Friday, June 13, 2014

Chapter 2 - Young Alfred: Part 3 - "You cannot fool a horse"

Korzybski: A Biography (Free Online Edition)
Copyright © 2014 (2011) by Bruce I. Kodish
All rights reserved. Copyright material may be quoted verbatim without need for permission from or payment to the copyright holder, provided that attribution is clearly given and that the material quoted is reasonably brief in extent.

At the age of ten, Alfred had begun another job he enjoyed greatly, despite the inevitable falls and mishaps: training young horses. About fifty new ones arrived every summer and Alfred had the job of breaking them in as work horses. Although most of them would eventually work under harness, Alfred trained them by first breaking them in under saddle.

He came to generally admire horses for their loyalty and intelligence. As he later said, they taught him a great deal and influenced his future work. "I discovered something which everybody knows by now that you can fool a human being, but you cannot fool a horse. I learned that. It’s really true.”(11) 

Handling horses, as far as I’m concerned, has been an awfully good lesson to me. Training men is eventually easier and eventually more difficult. That with horses you have to have rapport if you want to be a good rider. From horses I also learned what I call mechanical justice. This what I call a formula, what I call mechanical justice is a most important human problem. To jump into speeches about justice in the abstract is quite…metaphysical. Now the question of mechanical justice…involves an animal level even, if so, then so. It is the beginning of logic, the beginning of mathematics [as well as science, education, and law]—if so, then so…the beginning was, if you wish, with horses. (12)

Alfred would usually pick one horse from the bunch as his “pet”. He recalled a particular saddle horse he once had:
We lived like two brothers...I took him into trouble, he took us into trouble, but ultimately we were awfully well adjusted. Now in the stable there was a corridor and there little compartments for horses. Now he of course had his own, let’s call it room. I went there, I took him things, I talked to him. Oh, I don’t know, we were just like two good friends. And mutual trust. The horse trusted me and I trusted the horse. Wonderful horse…When I was using him, inspecting the farm work,…I got tired of riding …so when I came to a piece of particular work done by [a] peasant, agricultural work, I dismounted, but I didn’t keep the bridle in my hand. The horse was trained to work[,] he handled like a dog without being held by it.
Now, our mutual relationship, here he got tired walking behind me and my stopping here and there telling a peasant how to do the work or showing him, physically, what to do, how to do, and he got annoyed. He was well-fed. He was not tired. He was tired simply from the drudgery of routine, but not otherwise. When he got disgusted with the routine, he nudged me with his nose in my back, I speak saying “Alfred, hurry on.” Which translated means let’s go. This was his way of telling me tactfully with just his nose at the middle of my back...if I didn’t pay attention there. Very seldom he did it. He just ran away. Tail up and galloping away leaving me alone miles away from home. I was left without a horse. He was not supposed to do that. In addition he usually—just a few times he did it—few times, I don't know how many, [h]e went into a field where there was sand and rolled around and rolled around in the sand ruining a hundred dollar or two hundred dollar saddle. Ruined it.
And then he went into the stable after having his fun. Now when I came back to the stable, a question of justice. When I came to the stable, oh, hours afterwards, he immediately began to tremble. Somehow he knew that he did something which he should not do. Somehow he knew. He knew that punishment is coming. And he was trembling and he got a licking like hell. Just because of that. That running away which he was not supposed to do. After the good beating, I went into his stall and did a lot of talking to him and putting my finger in the Uncle Sam manner you know—you know the Uncle Sam finger, you so and so, you know that—which I did to him. Finally he was nodding his head and going brr-r, brr-r, brr-r, and after all that lesson, then I petted him, kissed his nose. Then he again went brr-r, brr-r all over quite happy. We are good friends again. In this particular case,…I wonder if you understand that mechanical justice. He knew by himself that he did something which he shouldn’t do. (13)

You may download a pdf of all of the book's reference notes (including a note on primary source material and abbreviations used) from the link labeled Notes on the Contents page. The pdf of the Bibliography, linked on the Contents page contains full information on referenced books and articles. 
11. Korzybski 1947, pp. 58-59

12. Korzybski 1947, p. 61

13. Korzybski 1947, pp. 62-63

No comments: