US-EU, Russia, China) that are controlled by small oligarchies. All of us would do well to have a stronger, more active sense of nationalism so we can preserve and further traditions that benefit our nations. If we leave it up to the oligarchs or allow them to continue fooling us, we will before long wake up in a vast, world-wide Ukrainian limbo.

Fractals in the humanities

“A fractal is a natural phenomenon or a mathematical set that exhibits a repeating pattern that displays at every scale.” (Wikipedia)

Most of us know what math fractals look like and understand that shorelines and trees exhibit fractal patterns that display at different scales.

I think we can also see fractal patterns or sets in the humanities.

For example, the five skandha explanation in Buddhism to be fully understood must be conceived of as a fractal pattern that repeats at different scales. The normal explanation of the five skandhas is as follows:

The five skandhas are form, sensation, perception, activity, consciousness. A form can arise in the mind or outside of the mind. This form gives rise to a sensation, which gives rise to perception, followed by activity (mental or physical), and lastly consciousness. In the Buddha’s explanation, the five skandhas occur one after the other, very rapidly. They are not a continuous stream but rather a series of discrete or discernible moments. A form arises or appears, then there is a sensation, then perception, then activity, then consciousness. (Ibid.)

This explanation describes the most basic fractal pattern or the smallest one. “…the five skandhas occur one after the other, very rapidly.”

A simple example of this rapid movement of the five skandhas might be the experience of having something suddenly touch your neck. Your first awareness of this is the form. Your next awareness is the sensation; at this point you react with aversion, attraction, or neutrality. If you are outside, you might react with aversion as you perceive (third skandha) the touch to probably be an insect. Following that, there is often rapid physical activity (fourth skandha) as you involuntarily reach to brush it away. After that has been done, you will determine what actually happened, you will become conscious (fifth skandha) of what happened.

If it was an insect you might shudder or feel relieved. If it was a leaf on a tree branch you might feel a bit foolish. Your consciousness of the event comes after the first four skandhas have arisen or occurred.

A larger fractal version of the above might be the feeling (form, or first skandha) that you are ignorant about something. This form gives rise to an aversive sensation (second skandha), which leads you to perceive (third skandha) that you ignorance is probably something you should correct. This leads to mental activity (fourth skandha) which may require months of your time. At last, when you are satisfied that you are no longer ignorant on that subject, you will experience a new state of consciousness (fifth skandha).

In the above example, your ongoing feeling of ignorance as you study the subject might also be described as the fifth skandha, consciousness. Understanding that the five skandha explanation is a fractal pattern to be used to help you understand yourself will allow you to apply it where it can do the most good. As with so many things in the humanities, you will do better if you see the pattern and use it to aid understanding without letting yourself get trapped in a quasi-logical net that hinders understanding.

FIML practice can be seen as a fractal pattern as well. The smallest, or most basic level, is the basic FIML query which interrupts normal communicative processing to insert rational thought and more accurate information. The FIML query interrupts the mind as soon as the second skandha, sensation, arises. Whenever partners question a sensation, they will immediately change all of the five skandhas associated with it. Rather than follow a semi-conscious sensation down the same associative path as usual, partners gain an entry point to their deep psychology and an awareness of how their communications are affected by it.

A larger fractal pattern of FIML, might be hearing about it (form); feeling interested in it (sensation); perceiving what it is; learning the system (activity); and lastly gaining a new consciousness about how language can be made to work much better than without FIML.

FIML is a tool that helps partners leverage communicative details to gain great insight into how their minds work. Since FIML is not (yet) the rule for how people speak to each other, a non-FIML fractal pattern can be seen in society at large: since most people do not have a way to access the highly important details that FIML can access, they do not expect anyone else to access them. Thus, by default they accept horribly sloppy reasoning and lies from politicians and others who make important statements in public.

The fractal pattern of non-FIML communication in society at large is all but defined by lies, secrets, and hidden motives. At a smaller fractal level, so are the personal lives of most people. The world goes on. It is my guess that brain scans and better computers and computer programs will one day make it easier for people to see that having the ability to perceive and manipulate communicative details greatly enhances communication. And that communication so enhanced greatly enhances our understanding of ourselves and others. And that this sort of understanding will help us see that we do not have to live in a society that is all but characterized by lies, sloppy reasoning, and partisan nonsense.

In the humanities, fractal patterns can be seen at many levels. By changing the details of very significant communicative patterns between ourselves and our partners, we will change both ourselves and our perceptions of others, and this will gradually lead to better concepts of what society is and how it can function.

Two extreme and opposite examples of moral weirdness

Protecting your own versus not appearing racist. Both of these moral positions (which become public semiotics when simplified as aspects of culture) are understandable until taken to extremes.

The first example comes from England, where police and public officials were afraid to appear racist and consequently allowed some 1,400 children to be abused without investigating the matter, which had been clear as a bell for years:

The vast majority of perpetrators have been identified as South Asian and most victims were young white girls, adding to the complexity of the case. Some officials appeared to believe that social workers pointing to a pattern of sexual exploitation were exaggerating, while others reportedly worried about being accused of racism if they spoke out. The report accused officials of ignoring “a politically inconvenient truth” in turning a blind eye to men of Pakistani heritage grooming vulnerable white girls for sex. (Abuse Cases in British City Long Ignored, Report Says)

That quote and story is from the New York Times. Isn’t that the most fucked-up thing in a long time? British officials were so concerned about appearing racist that they looked the other way while an enormous number of their own children were being violently raped. We might say in the sedate language of academic analysis that the public semiotic or the moral injunction against racism was so strong that they lost their capacity to think and act.

Here is the other extreme, a group that so wants to “protect” its own that they are willing to prevent them from making individual choices that harm no one.

This video is a good example of the raging emotions that can be experienced at the other side of the spectrum from the case in Britain. An article about this incident can be found here.

Fortunately, it is not often that we can see such extremes within a single week. I would propose that all of us are susceptible to the emotions that lie along this spectrum from extreme “self” preservation to such amazing laxity that sworn officials cannot even lift a finger to preserve the safety of their own children.

The difference between us (you and me, dear reader) and them is most of us can find a reasonable balance between these primitive extremes, the one born in sexual and tribal instinct, the other in overwhelming deference to internalized social norms.

__________________

Edit 8/29/14: Here is more on Rotherham: Rotherham: In the face of such evil, who is the racist now?

Here is one from the USA: Conspiracy of Silence. If you have not seen this video, it’s a must watch, especially for US citizens. There are several good books on this story and many links to articles can be found easily.