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Forum Post: Linguistic Therapy, start today!.

Posted 10 years ago on Dec. 1, 2011, 12:26 p.m. EST by Fluke (47) from Örebro, Örebro Län
This content is user submitted and not an official statement

The great philosopher Herbert Marcuse (1898-1979) talked about "linguistic therapy" as an important element of a revolution. Especially for a revolution in a modern mass society like the U.S.

Learn more of this wisdom:

http://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/marcuse/works/one-dimensional-man/ch07.htm

In Marcuse´s Essay On Liberation from 1969, his idea is nicely clarified like this, from the first chapter:

"The critical analysis of this society calls for new categories: moral, political, aesthetic. I shall try to develop them in the course of the discussion.The category of obscenity will serve as an introduction.

This society is obscene in producing and indecently exposing a stifling abundance of wares whiledepriving its victims abroad of the necessities of life; obscene in stuffing itself and its garbage cans while poisoning and burning the scarce foodstuffs in the fields of its aggression; obscene in the words and smiles of its politicians and entertainers; in its prayers, in its ignorance, and in the wisdom of its kept intellectuals.

Obscenity is a moral concept in the verbal arsenal of the Establishment, which abuses the term by applying it, not to expressions of its own morality but to those of another. Obscene is not the picture of a naked woman who exposes her pubic hair but that of a fully clad general who exposes his medals rewarded in a war of aggression; obscene is not the ritual of the Hippies but the declaration of a high dignitary of the Church that war is necessary for peace.

Linguistic therapy - that is, the effort to free words ( and thereby concepts) from the all but total distortion of their meanings by the Establishment - demands the transfer of moral standards ( and of their validation) from the Establishment to the revolt against it. Similarly, the sociological and political vocabulary must be radically reshaped: it must be stripped of its false neutrality; it must be methodically and provocatively "moralized" in terms of the Refusal.

Morality is not necessarily and not primarily ideological. In the face of an amoral society, it becomes a political weapon, an effective force which drives people to burn their draft cards, to ridicule national leaders, to demonstrate in the streets, and to unfold signs saying, "Thou shalt not kill," in the nation's churches.

The reaction to obscenity is shame, usually interpreted as the physiological manifestation of the sense of guilt accompanying the transgression of a taboo. The obscene exposures of the affluent society normally provoke neither shame nor a sense of guilt, although this society violates some of the most fundamental moral taboos of civilization."

http://www.scribd.com/doc/8342210/Herbert-Marcuse-An-Essay-on-Liberation-1969

Not always easy to grasp but IMHO Marcuse´s ideas are revolutionary dynamite. Just a hint.

Peace!

19 Comments

19 Comments


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[-] 1 points by JesseHeffran (3903) 10 years ago

most people's impediment to enlightenment is that they trip, stumble and fall over syntax.

[-] 1 points by ZenDogTroll (13032) from South Burlington, VT 10 years ago

That is interesting - that's kinda what I've been trying to say - only different.

The repelicans have a whole slew of what I call behavioral curbing linguistic devices

Things that high light the importance of self reliance as a value, as they condemn social security - just for example.

Pithy little linguistic snares like:

hoist yourself up by your own boot straps

Now don't confuse what I'm saying with an attempt on my part to undercut the value of initiative, or responsibility, or self reliance. these things are good and have value. But these are no cause for shame if one finds it necessary to utilize the food stamp program in an era of extremely high unemployment. That's just cruel, and is a step in the direction of dehumanization.

So sometimes I try to apply a bit of humor to the old saw, and spin it right back - like this:

hoist yourself up by your own boot straps

yeah-ya, I get it, I see what you mean . . .

hoist yourself up by your own boot straps

or eat them

yeah-ya. I get it.

[-] 1 points by Fluke (47) from Örebro, Örebro Län 10 years ago

The disgusting thing is that they who impose those mottos (take initiative, be responsible, be self reliant) to others never lived by them, are not living by them and never will be living by them.

[-] 1 points by ZenDogTroll (13032) from South Burlington, VT 10 years ago

Of course not - that is the whole purpose of the legalistic design of corporation. It is to avoid personal responsibility for business decisions and actions.

Which brings us right back to language again - with terms like externality

[-] 1 points by Fluke (47) from Örebro, Örebro Län 10 years ago

Yes, i am familiar with that term. Learned about it from Joel Bakan´s brilliant book "The Corporation - The Pathological Pursuit of Profit and Power". A documentary was made with the book. I guess you know about it already but i post some links anyway. :)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xa3wyaEe9vE

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pin8fbdGV9Y

http://www.thecorporation.com/

[-] 1 points by ZenDogTroll (13032) from South Burlington, VT 10 years ago

I took one economics class in college - that's where I was introduced to the term. As soon as I heard it, and understood it's definition, and how it applied -

it just became obvious.

I think I should have studied linguistics.

[-] 1 points by ARod1993 (2420) 10 years ago

This is interesting reading but it's hardly new; the idea of using morality as a tool to push a society in a given direction in a world that one accepts as amoral is as old as The Prince was written something like five hundred years ago. Marcuse is merely changing who's doing the pushing. The idea would be to effectively build a grass-roots morality with the mentality that we can work out the details of change later but that the current paradigm is morally unacceptable and must be changed as quickly and completely as possible.

The only problem I can see with that approach is that the risk that the mentality of turning things upside down doesn't stop when we've achieved the change we wanted but that once the immediate things are set straight we start inventing "problems" with quick and easy "solutions" rather than staying the course and chipping away at much larger and longer-term issues that can't yield quick kudos before an election year. There are elements here that would be as quick to launch mindless "crusades" and whose ideological benders can be just as destructive as the current Republican Party, and I don't want to empower those groups at the expense of continued progress.

[-] 1 points by Fluke (47) from Örebro, Örebro Län 10 years ago

If you set a premise that an idea must be new to be good (also in 2 other comments) you will end up with nothing but bad ideas i´m afraid. At least in this context.The relation is basically the same today as it always has been between those in power and those out of power. So ideas no matter how old can be relevant.

Societies tend to become totalitarian, it´s just that today the means of reaching total control is not necessarily brute force (although we can see that as well at every large demonstrations like OWS) it is done "democratically" by making us believe we are free and participating, the right to vote had to be TAKEN, but then your vote makes no difference anyway.

Intent is much more important than HOW you write or say something. Whether or not a text is written in elite language is not determined by style, it is determined by what the text or speech is supposed to accomplish. Marcuse wants to liberate language (and thereby people) from the language we, as children of the time, take for granted - make people aware of that fact. Marcuse is opposing the elite in his language and wants people to develop an intellectual self defense.

You seem to miss the point that linguistic therapy is "the effort to free words ( and thereby concepts) from the all but total distortion of their meanings by the Establishment".

"when we've achieved the change we wanted"

I see a problem with the "we" here. If the issue is basic economic issues, like what a human being needs to survive, and how to find and get that, surely we can all agree. But if the issue is sexual moral (which we hardly CAN talk about at all) we will probably not reach consensus. I believe sexual moral is an essential part of the foundation on which the oppressive society is build., perhaps THE most important part. I won´t go into that here, in order to understand what i mean you just have to consider the fact that you can get arrested for showing yourself naked in public.

[-] 1 points by ARod1993 (2420) 10 years ago

I understand what you mean by that, and I get around it simply by avoidance (conscious and unconscious) of traditionally normative terms (morals, values, etc.) when discussing my feelings on issues because once you enter into the use of those normatives it moves the discussion into a realm in which everything is relative and there's no way to get people to listen to you. Redefining those normatives in such a manner that reasonable personal choices are generally permitted would be a major step forward for our society, and I wish Marcuse the best of luck in his attempts to accomplish it; however, I don't know if that's possible.

[-] 1 points by Fluke (47) from Örebro, Örebro Län 10 years ago

You seem to suggest the opposite of what i believe is true. Relativism is more likely to be the result of AVOIDING traditional normatives. But that is all good. On some issues absolute truth can, or rather should, not be claimed.

My intention with the OP is just to point to ideas that can develop our thinking in a more critical, constructive way. But i don´t know if that is possible to the extent that it would make any difference to the whole, i am pessimistic. We find and integrate in our intellects mainly the ideas we want to integrate i.e find useful to us (egoism) and refute everything else.

[-] 1 points by shoozTroll (17632) 10 years ago

This stuff is old hat.

Look up neuro linguistics, for the latest stuff.

The USA has always been better at propaganda.

Ed Bernays was a genius at it.

[-] 1 points by Fluke (47) from Örebro, Örebro Län 10 years ago

It doesn´t matter how old the hat is as long as it fits the occasion.

Neurolinguistics are of no use for OWS, Marcuse´s ideas are.

I´m not talking about language acquisition, if that was the reason you pointed to Neurolingistics, i am talking about "the effort to free words ( and thereby concepts) from the all but total distortion of their meanings by the Establishment". Of what use is Neurolingustics in regards to that?

[-] 0 points by ronjj (-241) 10 years ago

If all of us would simply use the more common English, say what we mean and mean what we say, it would provide a common ground for all of us to understand.

The essay above is witten in the language of the elite. Most of us have no intent to try to make sense of this type of garbage in our daily lives. That is why we let the elite to it.

And I agree with "shooz" this stuff is old hat in plain English. Then we go off on the elite trip again and reference everyone to "neuro linguistics" described as "stuff".

A -smile- for all

[-] 1 points by Fluke (47) from Örebro, Örebro Län 10 years ago

Yes, we should all be more honest to ourselves and others.

You call something garbage because you cannot make sense of it. OK, i see a danger in that. Most of the language we are confronted with through channels (the latest technology that can deliver information) leading up to and from the Establishment (the elite) seem to make sense but what it does is it creates consent in people, consent with the ideas and agendas of the elite.

Intent is much more important than HOW you write or say something. Whether or not a text is written in elite language is not determined by style, it is determined by what the text or speech is supposed to accomplish. Marcuse wants to liberate language (and thereby people) from the language we, as children of the time, take for granted - make people aware of that fact. Marcuse is opposing the elite in his language and wants people to develop an intellectual self defense.

[-] 0 points by ronjj (-241) 10 years ago

There IS a place for all that you describe including intellectual self defense - however, it has not been my experience that that defense plows the fields, plants the seeds, or harvests the grain (if you know what a farmers' definition of the "elite" amounts to).

[-] 1 points by Fluke (47) from Örebro, Örebro Län 10 years ago

No it doesn´t i agree. But the majority of people today (in the modern industrialized societies) have never plowed a field, planted seed or gathered a harvest. It´s not part of their daily lives in any way. We know how to get to the store and pick a loaf of bread off a shelf and pay for it, then we´re done with that.

[-] 0 points by ronjj (-241) 10 years ago

Agree fully - point well taken.

All that we ask, is that your way of looking at the world, not be forced or made superior to our way of looking at that same world.

[-] 1 points by Fluke (47) from Örebro, Örebro Län 10 years ago

I am for pluralism and don´t believe that one way of looking at the world can be imposed on others by force. But some truths are too important to be denied.

Who are the "we" and "our" here?

[-] 0 points by ronjj (-241) 10 years ago

My wife and I.