Monday, May 11, 2015

Chapter 60 - SNAFU: Part 1 - Introduction

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.

The U.S. Army acronym for “situation normal—all fucked up” had originally referred to any confused outcome resulting from an “excess of Army rules and routine”, then had expanded to include any complication resulting from human stupidity, and by 1946 had entered civilian usage and could refer to any “snarled”, “haywire”, “ruined”, or “fouled up” state of affairs.(1) 
from the complete, uncensored Private Snafu
cartoons from World War II. Volume 1
The human stupidity behind any particular snafu might not be apparent. There was also the factor of plain bad luck—all the disturbing factors in the universe that could defeat human purposes. But one could probably safely assume human stupidity—or at least the general tendency toward opacity in human thinking-feeling—as a factor in most human messes. ‘Snafu’ might well serve as a one-word label for the human condition and rather neatly summarized the world’s post-war situation. 

Snafus. Across the former battlegrounds of Asia and Europe, people tried to piece their lives together, struggling with wartime injuries, psychic traumas, loss of loved ones and possessions—as poverty, hunger, and disease all continued to take their terrible toll. In China, the civil war between Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalist Chinese government and the Communist “Red Chinese” guerillas under Mao Tse Tung had resumed in full. In Europe, as noted by now-former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill in a March speech at a small Missouri college, “ iron curtain” had “descended across the continent.” Franklin D. Roosevelt (perhaps too agreeably) and Churchill (more reluctantly) had both acquiesced to Stalin’s hegemony in Eastern Europe at Yalta in early 1945. Now the Stalinist sealing off of Poland and East Germany behind this iron curtain—with other countries soon to follow—seemed much worse than what even Churchill had previously feared.

Snafus. In the United States, the country was straining in 1946 with consequences of the peacetime “reconversion” of the wartime economy: food shortages, inflation, and high unemployment. Crippling strikes by autoworkers, miners, and railroad workers had only been averted by President Truman’s threats of severe government action. A nationwide housing shortage had set in. The depth of this shortage in Chicago created multiple snafus for the Institute of General Semantics. Since the end of the war, out-of-town people coming to IGS seminars even had trouble finding temporary lodging, with some participants having to book a different hotel room every night. And regarding housing, the Institute got very bad news in March. The owner of 1234 East 56 Street was selling the building and the new owner wanted to live there. The Institute would have to move by August 1.

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. 
1. Wentworth and Flexner, pp. 493–494.

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