#MikeBrownNotes :: Symbolism, Definition, Authority

This was the intrinsic defect of histories, of research into human events: to have examined and taken into account only a part of the documents. And this part was selected not by the historical will but by partisan prejudice, even if it was unconscious and in good faith. What this research aimed at was not truth, precision, the integral recreation of the life of the past, but the highlighting of a particular activity, the bearing out of a prior hypothesis. History was a domain solely of ideas. Man was considered as spirit, as pure consciousness. Two erroneous consequences derived from this conception: the ideas that were borne out were often merely arbitrary, fictitioUS. The facts that were given importance were anecdote, not history. If history was written, in the real sense of the word, it was due to the brilliant intuition of single individuals, not to a systematic and conscious scientific activity.

The Antonio Gramsci Reader, Antonio Gramsci, D. Forgacs


Iconic representation is the use of pictorial images to make actions, objects, and concepts in a display easier to find, recognize, learn, and remember. Iconic representations are used in signage, computer displays, and control panels. They can be used for identification(company logo), serve as a space-efficient alternative to text (road signs), or to draw attention to an item within an information display (error icons appearing next to items in a list). There are four types of iconic representation: similar, example, symbolic, and arbitrary. – Universal Principles Of Design, Wiliam Lidwell, Kritina Holden, Jill Butler


I believe that often we as humans objectify what we see. The gaze that we apply to others can render them less human, or at least, remove from our conscious assessment that those we are looking at, also have an inner voice. The beauty of good design, and great symbol creation or usage, is being able to forge something that resonates with a large group of people. To apply a design strategy that utilizes a symbol that speaks a very similar thing in the language of a large group of people’s inner voice.




The passions of mankind have boiled over into all areas of political life, including its vocabulary. The words most common in politics have become stained with human hurts, hopes and frustrations. All of them are loaded with popular opprobrium, and their use results in a conditioned, negative, emotional response. Even the word politics itself, which Webster says is “the science and art of government,” is generally viewed in a context of corruption. Ironically, the dictionary synonyms are “discreet; provident, diplomatic, wise.”

– Rules For Radicals: A Pragmatic Primer For Realistic Radicals, Saul D. Alinsky


The danger beyond this beauty, is that at times, when a symbol becomes a popularly used vessel to convey a particular meaning that is assumed to be spoken in so many inner voice tongues, it is taken for granted. In it being taken for granted, the objectivity occurs again. At times, I forget that commonly used symbols such as words defined in a certain way, sacred figures of history, or even authority influencers whose thinking that I might subscribe to, are not resonating with every other human. And vice versa: just because a word is used in a certain way or a person treated as an infallible omniscient being does not mean I treat that word the same, or that I find that authority authoritative, as it were. It would seem extremely simple to accept the reality that all people do not see things the same, and yet how often do I find my Self annoyed due to that very reality?




We need to free ourselves from the habit of seeing culture as encyclopaedic knowledge, and men as mere receptacles to be stuffed full of empirical data and a mass of unconnected raw facts, which have to be filed in the brain as in the columns of a dictionary, enabling their owner to respond to the various stimuli from the outside world. This form of culture really is harmful, particularly for the proletariat. It serves only to create maladjusted people, people who believe they are superior to the rest of humanity because they have memorized a certain number of facts and dates and who rattle them off at every opportunity, so turning them almost into a barrier between themselves and others. It serves to create the kind of weak and colourless intellectualism that Romain Rolland has flayed so mercilessly, which has given birth to a mass of pretentious babblers who have a more damaging effect on social life than tuberculosis or syphilis germs have on the beauty and physical health of the body. The young student who knows a little Latin and history, the young lawyer who has been successful in wringing a scrap of paper called a degree out of the laziness and lackadaisical attitude of his professors they end up seeing themselves as different from and superior to even the best skilled workman, who fulfils a precise and indispensable task in life and is a hundred times more valuable in his activity than they are in theirs. But this is not culture, but pedantry, not intelligence, but intellect, and it is absolutely right to react against it.

The Antonio Gramsci Reader, Antonio Gramsci, D. Forgacs


On Aug. 20, 2014, Marc Lamont Hill and Larry Elder engaged in a heated debate that strongly references these above ideas. Hill expressed is belief in the authority of a very well crafted and important document released by the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement entitled,“Every 28 Hours”, that addresses state violence against US Black people. The report takes into account the three-hundred and thirteen murdered US Blacks by US “law enforcement” in the year 2012. Of that three-hundred and thirteen, over one-third, one-hundred and thirty-six were unarmed when killed by US “law enforcement”. Some feel as though the credibility, the authority we associate with professional level reporting and researching, of The Malcolm X Grassroots Movement is lacking because they are not members of some “academic” institution or tradition. I say that the facts are there enough, and any framing that attempts to overlook the murder of US Blacks by US “law enforcers” at that magnitude is biased and hiding their subjective racist inculcated notions behind false ideals of objectivity.


I, too, do not always agree with works that do not originate in traditions of research that I am not familiar with, or more importantly, that are not traditions of institutions that define or finance me. It has occurred more than once in my life of organized social consciousness raising that a member of an older guard realizes that their accepted values and authority itself is not respected, and they begin to use charm and flattery to make selections for leadership from the pool of active youth. It is a factor of objectifying others that we sense that the ideals expressed by our inner voice are the only ideals worthy of being expressed. That if an ideology or pattern of truth finding does not stem from the ideology or patterns of truth finding that we adhere to, it must be wrong. The Other must be incorrect;often simply because it is Other.


There is a difference in being wrong, being right, and being not accepted or holding a point of view that is not influential. I have recently been in the habit of updating my Twitter account with the injunction,”Loyalty Trumps Logic”. Not so much that I think loyalty should displace logic, but that in most instances that I have observed, people tend to place their emotional loyalties and ideological subscriptions over a reasonable and critical assessment of the objects of their allegiance. When our authority figures are taken into question, cognitive dissonance can influence us to justify our associations especially if those associations have in some helped to form our identity and the concomitant principles we use to establish authenticity.

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