Do we have an inner child or an inner dog?

Inner child is a widely recognized term that implies the presence in adults of unresolved problems or underdeveloped traits rooted in childhood.

Inner child further implies that full development of the adult requires “reparenting” or “retraining” the inner child as a way of resolving juvenile problems and advancing to full adulthood.

My FIML partner has been studying dog training and last night told me how much she thought effective dog training resembled FIML practice.

In a nutshell, FIML practice trains your inner dog, not your inner child.

For example, to stop bad behavior in a dog—say, barking at cars going by—its human trainer has to know how to intervene as quickly and as calmly as possible the moment that behavior arises. Quick intervention ensures that the dog knows what the trainer wants them to do. If you wait too long (as little as a few seconds), the dog won’t know what you want them to do. They will have forgotten the precise source of their behavior and thus any corrections they try to make will not address the root problem, which is they have interpreted a signal in the world (cars going by) as something they must react to.

When the trainer is calm and friendly as well as quick to intervene, they will prevent the dog from reacting to their (the trainer’s) excessive emotion, be it anger, panic, or an unskilled flustered state of mind.

The same sort of thing happens in FIML practice. When one FIML partner queries the other, the first thing they are doing is stopping their (own) inner dog before it starts behaving badly. They are intervening as soon as they feel their inner dog stir and start to rise from the floor (but before it starts barking).

The second thing they are doing is calmly asking their FIML partner a question about a very specific and precisely identified moment. They are gathering good data on that moment from their partner and will compare it to what their inner dog thought it saw or heard.

A FIML partner is in essence asking, should I be reacting right now as my inner dog is telling me or has my inner dog misinterpreted a signal coming from you?

The dog for much of its life has barked at cars going by, while the person for much of their life has reacted with sadness or anger to their interpretation of certain signs or signals (semiotics) coming from other people.

When you query your FIML partner about a sign that you have been reacting to for much of your life and discover that the sign you received was not the sign they sent, you will be like the dog who comes to understand that there is no reason to bark at cars going by, no reason to rise from the floor at all.

People are semiotic animals more than dogs, so we react very strongly to social semiotics. But we are just like dogs in that most of our reactions to semiotics can be changed without much effort as long as we arrest those reactions quickly and replace them with a more reasonable response.

My partner remarked last night especially on how easily a great deal of bad dog behavior can be corrected if the intervention of the trainer is quick and the dog is shown a more appropriate response. Oftentimes, just a few good interventions will correct the bad behavior.

What are some classic mistakes bad dog trainers make? They try to comfort or calm the barking dog by holding it and telling it everything is OK. That is, they treat it like a child. But all that actually does is reward the dog for the behavior they want to stop.

So if you reward yourself (your inner child) by indulging in childish feelings of abandonment when you misinterpret or over-interpret a sign of rejection, you are actually rewarding yourself for being wrong, for having an erroneous (or neurotic) interpretation of communicative signs.

It is better to treat your rapid and unthinking “limbic” responsivity like a dog than like a child. And rather than reparent your inner child, it is better to use good dog training techniques to retrain the actual semiotic responses that are the real roots of unwanted behaviors.

first posted  

Working memory is key to deep psychological transformation, Part 2

Part 1

Part 3

In science, working memory is generally thought of as either:

  • …the sketchpad of your mind; it’s the contents of your conscious thoughts.”   (Earl Miller, a professor of neuroscience at MIT’s Picower Institute for Learning and Memory)
  • Or “…a core component of higher cognitive functions like planning or language or intelligence.”   (Christos Constantinidis, a professor of neurobiology and anatomy at Wake Forest School of Medicine) [Source for both]

Obviously, both versions are valuable and probably both are roughly true. Some “contents” of working memory are indeed sketchpad-like—a crack in the sidewalk or a passing bird—while others clearly are “core components of higher cognitive functions” and, I would add, long-term memory including all psychological factors.

Our psychology—be it “natured” or nurtured—functions in real-life in real-time because we remember it. It bears on us because it is in our minds, because it colors our minds, shades our thoughts and actions.

Working memory is key to understanding human psychology because it shows us how we really are functioning, thinking, acting, feeling in real-time.

Working memory is also fleeting. If you want to use working memory to understand your real-life psychology, you have to be able to analyze it in real-time. This means you have to capture its contents and examine them as near to their appearance in working memory as possible.

You can do this alone with good effect, but when you do it alone you are prone to self-referential bias and other mistakes. When you do it with another person, they can help you avoid self-referential mistakes as well as other less serious ones.

This is how FIML practice works and why it is done the way it is. FIML analyzes data discovered in the working memory.

So how do you do that? You do that by immediately noticing when something significant about the other person’s speech or behavior enters in your mind or arises in your working memory. Generally, that something will have psychological impact on you, though you might just be curious or notice it for other reasons.

Whether working memory is an independent sketchpad or a component of higher functions, analyzing whatever you feel like analyzing in it is valuable. Sometimes even very little things can have great psychological import.

Analyses of working memory through FIML practice are most productive when they entail what I have called “psychological morphemes.”

Psychological morphemes are the smallest units of human psychology. Metaphorically, they are a word or a letter as compared to a phrase, a paragraph, or even a book. They are the building blocks of larger psychological structures and also may occur as unique isolates.

Whenever a psychological morpheme appears in working memory, it is always interesting. Psychological morphemes almost always signal the onset of a larger psychological interpretation, one either stored in long-term memory or one arising just now.

By working with any and all psychological morphemes as they appear in your and your partner’s working memories and by working with them repeatedly, both partners will come to understand that some of these psychological morphemes have deep roots in their cognitive systems while others do not.

For example, a fleeting expression or tone you observe in your partner may cause you to feel jealous or disrespected. Do FIML immediately and find out what it was.

It’s either true or false or in-between. If you have a good and honest relationship with your partner, most of the time you will find a negative psychological morpheme that appeared in your working memory was false and that it is part of a psychological habit of yours that has deep roots in other cognitive functions.

A great benefit of FIML is repeated analyses of mistaken psychological morphemes leads to their extirpation, sometimes quickly sometimes more gradually. A second benefit of FIML is it makes all communications between partners much clearer and more satisfying. A third advantage is most of these gains lead to better understanding and competency with all people.

Part 3

first posted NOVEMBER 14, 2018

Covid politics is a macroscopic example of a psycholinguistic problem which occurs microscopically in all interpersonal relations

The ways we talk and don’t talk about covid are similar in kind to the ways we talk and don’t talk interpersonally. This fact is as painful in all important interpersonal relationships as it is painful on a national and global scale concerning covid.

Interpersonally, it is extremely difficult for almost all people to examine psycholinguistically important moments in real-time if they have not been trained or self-taught. Similarly, it is extremely difficult for almost all people to examine almost any aspect of covid if they do not share mostly the same conclusions.

Psychologically humans exist on a spectrum that grades from the unique microscopic moments of unique individual experience to the macroscopic landscape shared by many individuals belonging to a psychological collective. Just as a psychological collective can be created (or discovered) by naming it so individual moments can be defined by individuals naming them, often incorrectly.

Unique individual moments can also be predefined by a psychological collective. Many individuals perceive human life to be precisely that, something defined by a collective. It is very difficult for many individuals to see this and almost impossible for most individuals to be able to talk about this in real-time, real-world situations that are psychologically stressful and thus also psychologically important.

If you lament the disaster of our national covid dueling monologues, stop and consider that your important individual interpersonal relationships suffer similar problems. Dueling monologues arise when microscopic dialogues do not happen, which they rarely do anywhere in the world throughout all history. This problem is big and small, ecompassing the size of individual lives and entire human epochs. It is founded on the psycholinguistic difficulty of talking about talking as it is happening without being distracted by habits, customs, manners.

When talking about talking as it is happening happens, almost everyone becomes confused or angry or dismayed. You have to see this problem. Then figure out how to deal with it. You can do this in your own way (please report back to me if you are successful). Or you can do it through FIML practice which is described in many posts on this site. If you can see what FIML corrects, then the basic description of how to do FIML will be easy to understand. If you can do basic FIML many times, you will share a fundamental skill with your partner that will make your lives much better.

If FIML looks easy but you can’t do it, you probably don’t understand it. If you think you already are doing it, maybe but I doubt it. If you can’t make any sense of it, talk about it with your partner. Once you see what FIML is, you will love it because it frees you from a most basic and common form of human misunderstanding.

first posted NOVEMBER 24, 2021

Hilaria Baldwin says something important about information reality: “Everybody has trolls. Everybody has people who want to tell you whether you’re good or bad or what you think or what you feel”

Video source: Hilaria Baldwin claims husband Alec Baldwin has been suffering from PTSD for a ‘long time’ even before Rust shooting… and complains about living in the ‘famous world’ in new video

I am not taking sides on what happened in the shooting. But clearly Hilaria has experienced intense stress while at the same time being slightly removed from it. What she says is wise and very true. ABN

A perfect moral, dramatic, pragmatic, linguistic, psychological, spiritual, and emotional act…

…is a proper FIML query.

It is perfect (in no special order) morally because it seeks truth and goodness between two people; dramatically because it uses our innate dramatic instinct to question our own deep sense of live drama in the moment; pragmatically because it is eminently practical; linguistically because it is an extremely good use of language, possibly the best use; psychologically because it benefits both the self and other in profound ways while also revealing deep behavioral patterns painlessly; spiritually because it stimulates the spirit and spiritual metacognition, bringing both partners closer to their ideals; and emotionally because it forestalls false negative and destructive emotional responses, replacing them with joyful understanding. FIML is a pursuit of truth shared by two people. It is a technique, a method, that can be used in any religion, philosophy, world-view, or lifestyle. In the beginning, FIML does not even depend on scrupulous truthfulness because the practice itself will reveal the value of truthfulness, which ultimately will require almost no effort. Truthfulness is an instinct or inkling of deepest consciousness. Once seen, it calls forth itself.

ABN

The Five Skandhas

The Buddha’s explanation of the five skandhas is intended to help us understand the emptiness of the self. It is a short explanation aimed at his most intelligent students.

The Sanskrit word skandha means “heap” or “aggregate” in English. Sometimes the Buddha compared the skandhas to heaps of rice. They are the “heaps” of psycho-perceptual data that comprise the “contents” of our minds. The five skandhas are conditioned dharmas, which is to say that they are impermanent and empty, and when improperly understood lead to delusive attachments characterized by greed, anger, and ignorance. The purpose of the Buddha’s five skandha explanation is to help us see through the skandhas, or disentangle ourselves from them. In some Buddhist texts the five skandhas are called the “five covers” because they cover our minds and prevent us from seeing deep levels of reality. In others they are called the “five yin (versus yang)” because they cloud the mind and hide the truth from us. I will discuss each of the five skandhas in the sections below.

Continue reading “The Five Skandhas”

Biden admin is all FAKE: Children in NASA space video with Kamala Harris are ACTORS

Grinning school-age children who took part in a NASA YouTube video about space exploration with Kamala Harris have been revealed to be child actors.

The ‘Get Curious with Vice President Harris’ video was filmed in August and tweeted out by the Vice President on October 7 to celebrate World Space Week.

It appeared to viewers that the children she was with were all normal kids.

However it has now been revealed that they are paid actors who auditioned by sending in a monologue and three questions they would ask a world leader.

link

A puppet uses actors to propagandize her likeability in a video unironically produced by Sinking Ship Entertainment of Canada. ABN

Manifesto: New axioms of linguistics, philosophy, and psychology are much needed

The sciences or fields of inquiry mentioned in the headline above need companions based on different premises. These companions might be called speechology, thinkology, and beology.

Speechology would be founded on the axioms that we speak and that the proximate impetus and deep impetus of almost all speech acts are profoundly important, complex, consequential, revealing, and even enlightening. In scientific terms, they are profoundly satisfying to observe and understand and much follows from observing and understanding them.

Something similar can be said about thinkology and beology or a fourth science of actology.

Moving these fields of inquiry away from the fields named in the headline above will give them a fresh start, allowing them to make new discoveries based on new observations, practices, insights, and conclusions.

For example, some of this work has already been done in speechology, the results of which include and inform the fields of thinkology and beology. In addition to the axioms that “we speak” and that “the impetus of speech acts is complex and revealing,” we also have the discovered and richly explored the axiom that “interpersonal speech acts often are seriously misunderstood and not corrected” thus leading to the axiom that touches upon thinkology and beology that “as a result, our thinking and acting are often profoundly in error leading to massive snowballing and suffering from then on.”

The above paragraph makes several nontrivial statements based on demonstrable facts derived from a copious study of speechology. This study has been done using FIML rules and procedures. The difficulty in sharing the knowledge gained through FIML practice is it is based on the interpersonal communications of two unique individuals. This does not make it less scientific. This makes it a precise tool, akin to a microscope or measuring device. Other individuals can use this same precise tool to see and measure their speechologies.

Virtually all people will initially understand a speechology inquiry such as FIML in terms of the linguistics, philosophy, and psychology they already know. This will hamper rapid understanding of what FIML is and what it does because real FIML data will all be fundamentally unique to the individuals doing it. Yes, many insights will be generalizable but the tendency to generalize will immediately lead away from the precision of the FIML tool, thus dulling its resolution and accuracy. This is a very important distinction. It is this distinction that gives FIML its power and that calls for a new name for this field of inquiry.

FIML as a “loose” method of control for chaos in interpersonal communication systems

Interpersonal communication systems can become chaotic when there are misunderstandings. And they can become wildly chaotic when the misunderstandings are serious and/or involve emotional responses.

Normally, in virtually all cultures, out-of-control interpersonal communications are settled by authoritarian decree, by reverting to pre-established roles, by fighting until one side tires, or by ending communication all together.

It is nothing short of tragic when this happens in close relationships during significant or profound communication acts.

FIML is designed to fix communication problems that occur during communications between two (or more) people who care about each other.

FIML is a “loose” method of control in that FIML largely does not have any content. It is a technique that allows partners to discover their own content and their own ways to fix their problems.

As with so many potentially chaotic systems, interpersonal misunderstandings can become wildly unstable for even very small reasons. A single misheard word or a single misinterpreted expression can lead to destructive chaos within the system, no matter how dedicated the communicants may be to each other.

Evidence that supports the use of a “loose” method of control like FIML can be found in this paper: Stalling chaos control accelerates convergence.

To paraphrase from the abstract of that paper and apply their conclusions to FIML, we can say that FIML works “…by stalling the control, thereby taking advantage of the stable directions of the uncontrolled chaotic” system.

By not having a set outcome in mind, by not allowing static interpersonal roles to control the outcome, FIML can succeed in fixing even very serious contretemps between caring partners. FIML accomplishes this by providing partners with a means of achieving a meta-view of their contretemps and from that point of view gently nudging their analysis toward mutual agreement, mutual transformation for both parties based on a complete and completely shared understanding of the unique conditions that generated the problem.

In this, FIML takes “advantage of the stable directions of the uncontrolled chaotic” system. The stable direction is the complete and mutually agreed upon resolution of all aspects of the contretemps. It is a “return” to the stable state of caring that preceded the problem, but a “return” with a significant upgrade because the new stable state will now include the experience of repairing the chaotic state that just passed.

The pleasure in a full FIML resolution can be very great because the semiotic systems of both partners minds will also achieve an upgraded level of stability and awareness. This kind of resolution, clearly, strengthens and resonates with the core of conscious beings who live in the midst of and use (often not so well) semiotics to understand themselves and others.

An article on the study linked above describes the “loose” control method as an “approach that cleverly exploits the natural behaviour of the system.” (See: Control is good, freedom is better)

FIML exploits the natural behavior of two people who seek mutual caring and mutual positive transformation by providing a method that allows them to intelligently deal with the chaos that is 100% bound to arise during some of their acts of communication. Rather than flee from communication due to the fear of chaos, FIML partners have a reliable method of controlling it and reestablishing harmony on a higher, better level.

first posted OCTOBER 2, 2013

If you know everything about everybody and you know how everybody is connected to everybody else, can you know for certain who is at the top?

[This essay provides an essential background for understanding KOBK (Kill-or-be-Killed) game-theory on both the interpersonal and societal levels. Like all psychological phenomena, KOBK is fractal, potentially operating at all levels of society: from the individual to the social collective. ABN]

For the most part, you can’t.

Look at it this way—how does someone like Dick Cheney, say, know he knows what he is doing, or was doing as vice-president? [This essay was written in 2012, hence the reference to Cheney. No other references are dated.]

He had a semiosis about what he was doing and where he stood within the American political/military hierarchy, but how did he know that that semiosis wasn’t a front for another semiosis (game plan) hidden behind it? How would someone like Cheney find out that there was no other game plan hidden behind the game plans he knew about?

I don’t think he did know or could have known. Did Cheney realize that? Does he realize it now? I can’t answer.

One way someone like that could get information that shows he at least knows a lot, if not the whole thing, is to exercise power. If someone can exercise power and not be stopped, they can be kind of certain that the semiosis they are working within is “true.” Their game plan worked, so there is a greater chance they are in control than if it had not worked. But how can they be certain? I don’t think they can be.

Take another example: A crime boss in the 1980s might have done his thing for years believing all the while that he had the system figured out. Because he kept getting away with his crimes (because he was able to continuously exercise power without being stopped), he may have come to believe that his game plan worked, that he was at the top of his power structure, that his semiosis was “true.”

But we know that many of those bosses in the 1980s were wrong. For years their phones and meeting places were bugged, leading to successful prosecutions under RICO laws. The bosses thought that they had found a way to distance themselves from the nitty gritty of their crimes, but they were wrong. Their game plan (their semiosis) was wrong.

So, law enforcement and the courts had a better game plan, a “truer” semiosis. But how did they know the real quality of their semiosis? Sure, they busted the Mafia, but did they bust all of it and who did they not even look at? How do they know that there aren’t more gangs or secret societies that may even now be controlling them?

I don’t think they do know or even can know. Before you start thinking I am paranoid, consider that behind-the-scenes control of American politics, or any politics, is common; Tammany Hall, Mafia control of NYC politics decades ago, Hoover’s denial that the Mafia even existed, the current state of our two-party “political” system, Libor, etc.

A similar sort of analysis can be applied to news. The problems politicians have with really knowing the deep game plan or ever speaking about it filters through our less-than-perfect news media to be consumed by citizens as bits of information structured into stories that are easy to follow. The American people do not govern themselves but rather at most serve as a weak brake on groups at the top who do almost anything they want.

How do those groups know which one is on top? I am not sure they do. Is NSA domestic surveillance actually an attempt to find out?

If you know everything about everybody and you know how everybody is connected to everybody else, can you know for certain who is at the top?

If so, that will be a first in human history. I do recognize it is possible, though there would be problems with who controls the data, who analyzes it.

A basic point I want to make in this post is that power is very much about meaning, about semiotics. If you can exercise power and not be stopped, you know something about your semiosis. That sure as heck is not the Buddhist way to go about it, but that is the way a great deal of power and semiotics actually works in this world. Power defines meaning.

When this function of power and meaning gets down to the levels of ordinary people, it greatly affects what we say to each other and how we think about each other. Basically, far as I can tell, it causes most people to live in fear because we all know that if we say anything unusual, other people will start wondering about us. If we say the wrong thing, someone will be offended and talk behind our back, or worse.

So it becomes dangerous to say a great many things, or at least very difficult. Almost every subject of real interest is shrouded in semiotics that permit just a couple of standard views. Don’t like Obama, vote for Romney, what’s your problem?

I point all of this out because it is crucial for understanding who we are to understand how ideas, semiotics, and cultures are formed. We live in hierarchies. In hierarchies, the top people determine a great deal of the semiotics of that society. They further their semiotics and prove it to themselves by exercising power. Those people themselves cannot really ever be certain that they know their true position in the hierarchy. How much less can ordinary people expect to know the truth of the semiotics that trickles down to them?

Not everything is stuck in a culture you can’t control and can’t be sure of, but most/much of it is.

In this context, FIML practice allows partners to examine and discuss all aspects of the semiotics they hold in common or as individuals. Since FIML provides partners with a very good level of interpersonal certitude and the means to reinvigorate this certitude at any time, FIML allows partners to say what they want to each other without being misunderstood. It provides a freedom of speech and expression that allows the mind to bloom in ways that normal adherence to normal cultural semiotics cannot.

Just as politicians and powerful people can never be sure they know what others are thinking or where they stand, so ordinary people can’t either. All of them are trapped in the semiotics of their culture, which is usually a hierarchy. It is only through FIML or FIML-like techniques that individuals can free their communication systems from the need to create meaning through self-assertion or submission.

first posted as How do we know where our semiotics come from? on JULY 25, 2012

Believe It: A Top Old School Journalist Stands Up for Ivermectin and Free Speech

“Demand Surges for Deworming Drug for Covid,” The New York Times August 30 headline began with a deception before the graceful, barely discernible leap to a falsehood, “Despite Scant Evidence it Works.”

It was just another day in the most misleading, murderous coverage of a global issue in modern times, the attempted assassination of poor little ivermectin. Little Ivy, smaller and safer than aspirin and sometimes portrayed as a lovable little blue bird by its worldwide supporters, is the remarkably safe, affordable, FDA-approved, generic, Nobel-Prize winning drug known to doctors as one of the great “wonder drugs” in human history, rivaling penicillin, until it made the mistake of killing both COVID and big pharma profits like nothing known to science . Ivermectin made the critical mistake of saving hundreds of thousands of lives from COVID globally, documented by data scientists, health ministries, and ICU physicians around the world, with doses as common and cheap as the antibiotic that heals the kids’ knee scrapes: 10 cents a dose in India and a buck or two in upstate New York.

link

Decent piece but also a little cheap. Praise for a journalist who did basic research and told the truth, his job. Just what readers of this site have been doing for a year and a half. And thousands of others have been deplatformed, fired, and ridiculed for doing. That said, Walsh and Capuzzo will communicate with more of lazy USA than most of us will. And every bit helps. Consider that several hundred thousand Americans have died unnecessarily due to official suppression of known-to-be-effective treatments for covid, which are still being suppressed today, even banned. ABN

Meaning and identity

  • Meaning can be defined as two or more signaling systems connecting. Connecting means “sending and receiving, receiving and sending.”
  • To visualize this, think of Newton’s every action produces an opposite and equal reaction; thus sending (action) produces receiving (reaction), which in turn sends a message back. For example, a photon hits a hydrogen atom; the photon “sends” while the atom “receives”; by receiving, it also sends a message back and out; it affects the photon and more.
  • Space is the foundation of the plethora of signaling systems. Time is the foundation of their activity and extent.
  • Meaning is the most basic word in language.
  • When you look at it “psychologically,” it’s not what the sign is but what the meaning is. Thus, meaning is a deep basis of semiotics.
  • In this context, it makes sense to say that time and space are the sine qua non of signaling systems. This “defines” time and space in terms of signaling systems.
  • Identity depends on meaning as defined above.
  • Our identities are (somewhat) complex nexuses of meaning/signaling that “embody” our comprehension of the semiotics of our cultures and experiences. They lie at the center of how we understand ourselves. Identity signaling occurs internally as well as externally.
  • In non-FIML social intercourse it is normal for people to assert/display the props/symbols of their identities, as they understand them.
  • People who do FIML also need identities, but they do not need the social props that help non-FIML people define each other.
  • You really do not want to be defined by props and symbols. It’s a static role that leads away from authentic being.
  • People do not truly belong to a culture. Rather they maintain the illusion that they belong to a culture. This is clear when we think and analyze identity in terms semiotics, which here means “the science of communicable meaning.”
  • Having a weak or confused identity can be a very good thing as this may prompt you to learn how identities are made and maintained.
  • No Buddhist should want an identity defined by props and symbols.
  • Buddhism is about authentic being, the “thusness” of being, the experiential existential being that you really are, the one that occurs before there are definitions, props, and symbols.
  • This being can be hard to see because humans are semiotic entities; that is, we are entities that seek, create, and communicate meaning. This causes us to look within semiotics for the definition of our authentic being, a place where it can never be found. You have to look outside of semiotics.
  • But you can’t look outside semiotics unless you know how to look inside. You have to fully understand how the “language” of your semiotics works to be able to step outside of it.
  • Your semiotics is your unique take on the semiotics of your culture(s) and experiences.
  • You cannot fully explore your semiotics, your identity, your nexus of individual meaning alone because there is no way you can check your work. You cannot see yourself.
  • Each of us is a social, interactive, communicative being. You can only fully explore your unique semiotics/identity with a partner who wants to do the same.
  • Two people working together are able to stop the flow of conversation to analyze the semiotics of how they are hearing and speaking. One person working alone is only guessing.
  • Find a partner and do FIML. You will learn a lot from it.
  • Do not expect FIML to give you new symbols or props or tell you how to be. FIML is only a procedure. It is empty, almost devoid of its own content. It is a process that will help you see and recreate your identity.
  • Do not expect your FIML teacher to be an example for you. Do not expect your teacher to be impressive or to project signs and symbols at you. Do not expect to follow your teacher.
  • Just learn how to do FIML from them.
first posted August 22, 2013

Cultural semiotics – whatever works is the rule

Cultures are made of and held together by semiotics. They are formed and exist within self-referential semiotic networks or matrices.

Semiotic cultural matrices exist solely because they work. This is why virtually all of the world’s cultures are based on falsehoods.

It doesn’t matter if something is right or wrong as long as the people within a culture keep buying the story. Once they stop buying it, the culture disintegrates or changes.

Disintegration has been the fate of almost every culture that ever existed and there is little or no chance that any culture in existence today will survive for long.

Some culture can reasonably claim contiguity with an ancestral culture dating back thousands of years, but the two are never the same. In that sense, all of us can claim contiguity with “our” cultural pasts, just as we can claim genetic contiguity with the past. It is unlikely, though, that you would recognize any of the cultures of your distant ancestors, let alone want to be part of them or even like them.

The simplicity and falsity of culture can be seen in almost anything that communicates to large numbers of people, but especially when the thing being communicated is emotional.

An example in today’s USA might be the use of the word “offense” or “offended,” as in “I am offended by what you just said.”

If the speaker said something clearly offensive, like cussing out your mother, most of us would dismiss them as drunken fools and be done with it. Some of us might want to fight, but I bet no one would say, “I am offended by what you just said!”

Being “offended” is a semiotic that carries a special meaning and a special charge. It usually comes as a surprise to the speaker, causing them to hesitate and wonder what they have done wrong. It almost always seems to require an apology and the admission that the “offended” party stands on higher ground.

But how can you “offend” without doing so knowingly? I might not like it when you stepped on my toes, but I would be a fool to feel offended if you did it accidentally.

The truth is when most people claim to be “offended” they don’t really mean it. What they mean is “you failed to show me respect in the way I demand.”

That is a very different semiotic. It often works like an ambush or a trump card that gives the listener control of what has happened and will happen next. Reason should prevail in these instances, but it rarely does because the “offended” thing works better.

Rather than “offend” anyone by illustrating this point with some recent examples from the news, please recall your own. Imagine occasions when you have heard or read about someone claiming to be “offended” by what someone else said or did. Short of direct insults, which are rare, the “offense” will almost always reduce to “failure to show respect” for some code of speech or behavior that the speaker did not know.

Being “offended” is a powerful charge that amply reveals the tackiness of cultural bonds, for it works even among people who otherwise think of themselves as reasonable.

first posted in a more innocent time JUNE 12, 2014