Archive for June, 2006|Monthly archive page

The framework of “freedom”

Thursday, June 29th, 2006

…the left’s current foundering not just to a failure of strategy but to a failure of self-knowledge.
–Laura Miller on George Lakoff, “Freedom’s not just another word” [Salon pass required]

In George Lakoff’s latest book, Whose Freedom? The Battle Over America’s Most Important Idea, he calls for the progressives, the left, i.e. the Democrats to use language to reclaim the linguistic and metaphorical framework of the concept of freedom back from the conservative right.

Miller’s opening paragraph really drives the point home: the laughter of Jon Stewart’s audience as clip after clip of Republican robots saying the same phrase rolls by. But if that phrase is defining, or even co-opting “freedom”, it sticks. We are laughing and making associations and cognitive frameworks at the same time.

Lakoff says that there are deep and surface “frames” or frameworks of understanding we all have, like a container within which basic concepts are stored and agreed upon, beyond the personal level where metaphor helps us to conceptualize, internalize and understand even the most basic of concepts (see his book The Metaphors We Live By for more on this).

The frame of freedom, he argues, is the metaphor of the family. The conservatives? Well, that’s definitely “Daddy knows best” (and Daddy leads, and Daddy has the money, and Daddy sets the rules, and Daddy is going to heaven), which he calls strict-father. This is the framework of American business–the type of governance predominant in the office. What’s insidious about this framework is that it has, as an extension, the idea that those who follow the rules are moral, and those that don’t are immoral.

Don’t like Homeland Security reading your email or listening to your phone calls? Immoral! One of those people who need social assistance? Immoral! And stupid!

But there is another framework: nurturant-parent (note the genderless referent as well). More like “Parent will guide, lead, help and support”, this framework is the dominant one in the hearts and households of America. Morality here is a lot more about being a good guide, help, supporter, and so on.

So, rather going all the way to that filthy “socialism”, the American progressive need only look to a definition of freedom embedded in the households of America to reach a deeply entrenched framework of understanding–and one that provides a sense of identity to them AND to the people. AND one that allows for the American version of social assistance, and care, and respect for the community, and the moral responsibility for the “haves” to give back.

If you are thinking that simply TALKING about this stuff, consciously articulating a framework and making that part of the gameplan is, well, lame, you should check out of some of Lakoff’s work.

I studied his work on metaphor many moons ago (see–you have a concept of time via that metaphor), and it stuck with me. We are creatures of language. Otherwise, we are basically chimps (or chumps, as the case may be). If only one framework is being consistently messaged and built and done so with conviction, then even if it does not resonate with how we act, we will “believe” it.

Hey you progressives, Democrats: start talking!

A walk in the morning is very rewarding…

Wednesday, June 28th, 2006

when you get to see the new swan babies! The pair in Victoria Park has four, and they were parading them about this morning. (I know, Melle; I need a digital camera).

And as an added bonus, the heron was also out and about and willing to be gawked at.

I think Al Gore would like Victoria Park.

An Inconvenient Truth

Wednesday, June 28th, 2006

Melle and I went to see An Inconvenient Truth last night.

It is partly the story of global warming, and partly the story of Al Gore. My thoughts and reactions were numerous. One overriding one was America is an asshole.

The Story of Global Warming
The graphics were staggering. Carbon levels, temperature levels, changing ocean currents. The most disturbing images, however, were before and after photos of glaciers around the world that have been lost in as little as the last 30 years, and of lost lakes, and expanding deserts. And a cartoon of a polar bear swimming for its life while looking for a last piece of ice in the Arctic ocean. Polar bears are drowning already because they can’t find ice.

But many a scientist in the United States and elsewhere faces peer pressure, derision, threats and more for speaking that inconvenient truth.

Gross output or per capita, the United States of America is the primary contributor. Over and over again. Though, I think about rush hour on the 401, with back-to-back SUVs and minivans and trucks and one driver in each, and it makes me nauseous.

The Story of Al Gore
In some ways, this is an intensely personal film. Teetering on hyperbolic imagery, the film is a lot about Al Gore as an American icon. Lots of standing and staring into the future, and taking the election decision of 2000 like a man.

Nevertheless, I came away remembering that he is the erstwhile President of the United States, and pondering “what if…”.

It is also, therefore, an intensely political film. There is a sometimes not-so-subtle anti-Bush agenda in this film, with a clear link between the Bush administrations and big oil and big car-makers. Deservedly so, in my opinion, but it may also leave a way to dismiss the primary messages. In the current agent of fanaticism and blind patriotism, I wonder if the film-makers risk losing the audience.

Gore interspersed his slides and stats with quotes, and one stayed with me:

It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary is dependent on his not understanding it
–Upton Sinclair

For reasons personal and global, this one resonates with me. And scares me. And makes me angry.


I think I know how a hermit feels…

Saturday, June 24th, 2006

I dread How are you? because the honest answer is not pleasant. I don’t want to talk about my head, or about my job, or about my personal life.

It’s hard to look you in the eye and see empathy, or even worse, pity.

It’s hard to have to tell a stranger about myself.

It’s hard to have to ask for help.

It’s not me.

It’s possible to feel happy for good things happening to other people, but there’s an emotional boomerang in that.

It’s hard not to sound like someone I don’t like. Or don’t have patience for.

So, I’ll just be in this little cave over here, …collecting newspapers or cats or something.

Huge pasty white guys!

Thursday, June 22nd, 2006

Then these huge pasty white guys, all wearing, like, matching sweaters, run in screaming like madmen and holding this giant planter over their heads, which they demanded I fill with beer.

You gotta love The Onion

A conversation I would never have with my mother

Thursday, June 22nd, 2006

Guy on cellphone:

Well, you know why the f–in dipshit got caught by the cops, Mum? Cuz he was so f–in stupid, he dipped his own shit!

…um. okay.

Puck! Shoot! Net!

Tuesday, June 20th, 2006

Boys. Boys. Boys.

You broke my heart. But whichever farthead came up with your power-play book ought to be shot. IT’S THE FINAL GAME OF THE STANLEY CUP FINALS. Screw the box and the passes and the “waiting” for an opening. Go crazyass on the net. GO to the net. Hit anything in red that moves.

Nevertheless, Mr Pisani (best hockey name ever) and Mr Ward (wrong team, but what the hell): good on yas.

A pervy-weird accountant has crashed the hockey game!

Saturday, June 17th, 2006

False alarm. It’s only the Prime Minister.

The Taj Mahal of Groundhog Holes

Thursday, June 15th, 2006

I have a groundhog. He/she lives in my backyard, or at least the main entrance to the hole is behind my shed.

And apparently, being a modern sort of groundhog, plastic is the new black. Yesterday, while reading in my backyard, I heard a loud rustling somewhere in the vicinity. Immediately, I thought: “Eek! Skunk!” (I had a skunk 2 years ago under my front porch, so the Eek! was warranted).

Anyway, I determined that the rustling was actually coming from the side of my neighbour’s house. When I investigated, I found my groundhog happily ripping the shit out of a plastic cover. Upon my arrival, he/she stopped and then perched on his/her back legs, cheeks bulging with plastic.

With a nudge and wink, the damn thing then SAUNTERED back to the main entrance hole, thus revealing how absolutely intimidating I am when it comes to my wildlife (I’ve written before about Cari the chipmunk who likes to throw walnuts at me).

And did you know that groundhogs build bathrooms and bedrooms in their holes?

…I wonder if the plastic is for the bed or the bath??

Note to self II

Wednesday, June 14th, 2006

A 12 year Bowmore is the nectar of the gods.