Monday, May 2, 2011



Present civilization is a very complicated affair; although many of our social problems are very badly managed, sudden changes could not be made without endangering the welfare and life of all classes of society. In the meantime, changes must be made because the world cannot proceed much longer under pre-war conditions; they have been too well exposed by facts for humanity to allow itself to be blindly led again.
The present system of social life is largely built upon misconceptions or misrepresentations. For all work we need the human brain, the human time-binding power, yet we continue to call it “hand-labor” and treat it as such. Even in mechanical science, in the use of the term “horse-power,” we are incorrect in this expression. How does this “horse” look in reality? Let us analyze this “horse.”
All science, all mechanical appliances have been produced by “man” and man alone. Everything we possess is the production of either dead men's or living men's work. The enslavement of the solar man-power is purely a human invention in theory and practice. Everything we have is evidently therefore a time-binding product. What perfect nonsense to call a purely human achievement the equivalent of so much “horse-power”! Of course it does not matter mathematically what name we give to a unit of power; we may call it a Zeus or a Zebra; but there is a very vicious implication in using the name of an animal to denote a purely human product.
Everything in our civilization was produced by MAN; it seems only reasonable that this unit of power which is the direct product of Man's work should be correctly named after him. This “horse-power” unit causes us to forget the human part in it and it degrades human work to the level of a commodity. This is an example of the degrading influence of wrong conceptions and wrong language.
The habit of not thinking for one's self is the result of thousands of years of subjection. Those in authority, in general, used their ingenuity to keep the people from thinking. The most vital reason why many humans appear to be, and are often called, “stupid,” is that they have been spoken to in a language of speculation which they instinctively dislike and distrust; thus there arose the proverb that speech was made to conceal the truth. It is no wonder that they appear “stupid,” the wonder is that they are not more “stupid.” The truth is that they will be found to be far less stupid when addressed in the natural language of ascertainable fact.
In our relation to the past there are three wide-open ways in which one may be a fool:
1. One of the ways is the way of ignoring the past—the way of remaining blankly ignorant of the human past as the animals are blankly ignorant of their past and so of drifting through life as animals do, without reference to the experience of bygone generations. Fools of this type may be called drifting fools or Drifters.
2. Another way to be a fool—a very alluring way—is that of falsifying the past by idealizing it—by stupidly disregarding its vices, misery, ignorance, slothfulness, and folly, and stupidly magnifying its virtues, happiness, knowledge, achievements and wisdom; it is the way of the self-complacent—the way of those who, being comfortably situated and prosperous, are opposed to change; the past, they say, was wise for it produced the present and the present is good—let us alone. Fools of this type may be called idolatrous fools, worshiping the Past; or static fools, contented with the Present; or cowardly fools, opposed to change, fearful of the Future.
3. A third way to be a fool—which is also alluring—is the opposite of the foregoing; it is the way of those who falsify the past by stupidly and contemptuously disregarding its virtues, its happiness, its knowledge, its great achievements, and its wisdom, and by stupidly or dishonestly magnifying its vices, its misery, its ignorance, its great slothfulness, and its folly. The past, they say, was all wrong, for it produced the present and the present is thoroughly bad—let us destroy it, root and branch. Fools of this type may be called scorning fools, Scorners of the Past; or destroying fools, Destroyers of the Present; or dynamic fools, Revelers in the excitements of Change.
(Adapted from The Project Gutenberg EBook of Manhood of Humanity. by Alfred Korzybski)

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