Thursday, August 28, 2008

The Gap, The Gap, Oh, The Gap....

In his 1921 book Manhood of Humanity, Korzybski had observed the gap between the advancing scientific/technological progress and the limited social/ethical progress of mankind. Or should I say man-unkind? This gap, he posited would grow and grow and lead to more deadly future disruptions—wars, revolutions, wars, revolutions, etc.—until humanity somehow found how to consciously appropriate its time-binding potential and carry it into all areas of human life, not just science and technology. Indeed, Korzybski's desire to close the deadly gap in human affairs drove him to develop general semantics.

As the Second World War was coming to a close in 1944 and 1945, he felt a certain amount of ruefulness, frustration, pessimism at the waste of human life, the suffering, the destruction of Poland, the mass-murder of European Jewry, the insanity of Nazism, etc. Many people at the time felt similarly. The writer Ben Hecht, contemplating his lost Jewish 'brothers' and 'sisters', sadly expressed it like this, in his bookA Guide for the Bedeviled:
If civilization is to be measured by the progress of human rationality, we can still use the yardstick of the cynic—which is no longer than a sigh.
And yet... Korzybski wasn't inclined to say "people are bad, the world is bad, etc." and thus to sink into depression and despair. As he said 'I was born with a good liver'. He did say this: "The world is hopeless." Unless we as individuals work at changing the way we 'think' about 'things'. Then we might have some legitimate hope. Are we there yet?

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