Kick the truth and shatter it

From the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s program (again, brought to my attention by Entitled to an Opinion) “All in the Mind” from April 9th, 2011. (Instead of this being something you should read, it’s something you should listen to, but the categorization is the same as for text.)

This program concerns the nature of violence and murder. A psychologist on the program – in its opening moments, immediately after the interviewer’s setup – had the following to say:

Violence itself is a form of communcation. It’s a way of sending a message, and it does that through symbolic means, damaging the body.

There are certain words that, over the course of my adventures through the incoherent and generally idiotic realm of human discourse, I have learned are signals – warning flags – that alert me to examine their user’s arguments carefully. They don’t necessarily mean that the arguments or the person making them are foolish, fad-driven nonsense nuggets. The correlation between their use and idiocy are striking, though. To rephrase a famous saying: Whenever I hear the word ‘symbolic’, I take the safety off my Browning.

Generally, when humans damage the bodies of other humans through uncontrolled or poorly-controlled violence, it’s not a form of ‘communication’. It’s done because they want to damage the bodies of the humans in question, probably unto death, because they want them to be injured and/or dead.

The cigar might have certain associational linkages, but people smoke them because they’re cigars, regardless of whatever ‘symbolic’ value someone might perceive them has having. It is so easy to generate at-will an association between any two arbitrary things – especially if you’re not picky about the nature of the association – that arguments based on asserted symbolic value are virtually always fallacious. This was one of the big problems with Freudian psychology, which was based heavily on authorities telling people that their behavior was a symbolic restatement of various basic drives people were asserted to have – the arguments could encompass anything, and thus explained nothing.

The topic is worthy of a post in itself, but to return to the subject at hand: it’s a bad, bad sign when someone begins an argument by saying something as straightforward and uncomplicated as murder is engaged in for symbolic reasons.

2 Responses to “Kick the truth and shatter it”

  1. People do commit violence because they want someone, in the words of Stewie Griffin, “not to be alive”, but violence does have an important signalling aspect. Not so much to a person who is killed, but to encourage the others.

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