Politics, neuroscience, literature and writing. Three subjects that have filled my life. Words and thinking, in one way or another, occupy my life. My long time readers might notice that I'm not one, typically, for short diaries.
I like to get my arguments just right, support them with strong logic, fill them with passion and force. I'm very persnickety about words, but I've learned to have a limit about just how precise the choices I make are.
Folks like NYCEve, Slinkerwink, and David Waldman probably do the same thing, and have good intentions. But they've fallen into a verbal trap that I think too many of our people have: the trap of the literal word.
You ever notice something? How preachers preaching that they follow the bible literally can't seem to agree? In Artificial Intelligence terms, we could call what should show up isomorphism: one meaning for one symbol. In this case, we could talk about just a few simple words: I support the Public Option.
If they don't say that, what more cause do you need to worry? They must be planning to double cross us!
It's been a tough few months, politically speaking. Obama's been knocked off his pedestal, the crazies seem to have dominated the stage, politically speaking. And yes, the liberals are turning on each other.
But just look. The public supports us, if you ask the questions right, and avoid the verbal landmines of the dogwhistles (God, is that ever a mixed metaphor, but what the hell. ;-) ) Folks like our ideas. We're just kind of too polite about it. We need to take charge. But the good news is, if we do take charge, we got the support.
I really doubt that Democrats in the House are going to oppose a strong Public Options. Not enough to be an impediment. The President, if handed a bill with a strong Public Option, will almost certainly sign on the dotted line of healthcare freedom.
Our biggest problem is the Senate. It's those morons in the Senate who still think that it matters what the Republicans say who have us at this impasses.
So why hit the Progress Dems in the house? Because they aren't signing a pledge? Hell, I see David Waldman beating up on Anthony Weiner, an out-in front advocate of Healthcare reform! If the guy see Public Option healthcare reform put in front of him, good reform, what are the chances he votes it down?
We've been told to watch pledges made to one particular site, with one particular set of words, and have that be our guage of who's on board. It just strikes me that the actions of these people have been so much a better guide of where they stand, and who we should push.
But the FDL folks are just hung up on that pledge.
The same way some are hung up on everything being won this round that this is the ultimate and only test.
Here's the thing: words are not exact things. In my experience, words are like herbivores: often safer with a herd of others to keep them company, to define what they mean, to give them their context.
If we're not looking at more than just a few words out of what people say, if we're relying on words along to tell us where people stand, if we're reliant on a pledge to tell us who's in our company, we're really misleading ourselves. We're making up states of mind that might not be there, fueled mostly by political anxieties that don't really help us to focus on who we really need to be dealing with, the human obstacles we really need to be clearing.
Words can be treacherous, because what one person means may not be what another person hears. Maybe somebody says something that they believe amounts to what we want to hear about the public option. But because the wording doesn't satisfy some, it's taken completely the other way.
And sometimes people say things that they have to say. Take Anthony Weiner for example. He has a single payer bill out there, the bill, I believe, that the FDL folks are so up in arms against. Now, this bill is unlikely to pass. Here's the question. Do you think Weiner is simply going to vote against a Public Option, when push comes to shove, just because he advocates Single Payer first and foremost?
In the Political world, sometimes folks are playing a game of verbal chess, especially nowadays with the press that gets so deep into what people might have meant in a soundbite that they're practically looking for cavities in the politician's teeth. In such games, there's often an incentive to say the right things only at the right time, a certain diplomatic pacing to what is said a flavor to how it's said. Why is this done? Because politicians are often negotiating, often negotiating a path fraught with what they have said before. In an age of mindless literalism, it's often a sad reality that an almost inhuman amount of care is necessary not to be misunderstood, if one is seeking to be understood in the first place.
I think we play into that unfortunate tendency when we get hypersensitive to words and phrases, when we don't look between the lines and behind the words, when we don't use our heads to look at a situation for ourselves.
We must realize that listening to what others say is not a passive process, and kneejerk narrow responses to what we hear are not the best course of action. Communication between people is not like communication between computers. The information we retrieve is all too often dependent on what we expect to retrieve.
Finally, let me end with an observation: rationality and irrationality are not separate in people. People who we put on the defensive aren't necessarily going to tell us, or do for us, the same things that they might do if we let them remain calm, and if we remained respectful ourselves. Additionally, if we look at things purely in terms of anger or despair, that can color the possibilities we permit ourselves to see and follow up on. We must realize that, as is said in Frank Herbert's classic Dune, fear is the mind-killer. If we operate from our anxieties, if we operate from our mistrust, if we don't keep ourselves centered and disciplined, we will be walking on eggshells or rushing to conclusions we ought not to.
We have to realize that we won't have the right influence over what others feel, until we have control over what we feel, what we think, and what we say. We got to better discern what we should say and how we should say it, and be wary of the way that our words and our audience's impressions might fail to connect.