And If You Did Know?

In Memory of Sharon Michele McAvoy Nichols .:. December 24, 1949 – October 10, 2005

September 25, 2003

I Don’t Get It

Filed under: her words,philosophy — mark @ 11:09 am

I just read an article on AlterNet, one of my favorite sites. This one was by Professor George Lakoff of the University of California at Berkely. He was talking about the various frames used by politicians and how the Republicans have learned to frame their rhetoric in ways that help to make their points. For instance he talked about how in their various think tanks the republicans have formulated frames that help them present their agendas. One of them is about how giving tax breaks to the rich is done by calling it “tax relief”—-as Professor Lakoff says “Think for a minute about the word relief. In order for there to be relief, there has to be a blameless, afflicted person with whom we identify and whose affliction has been imposed by some external cause. Relief is the taking away of the pain or harm, thanks to some reliever.” The Republicans then present themselves as the hero of the day by providing the “relief”. How noble. The problem, according to Professor Lakoff, is that “The term tax relief evokes all of this and more. It presupposes a conceptual metaphor: Taxes are an affliction, proponents of taxes are the causes of affliction (the villains), the taxpayer is the afflicted (the victim) and the proponents of tax relief are the heroes who deserve the taxpayers’ gratitude. Those who oppose tax relief are bad guys who want to keep relief from the victim of the affliction, the taxpayer.” His assertion is that the Republicans have been saying this for years so as to make themselves look like heros to the American public when they give hugh tax breaks to their friends and financial backers. This degenerates the system and gives us situations such as the financial problems we have today. Taxes are actually the price we all pay to live in such a wonderful system. His article is very good and I would recommend it to everyone.

As a result of reading it I thought I would love to read something else by him. So I went to Amazon and put in his name. I found several books by him and began to look through them to see if I wanted to buy one. But I was immediately struck with how completely dry and uninteresting they were. I had just read his article and was captivated by his explanations. I then began to feel as I did in college when I would try to read a text book. I would be able to read every word, I would know the meaning of them and yet I did not understand them. I just felt stupid. I would be able to get what the professor said about them, I just could not understand the books. So I got through college and graduate school by: having someone smart around that I could talk to about what the book said, by attending class and trying to get what the professor was going to test on, and by taping the books and then reading them again as I listened to the tapes. As a result of all of this extra effort I managed to get through college. But just now I was sitting here and thinking. I could read his article and understand it completely. Why then do I not understand his book. Then it struck me. His article had some emotional content. His book was an academic model. Ergo all of the emotion was gone. What I need in order to understand something is balance between emotional content, intellectual content, and sprititual content. I have worked for years at being balanced. At one point I worked for a police department as a crime scene investigator. Part of my job was to report what I had discovered at the crime scene and to do it without emotional content. The thinking is that if you display any emotion on the stand that people will think you are trying to get them to agree with you or that you have a hidden agenda. So I learned about not letting people see my agenda. I hid my emotions, or tried not to have them. The price I paid for that was that I distanced myself from my emotions and it took years to start having true access to them after I quit that job. So being unemotional about something may give the appearance that it is rational and therefore more acceptable, but I think the actual reason we have accepted this model is that we then do not have to deal with any emotion. But I have just realized that I need there to be a balance between the emotion and the intellect before I can make sense of it. The reason I could understand Professor Lakoff’s article was that he had not worked at getting the emotion out of it. I could connect with it on various levels. I do not understand his academic work because it lacks that emotional content. I like that I know this now. I do not have to feel stupid because I do not understand something. For me it is about the balance of the intellect and the emotion. Thank you Professor Lakoff, you taught a good lesson.