In an early English class I had the opportunity to have Hayakawa’s “Language in Thought and Action” as a text. The book deals with critical thinking and general semantics. Perhaps even had I not read this book I would be able to see the “glittering generalities” and other devices of thought control,
“The original version of this book, Language in Action, published in 1941, was in many respects a response to the dangers of propaganda, especially as exemplified in Adolf Hitler’s success in persuading millions to share his maniacal and destructive views. It was the writer’s conviction then, as it remains now, that everyone needs to have a habitually critical attitude towards language — his own as well as that of others — both for the sake of his personal well being and for his adequate functioning as a citizen. Hitler is gone, but if the majority of our fellow citizens are more susceptible to the slogans of fear and race hatred than to those of peaceful accommodation and mutual respect among human beings, our political liberties remain at the mercy of any eloquent and unscrupulous demagogue.”
This season of pre-election campaigning is an example of the susceptibility of a mass of people to be influenced by the animas created by a hail of disinformation. It is also an example of blind adherence to a symbol of a movement. But the symbol is not the thing. It does not matter that in many cases there is prima facie evidence that an espoused principle is wrong. People will adhere to that principal denying fact or perhaps alleging that all facts are not known.
A political party is much like a religion or tribe. Politics define the person by emphasizing their sympathies. Some politics has elements in common with social Darwinism in that they believe that all people are given an opportunity to survive and that those who can’t survive are better eliminated from the gene pool. The other “tribe,” as Neandertals before them, cared for their aged and infirm. This may not be as effective in promoting the survival of the fittest as eugenicists would like but there are many good reasons for caring for the disabled.
So we go into a new election with little hope that there will be dialectical progress; the two tribes will continue to battle with no clarity in sight.