In This Issue
Stockdale, Steve, ETC.: A Review of General Semantics
In the general semantics course I teach at Texas Christian University (TCU), we discuss three quotes that deal with different dimensions of perspective.
From Cassius J. Keyser:
"The present is no more exempt from the sneer of the future than the past has been."
From Aldous Huxley:
"A culture cannot be discriminatingly accepted, much less be modified, except by persons who have seen through it--by persons who have cut holes in the confining stockade of verbalized symbols and so are able to look at the world and, by reflection, at themselves, in a new and relatively unprejudiced way.... A man who knows that there have been many cultures, and that each culture claims to be the best and truest of all, will find it hard to take too seriously the boastings and dogmatizings of his own tradition."
And again from Keyser:
"The next-most difficult thing in the world is to get perspective. The most difficult is to keep it."
Thanks to Mr. Balvant K. Parekh from Mumbai, India, Andrea Johnson and I experienced a variety of perspectives during an 18-day visit to western India this past fall. This special issue of ETC pays tribute to Mr. Parekh and represents a small step toward "keeping" these perspectives by documenting them within these pages. We hope this special issue serves a modest time-binding purpose and proves worthy of your time and attention.
This issue includes five sections dedicated to India, then concludes with the regular Dates and Indexes feature.
We begin by introducing the artist who provided our cover art, Shelly Jyoti. Next, Andrea and I offer our perspectives on the trip, how it came about, what we did, where we did it, and personal reflections on our 18-day adventure.
Next we introduce Mr. Balvant K. Parekh, IGS member and ETC reader for 25 years, who arranged for and sponsored our trip to "increase awareness for general semantics" in India. Andrea and I found Mr. Parekh to embody the highest ideals of "the new sort of man" that Korzybski described. We are pleased to present four short testimonies, or "felicitations," about Mr. Parekh from the differing perspectives of his daughter, granddaughter, personal assistant, and a recipient of his patronage.
We conclude the introduction to Mr. Parekh by excerpting his own writings and quotes from others that he has found important enough to compile in his own publication, Gamtano Kariye Gulal. From his native Gujarati language, this translates generally as, "If you get what you like, don't keep it; rather, share it." He has compiled, published, and distributed this journal--free of charge--since 2003. Each issue has included a section dedicated to General Semantics with reprinted articles from ETC, General Semantics Bulletin, and even the IGS website. We are very happy to now employ reciprocal time-binding and thank him for making some of his compilations available to be reprinted here.
In the third section devoted to India, we take great pleasure and pride in publishing papers from the perspectives of new friends who have only been introduced to general semantics through this trip. These articles include personal reflections, two short reports from local newspapers, and extended analyses and evaluations which we hope you find challenging, insightful, and worthwhile. In particular, please compare the tenets of 20th-century general semantics with the ancient religion of Jainism, or Jain Dharma. Are there striking similarities of orientation? Maybe.
A short fourth section serves as a postscript to the trip from the perspectives of the three individuals most responsible for realizing Mr. Parekh's intentions: Professor Sitanshu Yashaschandra, Professor Prafulla Kar, and of course, Mr. Parekh himself.
The final section dedicated to India includes perspectives which, arguably, may be the most important articles in this issue as well as the most controversial. They deserve, therefore, more than just a passing summary.
The section begins with excerpts from Nobel Prize winner Amartya Sen's presentation at the 2005 Jamnalal Bajaj Awards, which we have titled "Gandhian Values and Terrorism." (1) Professor Sen, of Trinity College, Cambridge (United Kingdom) received the Nobel Prize for Economics in 1998 "for his contributions to welfare economics." (2) The Jamnalal Bajaj Awards are presented annually by the Jamnalal Bajaj Foundation, named for the close associate of Mahatma Gandhi and loyal member of the Indian National Congress who died in 1942, five years before Indian independence. (3)
In his remarks--delivered two years after the armed forces of the United States and Great Britain (principally) invaded-liberated Iraq--Professor Sen compares and contrasts the "Anglo-American initiative" against terrorism with Gandhiji's non-violent, yet still confrontational, resistance to British occupation and foreign rule. Some may object to these overtly political remarks, which undoubtedly reflect Professor Sen's own personal perspective. However, in the context of educating and enlightening our own views, we in "the West" will do well to listen to a voice that harkens not only from another geographic perspective, but also invokes the historical lessons that we seem to have either ignored or never learned. Can it be that Gandhiji was correct in asserting, as Sen claims, that "you cannot defeat nastiness, including violent nastiness, unless you yourself shun similar nastiness"? Maybe.
We conclude with three articles from a remarkable individual who, sadly, we have lost track of over the past six decades--Mr. Surindar S. Suri, a native of Calcutta (now Kolkata). Mr. Suri, then 26 years old, attended two seminars with Alfred Korzybski at the Institute in Lakeville, Connecticut in the summer of 1947 and the following winter. Even before attending these seminars, Suri wrote a series of articles published in Mysindia, a periodical printed in Bangalore, under the title Towards an Age of Science. The 22,000-word series was condensed, edited, and then printed in The Lakeville Journal, the local newspaper in the spring of 1947. Sixty years later, The Lakeville Journal has granted us permission to reprint this article. We also include Suri's "notes" on the series, which provide some historical context for Korzybski's work and a concise and informative description of the abstracting process upon which general semantics is based.
The third Suri article, "Common Sense about India," is offered without apology, but requires explanation. In researching the Institute's archives, two drafts of this unpublished (to my knowledge) paper were found. This version appears to be the latter. Not knowing what happened to Mr. Suri, or what may have occurred with this paper over the years, I debated whether to include it in this issue. Clearly, readers should be cautioned that the evaluations and opinions represent those, I must assume, peculiar to Mr. Suri, a private Indian citizen at the time they were written in 1947 shortly after Indian independence from British rule.
We must remember that India's independence from Britain occurred coincident with the partitioning of India and the creation of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. Suri's "common sense" (circa 1947) therefore represents a descriptive, perhaps insightful, time capsule that seems especially poignant and relevant when read along side today's headlines.
As I write this, less than one week has elapsed since the assassination of Pakistan's opposition leader and former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. In the six decades since Suri's "common sense," what has been 'learned,' and how has that 'learning' been applied throughout the Asian sub-continent, the Middle East, the Balkans, and the rest of the world?
And so we come back to perspective ... about the difficulties inherent in gaining, and keeping, perspectives across the multitudinous dimensions of cultures, religions, politics, geographies, and histories. Is it possible that, as Mr. Parekh asserts, "general semantics is a very useful discipline which can be useful in living a saner life"? Is it possible that Professor Sen's prediction that "the disastrous consequences of defining people by their religious ethnicity ... may well come back to haunt the country of the rulers themselves" applies as much in 2007 Iraq (with Sunni, Shiite, and Kurd) as it did in 1947 India (with Hindu, Moslem, and Sikh)? Could Mr. Suri's contention that "the solution of the world's problems must be sought in retraining human behavior ... without sane and mentally healthy human beings there cannot be a rational and peaceful world" be as valid in 2007, or in 2067, as it was in 1947?
As the Jains might say, "Maybe."
1. The full text of Professor Sen's presentation is available online at: http://www.mkgandhi.org/articles/g&world.htm.
All photographs in this issue by Steve Stockdale, Andrea Johnson, or Stacy Stockdale, unless otherwise noted.
Steve Stockdale, Guest Editor…
Questia, a part of Gale, Cengage Learning. www.questia.com
Publication information: Article title: In This Issue. Contributors: Stockdale, Steve - Author. Journal title: ETC.: A Review of General Semantics. Volume: 65. Issue: 1 Publication date: January 2008. Page number: 2+. © 1999 International Society for General Semantics. COPYRIGHT 2008 Gale Group.