The Non-Power Of Symbols

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My friend Timmy The G has posted a reply to my reply that was a reply from him to another reply to someone else. Or something like that. Confused yet? Me too.

Let’s see if we can follow the order of this. I wrote this post in response to some things written by Simon. My premise in that post was that any symbol is merely a pattern. It is inanimate. A symbol is destitute of life.

Timmy commented back to me, and suggested I was being “illogical,” and then made some arguments about how brains work, how symbols “carry baggage,” and a few other unclear things.

What Timmy was doing was laying out his own premises to somehow show that I was being illogical. In response, I prepared this post to point out Timmy’s errors in his premises, and how he was not communicating his ideas clearly.

My friend Timmy is now posting that I have not refuted him, but rather “Ian seeks to deconstruct the minutia of my comments.” Timmy also thinks we are talking past each other.

The problem with Timmy’s assertion that I am deconstructing “the minutia” of his comments is that it is in the minutia where we find our premises. If we have incorrect premises in the first place, there is an awfully good chance our conclusions will be wrong. This of course is not necessarily the case – we could arrive at correct conclusions in spite of incorrect premises or logical thinking.

But it is vital to be certain our premises are correct.

Here are a few of my premises about symbols:

1. A symbol is an inanimate object.
2. A symbol may have many “meanings” to different minds, and even the same mind.
3. The only “meanings” that a symbol may have are those that are projected onto it by a mind.
4. The “meaning” of a symbol may be different from mind to mind.
5. All emotion involving a symbol comes about from that which the mind is taught to think about the symbol.
6. Emotion is not logical. Emotion is not reasoning.
7. Beauty is subjective. Hating or loving a symbol is subjective.

I don’t think I need to prove premises 1, 2, 4, 5, 6 or 7.

I may have to prove the other premise by example. One second… let me try an experiment.

I just drew a swastika on paper, and showed it to my 2 and a half year old son. He did not recoil after viewing it.

I just showed my same son a Red Ensign. He appeared to like the colour red, as he pointed it at, and said, “Red, Daddy, red.”

Now another experiment. He comes from a long line of Protestant Scotch/Irish, so perhaps emotion and symbols are genetic. I just showed him a Red Hand of Ulster flag.

“White, red, Daddy.”

No emotion, no attempt to go and buy a lambeg drum, or find an Orange Order sash. In fact, he just climbed off my knee, and went back to his toy farm animals and continued playing. I’m pretty sure he also knows that his toy animals are not a real cow and a real horse, too.

Which seems to show intelligence beyond what many adults show when it comes to the discussion of symbols.

Now, someday, my son may recoil from observing a swastika drawn on a piece of paper. But how would that ever come about? Does the swastika itself hold this power? Well no, we’ve already shown that it holds no such power over my son. Instead, if my son were to ever recoil from the sight of a swastika, it would be because of the emotion he has chosen to associate it with. Recoiling in horror is an emotion. It is not reason.

Most of us would agree that most of our fears are irrational.

But many would have us create policies, continue to act, refuse to fly some flag, because of our irrational fears. Instead of accepting how another person may have some meaning to some symbol, we decide that they must only have the emotion we have chosen to embrace with respect to that symbol, whether it is a flag, or a swastika, or a rattle snake image painted on canvas.

The only power a symbol can have, is that power we let it have, over us.

Now please refute my premises and conclusions, logically.

If you are going to tell me in a comment that I’m not being “logical” and then argue based on premises that are unclear and false, and then after I show you where your own premises are wrong, please at least come up with some of your own logical premises and start your logical arguement. At the very least, refute my premises, logically!

And no, my meaning of property is far far away from Timmy’s question that perhaps “property symbolizes” something. Property is. It is mine and I have it, because I wanted it, and was able to work hard enough in order trade for that which I wanted. But that is a completely different topic all together, and is simply a red herring.

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