December 21, 2012

The "National Dialogue"

I was listening to George Lakoff, linguistics professor at Berkeley, CA, give a speech on the “national dialogue” we are engaged in here in the U.S. He pointed out that moral frameworks govern our language, and that words govern the triggering of those moral frameworks. This led me to ask myself, “Then what triggers the words?” A word is an attempt to express a concept. For instance, governance is a concept. God is a concept. Love is a concept. Money is a concept, etc. Problems arise not only when we fail to recognize that our personal assumptions about reality may not encompass concepts that others hold dear, but also when we fail to realize that each person assigns a feeling to each concept. A word is a concept with a feeling piggybacked onto it. Without exception, the feeling is something that has been taught to us by family, friends, and the world of institutions, media, etc. Further troubles arise when we fail to see that we have also been taught to categorize all concepts and their associated feelings into one of two categories – good or bad – thus the moral framework that Lakoff speaks about. This categorizing business is the business of judgment. (We should know better than to judge others – but we don’t. We’re so busy judging that we can never learn anything!) Once we make a judgment, we must then act in certain ways. Sometimes we must act angry, other times we should act insulted, or happy, or afraid, or whatever. When you really look deeply at this, what you see is that the “national dialogue” really comes down to just a bunch of people lost in their own world and talking to themselves! They hear some words from somewhere outside the self, have a feeling reaction, make a string of judgments about what they think they heard, then respond to their own judgments with predetermined behaviors that they act out without ever examining what they are actually doing. We have no national dialogue. There is only a landscape of people acting out their own dramas, blind and deaf to what is really happening with those around them. Blasting out our feelings in every direction does not constitute a dialogue. We are not going to be capable of meaningful dialogue at any level until we start changing our consciousness enough to see and really listen to those around us as if those others exist and matter.