Of course, much of what has been pointed out will not necessarily come as a startling revelation.  None of the ideas are new, and many under different names, have been used by intelligent people who have never heard the word "semantics," let alone been exposed to the writings of Korzybski and others.  So much the better!  Our concern is not so much with how people distinguish between a "map" and the physical territory that it describes, but that they do distinguish.  George Orwell writes, "What is above all needed is to let the meaning choose the word, and not the other way around...Probably it is better to put off using words as long as possible and get one's meaning as clear as one can through pictures and sensations.

No one is suggesting that all abstractions be distrusted. "In demanding that people cease reacting to abstract names as if they were realities in themselves," says S.I. Hayakawa, "we are merely saying in another way, 'Stop acting like suckers.' "And until we do give more disciplined attention to words, we will continue to stockpile symbols and labels while the "precious commodities" which are being symbolized and labeled escape our detection and comprehension.  The argument-ending remark, "it is only a matter of semantics," must give way to the significant recognition that the "real" search for "meaning" may very well start where words leave off.


Symbols of Freedom


Frederick Douglass


Every memorial or symbol of the white nation’s triumph becomes the occasion that sparks the fire of dangerous memory.  Statesman Frederick Douglass, a former slave, gave a speech commemorating American’s day of freedom and independence on the Fourth of July, 1852.

What to the American slave is your Fourth of July?  I answer, a day that reveals to him more than all other days of the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim.  To him your celebrations is a sham; your boasted liberty an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sounds of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciation of tyrants, brass fronted impudence; your shouts of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanksgivings, with all  your religious parade and solemnity, are to him mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy—a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages.  There is not a nation of the earth guilty of practices more shocking and bloddy than are the people of these United States at this very hour.


Howard Zinn, A People’s History of the United States, 178


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