The following video provides a good example of arm’s length communication happening in a public forum.
This is a type of formal communication in that it follows some basic forms and deviation from them is rarely allowed. Private communication, in contrast, is intimate communication between close friends where deeper levels of subjectivity are allowed, even desired.
No need to watch too much of this vid because it quickly becomes a ridiculous shouting match:
Do I even need to point out that no one even bothers to define racism? It’s a strong semiotic that once hurled tends to prevent further thought.
My point today is not Trump and the judge, but rather how Trump and the judge is a good example of something that can also happen in private settings.
When nebulous words, ideas, values, or beliefs become strong symbols in private conversations like the word racist in the video, confusion, bad feelings, alienation, or apathy will be the result.
In arm’s length communication, the instinctual human lurks behind signs and symbols much like a wild animal in the forest.
In formal settings, this is typically not a huge problem because everything is predefined. In the video, the exchange is largely a performance designed to excite the viewer.
In private settings between close friends, however, arm’s length communication is a recipe for disaster.
This is so, because even if there are no bad motives, there will be bad interpretations. And these bad interpretations will snowball and eventually lead to problems.
Since almost all of us have been raised in environments that only allow arm’s length communication and see it as the norm, almost all of us carry very heavy psychological baggage.
Few of us know how to overcome the very serious limitations of the communication norms we have learned.
The people in the video are being ridiculous, but almost all of us are just as ridiculous in our own kitchens.
If you want to do better, practice FIML.