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We Are Free In these Chains

I have concluded my reading of The Tyranny of Words by one of the most prolific exponents and popularizer of General Semantics, Mr. Stuart Chase, just in time for the 2nd meeting of the Victorian Chapter of the Australian General Semantics Society which will again be chaired by Mr. Laurie Cox and Mr. Robert James.

I have read extensively on GS for a while now; Science and Sanity by Korzybski, Language in Thought and Action by Hayakawa, as well as Levels of Knowing and Existence by Weinberg, Science and the Goals of Man by Rapoport and other GS influenced texts by Robert Anton Wilson, Karl Popper and Albert Ellis. I have to say, I have never read such a profound and forward-looking text as Chase's, as he synthesizes the major strands (1933) of semantic thought and guides the reader through a thorough, referent-based analysis of economics, politics, sociology and media reporting. Even his language as he dissects passages filled with higher-order abstraction "blabs" (as he calls them) does not seem dated; rather timeless and loaded with a message that we all should heed as we steer ourselves into waters that are filled with empty references, inaccurate inferences and in some cases, outright fabrications.

One of the more intriguing ideas he raises (although he makes completely brilliant points almost consistently throughout) is that semantic training should be made compulsory for those wishing to seek employ the following professions:

Writers of books and articles dealing with social questions Editorial writers—no exceptions
Reporters and journalists, to keep them from confusing facts with inferences
Government executives
Senators, Congressmen, state and local legislators
Diplomats and writers of state papers
Judges, lawyers, and juries. Every juryman should pass a test in semantics before admission to the box
Lecturers, radio speakers, chairmen of forums, dealing with social problems
Teachers and professors—no exceptions
Mothers and fathers who do not want their children to be
badly hurt when they must face the outside world alone
And all consumers of the verbal output from the above classes — just in case the goods are not as advertised. Semantics might be called a testing bureau for the consumer of language.

Imagine a world communicating as clearly possible! Also, I plan to introduce some points of discussion for tomorrow:

Social media and GS: Are one's Facebook status or tweets regarded as an accurate mapping of the territory?
How can GS principles be used to communicate clearly with others who are untrained in or unfamiliar with GS?

A general write up will follow the meeting.


The 1st Meeting of the AGS, Melbourne Chapter

Last night marked the first informal gathering of the Australian General Semantics Society in Melbourne, led by Chairman Laurie Cox (celebrating his 91st birthday!) and President Robert James. Although we only numbered six, I found it to be an inspiring and enlightening discussion of GS concepts and philosophies from both the academic and practical sides of the discipline. What follows is a brief summary of our talks.

Towards Time-Binding Ethics
An element of GS that I have neglected in my own studies is that of time-binding, or "the transmission of knowledge and abstractions through time which are accreted in cultures" as Korzybski defined it. More simply, when must one "time-bind", as in pass facts over to others and how can it be achieved? Laurie described his "mission" to time-bind as effectively as possible, although in some cases it may not be prudent to do so. (i.e., trying to surprise someone for a birthday - as we did with Laurie with a special cupcake for him) We also discussed how time-binding is expanded by blogging and social media as it prevents time-binding in isolation; diaries and personal writings usually cast aside and forgotten.

Revising the Structural Differential
Laurie showed great delight in revealing that he had simplified his own understanding of the Structural Differential to be able to explain it to a French girl a few nights prior. Going through the reversal of order and the ability for one versed in GS to be conscious of abstracting on multiple levels at once - something I tried once the meeting concluded myself. He emphasized the "sensory impact" level and the "unknowable" (or rather, indescribable) "Reality" of the outside world, mediated by our senses. We also discussed differences between descriptions, inferences and abstractions and how we could also apply this simple informal GS training to children of a primary school age and to emphasize that GS can be learned and applied by all; that a process must begin to make learning GS appealing to all people.

GS and Personal Relationships
Following abstracting, we were then told a story of how GS improves mental well-being and communication between people; Robert and Phil (?) who was also in attendance would sometimes get into disagreements, but using the Null-A principle of "non-allness" made arguments more workable - moving away from absolutist blaming and shaming ("You are always such an idiot") to expressing (semantic) reactions about immediate situations ("I feel angry at what you have done since I don't think it was appropriate, etc.") to find a workable solution. The importance of "etc." to remind oneself that not everything about an external event can be completely described.

Non-Aristotelian Orientation and Heisenberg
Towards the end of the discussion we hit upon the "World of Null-A" (also the title of the A. E. van Vogt novels), the works of science fiction that fellow member Earl found GS through. We talked briefly about replacing "absolutisms" with probabilities in our every day life and language - "this will always" to "this will most likely", etc. similar to the "sombunall" (some but not all) term coined by Robert Anton Wilson. Laurie also hit upon an often overlooked similarity of GS with the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle (as GS approaches are usually compared to the classical scientific method; observe-hypothesize-test-revise) - that its premise of "
properties that are not known with precision must be described by probabilities" applied to our approach to life.

I found the discussions highly stimulating and I hope to attend similar gatherings, either in Australia or overseas. Thanks to all that attended and for organizing the meeting!


Crushtor: Brand Entrepreneur Marketing Guru Ichiban?

There's about fifty billion websites and twenty hundred trillion people on Twitter that "tweet" about internet marketing, branding, social media and whatever. Some of these arseholes expect you to pay for their "expertise" in generating leads, followers and whatever. Of course most of it appears to be spam, but a curious experiment I conducted today yielded some intriguing and disturbing results.

First off, it was supposed to be a parody of said "social media" marketers who think they can make exorbitant amounts of money from their tweeting. Who knows; bloggers with plenty of traffic probably can live off their advertising revenue once they hit a certain level of clout and credibility. Chris Onstad, creator of the hell of incisive and darkly funny Achewood comics says his advertising and merchandise sales allow him and his young family to live "comfortably" as a full-time comic writer.

Once I posted this:

After about two weeks on twitter, I think my two most hated words are currently "network" and "marketing."

I got 2 followers. After getting some tips from other friends:

@lindsayevans Oh yeah! Good call! Welcome to Crushtor: social media affiliate marketing entrepreneur and SEO guru for hire and pizza parties

What High Priestess @goatlady says about #hailsatan: "Before #hailsatan my brand marketing ROI was 2%. Now it's like 66.6%!"

I was up to about 17. Within 4 hours I got 73 new followers. At the start of the day I was on about 220, now I'm up to 310 as I write this. Completely ludicrous. Most websites scamming you out of your cash promise you that amount of rapid "growth" - I just threw up some buzzwords and got the same effect. Its hard to tell if its marketers looking for genuine signal amongst torrents of noise or if they're trying to validate their own scam; "Hey boys, looks like someone's bought into the program, better make it look nice!" so I can invariably sign up more chumps. Because seriously; these people are just repeating one another without even pointing to anything that actually exists.

Sure; advertising products or services with empty abstractions isn't anything we haven't seen before. But they have to refer back to something at the end of the day. If someone re-tweets "Top 5 tips for Brand Marketing on Social Media" and can't point to a real world, extensional definition they might as well be saying "Top 5 tips for blab blab on blab blab." (With apologies to Stuart Chase.)


What do we call Metal?

Looking at various metal websites and publications, the new track produced by Blind Guardian for the Sacred 2 RPG (the inevitable formalizing of the relationship between Blind Guardian and uber-nerdy genre RPGs) has been described as "progressive metal." Recently, many bands have also been labeled as progressive. Now, the ultra-rigid pedantic metalhead bastard in me wants to scream "No it isn't!"; and well, using progressive as a catch-all term in metal seems apt, since "progressive" metal seems to be on a higher level of abstraction than most other sub-genres.

People use the word "progressive" as a synonym for "complex" which others take as "superior." Blind Guardian are the genre leaders of Power Metal and show more variation than repetition in their music. They are also ahead of their time in their approaches to songwriting. Hence the rationale behind "progressive." Black Metal are the most ardent Aristotelians; they class many black metal influenced bands, which would would be best termed under the umbrella of "black metal" as not, instead using the term for an elite cadre of bands that pioneered the genre. Since the cult-like fandom of black metal enthusiasts do not own the rights to the term, it is used much more liberally than they would care for. Also of note that the label of Progressive Metal has crept up to include non-Power Metal based bands such as Opeth, Gojira and Mastodon as of late, all bands that employ death vocals in preference to clean singing exclusively.

Thus more confusion abounds when describing "Heavy Metal" and "Metal" - the latter term in favor during the late 70s and early 90s until newer audiences lopped the "Heavy" from the name and merely used "Metal" to describe the entire genre. If you ask Gen X/Y's what Baby Boomers refer to as "Heavy Metal" they may agree on Iron Maiden and such, but beyond the 90s with the rise of melodic death, nu-metal and etc., the younger generation tend to get more specific while the older generation prefer to continue to use the term "Heavy Metal" instead.

Using an abstraction ladder, I believe that we can appropriately order the terms to avoid confusion, hence:

Blind Guardian -> Power Metal -> Progressive Metal -> Metal (or Heavy Metal)

Please note that Power Metal is not a direct subset of Progressive Metal. However the genre terms have yet to please anyone beyond doubt; the bar-room debate as to whether X band is part of Y genre shall inevitably continue as we both hear the same music flowing from our speakers but ultimately decide to call it something else.


No Country for Tired Ideas

An excerpt from an upcoming article for ETC. on "Working Families: Who Are You? The General Semantics of the Rudd Labor Government."

When Mr. Rudd mentions his commitment to "fiscal conservatism", we find ourselves drowning in a semantic ocean, with the droplets that fall into it represented by two undercurrents of mainstream political economic thought. During the previous election campaign, the estimates of the Labor Party's proposed spending was a number significantly less than the Liberal Party. A cleverly (if not deliberate) tactic to confuse the referential index of voters, which equate "fiscal conservatism" with free-market oriented policies, a balanced budget and tax cuts, etc. By the same virtue, "fiscal conservatism" could also mark back to a time when of Social Democratic-Liberal consensus that allowed for broad, interventionist economic strategies; a policy enacted during the tenure of our longest serving Prime Minister, Sir Robert Menzies. This economic policy let him and his successors from the Liberal Party to rule continuously from 1949 to 1972 (Splits in the Labor Party and the tarring of the ALP with the "communist" stick by opponents notwithstanding).

The point that Rudd and Treasurer Wayne Swan attempt to convey is that "fiscal conservatism" "is" responsible, job-friendly, growth-oriented, etc. while distancing the term from being identified as or associated with "economic rationalism" (a term equivalent to "Reaganomics" or "monetarism", used heavily in the 1980s) which can be viewed as "radical" or "unsafe", etc. or, if one was to see it through a two-valued orientation, "not conservative."

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