Let’s Stop Being Afraid of Language – Communication and Freedom Lessons From Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr.

Broken RobotCommunication presentation is the careful and concise logic behind selecting words to communicate an idea—the rules of grammar and punctuation aid in communicating correctly to enhance the sense and communicate the vision.  Language is a grand and glorious tool for sharing ideas, empowering motivation, and building ideas into action items.  Yet, for some reason, words have become cheapened by political positions, and I would see this trend cease forthwith.  Presenting the first and second principles of language and communication:

A word is not a crystal, transparent and unchanged; it is the skin of a living thought and may vary greatly in color and content according to the circumstances and time in which it is used.” ~ Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

The best of a book is not the thought which it contains, but the thought which it suggests; just as the charm of music dwells not in the tones but in the echoes of our hearts.” ~ Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

Consider two emails; the content is identical, the first is titled:

How To Learn and Master Things Faster – Five Tips

The second email was received later in the day and is titled:

How To Learn and Excel At Things Faster – Five Tips

The second email also came with an apology:

Apologies for churn. The original email today used a non-inclusive word in the header. We apologize for this error and are re-sending with the corrected content.

The content of the email did not change at all, only the titles changed, and the apology suggests that there is a “non-inclusive” word in the original title.  Some people will erroneously claim that the term master is automatically a negative term and base that assumption upon slavery, especially with Juneteenth celebrations abounding this weekend.  Except, master and mastery are not negative terms.

Knowledge Check!As a point of reference, a male teacher is a master.  There are master degrees; master also appears in religious texts as an honorific.  A master can be a highly accomplished person in a trade or craft, or a role model from history.  One having authority over another to force compulsion is much lower in the definition lists.  Hence, the wordsmithing for “inclusion” is a myth; yet the fear of potentially appearing to be exclusive forced the title change in this email and was 100% wrong!

We must never forget the following:

My right to swing my fist ends where your nose begins.” ~ Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. [emphasis mine].

The fear of thought police drives a lot of other problems in society.  Choose the wrong word on an advertisement, and college children (thought terrorists) have been known to storm the business, ruin patronage, anger the entire community, and force the business closure.  All because they presume the mantle of “Master of Thought Police.”  Who gave them this authority?  Where are their charter, endowment, and power originating from?  Who granted permission; this last one is easy; the license to become a terrorist was self-assumed!  Necessitating the following principle:

The history of intellectual growth and discovery clearly demonstrates the need for unfettered freedom, the right to think the unthinkable, discuss the unmentionable, and challenge the unchallengeable. To curtail free expression strikes twice at intellectual freedom, for whoever deprives another of the right to state unpopular views necessarily also deprives others of the right to listen to those views.” ~ Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.Social Justice Warrior

Please note, I am not against wordsmithing to increase the potential power of communication to reach an audience.  Nor am I against the careful selection of words to provide clear context and empower a collective message through editing.  I will certainly not be upset because someone chooses one word in a message that I might not have used had I been in their shoes.  Why have we, the adults in society, allowed the children in the community to act like spoiled brats and create fear and division over word selection and placement in a message?

The following two quotes contain more than simple support for the principles of communicating but reflect how those principles of freedom and communication operate in society.

If there is any principle of the Constitution that more imperatively calls for attachment than any other, it is the principle of free thought, not free thought for those who agree with us but freedom for the thought that we hate.” ~ Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

Certitude leads to violence. This is a proposition that has an easy application and a difficult one. The easy application is to ideologues, dogmatists, and bullies–people who think that their rightness justifies them in imposing on anyone who does not happen to subscribe to their particular ideology, dogma, or notion of turf. If the conviction of rightness is powerful enough, resistance to it will be met, sooner or later by force. There are people like this in every sphere of life, and it is natural to feel that the world would be a better place without them!” ~ Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. [emphasis mine]

QuestionIs the fear of the mob so significant that even without a mob, fear is spread, risks must be avoided proactively, and thoughts curtailed?  I say NO!  I defy the entire argument that word selection can cause exclusion.  Why; because understanding is a choice!  The only person who can choose to be insulted over a word is you!  You own the emotions of the moment, and your emotional choices are not my concern!  Do we understand this concept?

Audience selection is the first job in designing communication.  Identifying the primary, secondary, and tertiary audiences is the job of the communication initiator.  After drafting that message and sending the ideas out, the audience is left to choose what they do moving forward.  How you choose is your power, and I am not responsible for your choices.  The communication initiator is not accountable for your preferences and selections.

Andragogy - LEARNBut what about those messages specifically designed to inflame, insult, denigrate, and deride?  What changed?  Nothing!  The communication initiator desired to rile the primary audience, deny them this power over you, choose different emotions, and retain the moral high ground.  The best response to a communication initiator who wants to rule your emotions is to deny them that power, and then that person goes away as irrelevant.

Opposing thoughts expand our minds with both experience and the force to make a decision.  If all we ever experienced were ideas and thoughts we agreed with, change, growth, opinion, all the spice of life would be lost.  Worse, envy would overcome logic, and the world would undoubtedly be a more violent place as a result.

I have no respect for the passion of equality, which seems to me merely idealizing envy – I don’t disparage envy, but I don’t accept it as legitimately my master.” ~ Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.Social Justice Warrior 3

Is the ability to choose emotional reasoning supported sufficiently to empower you?  One of the great tragedies of life, since the 1960s, has been the call for “equality” when the worship of envy was the actual message.  Worse, these ideas have been planted and carefully tended, and the fruit is poison.  When I moved to the western US as a kid, I was introduced to cedar trees for the first time.  A cedar tree is the place of choice for pregnant animals to have their offspring, as the cedar slowly transforms the ground under it into a sterile environment.  The air is affected, the earth is involved, and the grove of cedar trees holds tremendous power for generations inside the forest of cedar trees.  The cedar tree is an excellent example of the power of envy worship.  Call envy equality if you prefer, but the fruit will kill and poison the minds of those choosing to plant the seeds for generations.

Taking the concepts into the final thought:

Liberty is often a heavy burden on a man. It involves the necessity for perpetual choice, which is the kind of labor men have always dreaded.” ~ Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. [emphasis mine].

Calvin & Hobbes - EnmityLike the expanded mind, choice leads to decisions, decision spurs action, and action will result in consequences.  How you perceive the effects will drive the next series of choices, decisions, activities, and consequences.  Liberty and freedom allow us the glory and the horror of choice and consequence.  Thus, I plead with you, stop allowing your emotional decisions to be controlled by others!  Cease the turmoil over language, speak simply, communicate clearly, and then rest knowing you have not intentionally caused harm.  The audience is left to choose, and if they choose to be offended, those are not your consequences to suffer!

Reason may be the lever, but sentiment gives you the fulcrum and the place to stand on if you want to move the world.” ~ Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

© 2021 M. Dave Salisbury
All Rights Reserved
The images used herein were obtained in the public domain; this author holds no copyright to the images displayed.

NO MORE BS: Indifference

Sympathy v Empathy v ApathyMilitary commanders are taught there are two great sins in planning operations; one is waiting, and predictability and the other is indifference.  Today, business leaders are instructed well by academics about the problems with waiting to make a decision, failing to act, and the costs of blown opportunities from taking too long to make a decision.  But few have ever considered the costs of indifference.  I intend to close this gap in education, using some recent examples and some history to reflect why indifference is a corrosive acid on the souls of men.

Indifference

Indifference is all about a lack of interest, not having or showing concern, and refusing sympathy.  Webster has also referred to indifference as unimportant.  When discussing the sympathetic aspects of indifference, please remember, sympathy is part of the emotions of ruination.  Many people continue to become lost in showing empathy and sympathy when choosing not to emote or become involved in the feelings of others is a better course of action.  Lacking sympathy might not be a terrible thing in a particular circumstance and does not reflect indifference.

What is the distinction between choosing not to emote and indifference?

Not Passion's Slave - Emotions and ChoiceLet’s take Robert Solomon’s position that emotions are a choice, a judgment, and a social event. Indifference is not distinguishable from other emotions and remains a choice, a judgment, or a social event.  Except one is not left trying to distinguish between indifference as emotion and indifference as lacking interest or caring.  More to the point, if indifference was simply an emotion to choose, then indifference is apathy, and apathy is another emotion on the path to ruination.

Hence, there must be more to the concept of indifference to make the separation between indifference as emotion and indifference as an action.  Let us pause here for a moment mentally and keep one principle firmly in mind, indifference, or the activities that reflect indifference, are a choice, a decision, and judgment about the social situation.  Choices have natural consequences that cannot be escaped.  The consequences of choosing indifference cannot always be controlled or directly understood as lines of congruence from the choice of indifference to the consequences of indifference.  These principles remain valid for all emotional choices expressed by humans.  Worse, the valuation of the consequences can vary wildly from person to person, creating additional consequences that snowball into major social events quickly.

Emtional Investment CycleSolomon makes a classic point in tying indifference to defensive mechanisms used in choosing emotional interactions for social situations.  Indifference can reflect envy, resentment, hate, disdain, and the “opposite” of these emotions: love and respect—indifference embodying the individual’s psyche through emotional choices.  When angry, frustrated, or time-pressured, how many times has the words “I don’t care” slipped out as the position when at another time the decision would not have been indifferent?  Is the defensive aspect clear?

Please note, when using the term opposite, I am trying to be easily understood.  The problem when discussing emotions is that there are no clear-cut opposites to emotions.  For example, the opposite of light is dark; but light shades include darkness to set emotional states or moods.  Opposite always depends upon the context, e.g., the social situation of human interactions.  Another aspect of emotions is the transformation from one to another, the speed of transformation, and the social context forcing a change.  Thus, making distinctions between emotions remains ambiguous and always will depend upon context and the social environment.Apathy

Finally, please remember that positive and negative are valuations of consequences, not emotional choices.  The emotional choice will have consequences, and the social situation, the judgment, and the choice will be reflected in the consequences experienced.  The emotion itself cannot be judged without the consequences, and the valuation of the consequences is deeply personal.  Hence trying to characterize an emotion is simpleminded and detrimental to all aspects of emotional valuation.  The emotion cannot be evaluated or valued, but the consequences from that emotional choice must be considered and given value.  Does this make sense?

People seeking to control social situations employ emotional sophistry to plasticize the emotion and the consequence into weapons to force those they select to either come closer or move further away.  Where indifference is concerned, the aspects of defense remain the most influential aspect of emotional choices leading to action.  The cost and constraint of emotion are all found in the consequences of that emotional choice and social environment.  Defense mechanisms work to protect, but as the axiom goes, a good defense is supported by a good offense.  The best defensive drivers drive offensively and defensively, balancing the offense and defense to protect themselves, as a continuous string of decisions while driving.Plato 3

I realize this was a long explanation, but understanding the consequences of choosing to emote, choosing to be indifferent as a defensive position, and employing other emotions in social environments to judge others, are all connected emotionally speaking.  Remaining interconnected and the failure to describe these relationships does not produce the understanding for evaluating the situations around us properly.  Let me be clear, the difference between choosing to emote and indifference is the defensive aspect of indifference when applied to a social situation.

Indifference in Action

Consider the teenager who, when given a choice, screams, “I don’t care.”  When they calm down, who will care a great deal but are stuck inside their choice and consequence cycle because they chose to defend when they needed a different emotional response to a particular situation?  My wife, when we got married, discussed how to decorate the home.  I decided that the home looks and the decorations making a house a home were beyond my purview, realizing I have no taste in furnishings and am happy with bare essentials.  This decision has aggravated and grated on my wife for our entire marriage (20+ years), but I refuse to budge.Plato 2

I am not indifferent to what the house looks like, but I have no interest in the minutia of decorations and decorating.  Hence, my simplicity is not indifference, as my wife has judged, but a recognition that there are more important aspects to life than choosing colors and styles of curtains, where furniture goes, or how to light a room.  My consequence has been that sometimes I might not like her ideas but live with them due to the consequences of my choice to stay out of decorating decisions entirely.  I have also had to move furniture I did not particularly like because she prefers a style and shape.  My decision has also led to a host of other consequences.  Since I refuse to budge on helping to decorate, I remain indifferent to how the house looks and push all credit onto her while accepting the blame for anything out of place or undesired in her home.

WhyPublic examples of indifference abound; one of the most obvious was the Beer Summit.  President Obama’s indifference to police officers during the Henry Louis Gates arrest debacle in July 2009 reflected poorly in a socially political aspect for all his faults and all his other decisions.  Thus the “Beer Summit” was held to improve the appearances of indifference towards police by the sitting US President.  Except, the “Beer Summit” was as empty as the calories of the beer consumed for the next time a police controversy arose, the sitting US President went out of his way to blame police before all the facts were known.  Leading to the question, what is President Obama defending by showing indifference to police officers?

Another aspect of indifference has been the Federal Response to individual states legalizing cannabis, a trend that took off under President Obama.  The executive in charge, the sitting US President, reflected indifference towards states broadening the “state-approved legal” use of cannabis.  Was the sitting president indifferent due to a defensive position due to his history of drug use?  Are the stories true that President Obama smoked cannabis in the White House?  Is there a connection between indifference showed by the US President and the rise of states legalizing cannabis?

Question 3President Trump was criticized for caring too much about war zones and problems outside the United States, while the infrastructure crumbled and the poor suffered.  President Obama was criticized for his refusals to enforce “Red Lines” being crossed with impunity and where internationally illegal weapons of mass destruction were employed.  Which one was a reflection of indifference?  Why?  I am not getting into political discussions here; the topic is indifference, and recognizing indifference and the consequence from indifferent actions remains crucial to improving decision-making.  Both presidents inherited situations where American Troops were in harm’s way, and these troop conditions rightly took priority in decision-making short and long-term.  Yet, which president was indifferent?  Why?  Does indifference change solely because of political leanings?  Why?

President Biden was criticized for being indifferent to National Guard Troops sleeping in parking garages during his ascension and confirmation as US President in January and February 2021.  When the political appearances could no longer be sidestepped, token measures were taken to improve troop comforts.  What is President Biden defending where US Troops in the US Capitol are concerned?

Knowledge Check!Indifference surrounds us in every social situation, every day.  Do we understand the role indifference is currently playing in obstructing development, hampering growth, and destroying lives?  Since Feb. 2020, the globe has witnessed governments running away with stealing freedoms and liberties from the citizenry, issuing mandates and restrictions without due process, all because of a “health emergency.”  The indifference to science by the politicians stealing liberty has been deafening.  The indifference to the citizenry and the judiciary has also been deafening.  To fight indifference, we must first understand what we are witnessing and then address that indifference at the source.  We must realize our own indifference and determine why before we can begin to understand the larger applications of indifference and force change.

Reference

Solomon, R. C. (2007). Not passion’s slave: Emotions and choice [Kindle 6]. Buy your copy here: https://www.amazon.com/Not-Passions-Slave-Emotions-Passionate/dp/0195179781

© 2021 M. Dave Salisbury
All Rights Reserved
The images used herein were obtained in the public domain; this author holds no copyright to the images displayed.

NO MORE BS: Let us Stop Judging Based Upon Projection

LaughterI had to laugh today (20 April 2021); I received a comment based upon an article written, and the first words read were, “You do not know what you are talking about.”  I have been discriminated against for not wearing a mask, for being white, for what I know and don’t know, and always the discrimination stems from a judgment based upon the projection of the person speaking.  Judging based upon projection has become tiresome!

What is Judging?

Judging is the action of a judge.  A judge has several definitions especially apt to this discussion:

  1. To form, give, or have as an opinion, or to decide about something or someone, especially after thinking carefully.”
  2. To express a bad opinion of someone’s behavior, often because you think you are better than them.”
  3. Used to express the reasons why you have a particular opinion.”

The definitions originate with the Cambridge Dictionary and, in my opinion, are particularly well stated to provide sufficient explanation without additional commentary from me.  Most interesting of all, the definitions challenge the reader to think about actions and behaviors where judgment, often confused with discrimination, is the first or only response to anything new.

GavelMany, many, many, atheists have complained in terms vociferous that I do not know anything about atheism.  Several theists have made similar claims but are generally more hostile than the atheists.  Regardless, one of the topics I enjoy studying are people’s closely held beliefs, and religion is one of those beliefs that are both closely held and motivational in nature.  Politics is a close second, and I enjoy studying the why behind political choices.

I have a close relative who is not allergic to food in any shape or capacity but will use the allergic excuse for food they particularly do not like, peanut butter, fish, canned peas, mushrooms, and much more.  Without ever tasting many of these foods, a judgment has been made, an excuse offered, and a diet established.  If my relative had the ability, they would live off only one food type, and actively refuses to believe that variety is a spice in life, especially where food is concerned.

Millstone of Designed IncompetenceJudgments make hasty decisions with natural consequences that must be shouldered.  Like the proverbial millstone about the neck, a judgment can become very heavy to carry.  Especially when that judgment is based on false or erroneous data, the judge will not be swayed, which explains why many people continue to smoke but do not blame smoking for the cough, lung problems, cancer, or death.

One of my favorite authors is Robert Fulghum, best known for authoring “Everything I need to know, I learned in kindergarten.”  In a follow-on book, he related a news story about a guy who was rescued from his smoldering bed, where he had fallen asleep after drinking heavily and needed a cigarette before sleep.  Who got up, relieved themselves, and then crawled back into bed after noticing that the bed was on fire.  One could judge the man as stupid for crawling back into a burning bed, but if they did not know about the heavy drinking, they might judge erroneously.  Others might judge both drinking and smoking as dangerous, and the man deserved his fate.  I laughed the first time I read this story at the absurdity of it all.  Then I got a lot of experience about what people do when intoxicated, and I understand the man a little better.  By not judging the actions or circumstances, I understand better the decision to crawl into a smoldering bed, pull the covers to my chin, and go back to sleep.  The understanding does not limit my finding humor in the absurdity of the actions, but I understand the decision-making process better now.

What is Projection?

Editorial - Educational TruthFrom PsychologyToday.com, we find the definition of projection.  “Projection is the process of displacing one’s feelings onto a different person, animal, or object. The term is most commonly used to describe defensive projection—attributing one’s own unacceptable urges to another.”  For example, the man who climbed back into a smoldering bed could be declared a lot of things by someone projecting their own biases, opinions, and poor judgment behaviors onto the man climbing into a smoldering bed.  In doing so, the ignorance of the judge becomes as apparent as the rising sun.

Still quoting from PsychologyToday.com, “Unconscious discomfort can lead people to attribute unacceptable feelings or impulses to someone else to avoid confronting them. Projection allows the difficult trait to be addressed without the individual fully recognizing it in themselves.”  I have several relatives who regularly attribute their own feelings of insecurity onto others, and it has been quite humorous to observe them in public.

Finally, also from PsychologyToday.com, we find the following, “Projecting a threatening trait onto others may be a byproduct of the mechanism that defends the ego, rather than a part of the defense itself. Trying to suppress a thought pushes it to the mental foreground, psychologists have argued, and turns it into a chronically accessible filter through which one views the world.”  We need to understand this comment as quoted fully.  Research on thinking confirms that any thought we try to suppress moves into the mental foreground and remains the only thought we can hold onto.  The more force we try to kick that thought out, the more stuck that thought becomes.  Enough experience with that thought, and the thought becomes the filter through which we see the world.

Emtional Investment CycleFor example, I know an alcoholic and a chocoholic with the same disease, but with different drugs, whose power over the individual is precisely the same because the same thought is stuck in the foreground of their mental capacities, and both see the world through their addictions.  The only thoughts allowed in their brains are how to get chocolate or alcohol.  Nothing else can stay in their minds because their addictive thought has become the filter of behavior.  Essentially the projection of their fears and desires became the addiction that controls them.

Is the relationship between stuck thoughts and projection clear?  People project to protect themselves, avoid things they do not desire, and socially fit into a peer group they desire.  All of which involves making judgments as seen through the filter of stuck thoughts.  Leading to more stuck thoughts, more filters, more behavior changes, more judgments, and the cycle repeats ad nauseam ad infinitum.

How do we break this cycle?

Andragogy - LEARNThe first step in any problem is to admit there is a problem.  Refusing to admit there is a problem is another stuck thought which allows justification for projection and judgment, perpetuating the problems, addictions, and issues.  It is okay to admit you need help!

Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) is one of the most powerful methods for overcoming stuck thoughts.  A little research, a little practice, and change can begin.  Please note, weird thoughts, they happen, and they do not mean you are a bad person.  Fighting those thoughts leads to stuck thoughts, so the opposite is recommended.  Admit that the thought was crazy, didn’t belong, and move forward consciously.  The thought might return, acknowledge it, and move in a different path.

Detective 4I have a great resource on this topic, “Overcoming Unwanted Intrusive Thoughts,” authored by Sally M. Winston PsyD and Martin N. Seif Ph.D.  The book is humorous, easy to read, and very helpful.  The book employs CBT as a method for getting unstuck, and I recommend all adults, and many teenagers, to read this book as a tool for directing energy and thinking into productive areas.  I am not trying to sell the book; feel free to find your own CBT resources, and feel free to share them.  For when we understand our own behavior, we can improve!

Better, when we understand this connection between projection and judgment, we can observe others and discern better the sources we allow to provide information, we elect to public office, we trust with our money, or allow into our lives.  Liberty and freedom are not built upon a fallacy, bias, opinion, and outright lies projected by scared and power-hungry people.  Liberty and freedom are built upon law, control of self, and sacrifice for the good of many.  Embracing a “Liberty FIRST Culture” means understanding those behaviors that got us into the mess we currently are in, and through understanding, solutions begin to generate.

© 2021 M. Dave Salisbury
All Rights Reserved
The images used herein were obtained in the public domain; this author holds no copyright to the images displayed.