How To Talk About Things You Care About

It’s not always easy to talk or write about what you believe in (especially if you really care!), but this might help.

George Lakoff is a cognitive linguist (please keep reading, it gets better!). When I first heard the title of his book, Don’t Think Of An Elephant, I’ll confess, I thought of an elephant.

The idea is that when we’re talking to each other, we’re putting (sort-of) pictures in each other’s heads.

He calls the pictures “frames”. You have a frame for an elephant. You just saw your elephant picture, I just saw mine. They might be different.

Now say, for example, when you hear the words “capitalist”, or “socialist”, or “Christian”, or “atheist”, other pictures and emotions (frames) will pop into your head. Probably quite powerful ones.

They’ll vary from person to person. None are more correct than others. They just exist. They’ve been under construction since you were a baby, so you’re probably stuck with them.

About half of Americans believe that “From each according to his ability, to each according to his need” is in their Constitution. Who could argue with that? Did Jesus say that?

It’s actually from the Communist Manifesto! I guess lots of people like the statement, but they don’t like the frame that pops into their head when they hear the word “communist”.

If you care about your idea being heard (political or not), it might be food for thought.

Here’s five minutes of George Lakoff talking about frames, if you have time. It’s really interesting!

If you want to think about something else…



Question Time. Football, But For Ideas?

UKIP deputy chairman Suzanne Evans was scheduled to appear on BBC’s Question Time tonight, but she’s been substituted. Never mind! George Galloway will still be appearing tonight. Galloway has a certain position on Israeli expansionism. The show is live from Finchley. Lots of Jewish people live there. Sparks will surely fly.

I know how I feel about a whole host of issues, including Israel/Palestine (here’s a song about that from me) and I’m sure you know how you feel, too. Your values were baked into your cake a while ago.

If you’re a Tottenham Hotspurs fan and you watch them play Arsenal, and Arsenal win, you don’t switch from being a Spurs fan to an Arsenal fan because they played better. (Sorry, I don’t know how likely this is, I don’t follow football).

On Question Time, If a UKIP representative (somehow) makes a case for the repatriation of foreigners, or someone makes a compelling argument for the two-state solution, we’re all going to feel exactly how we already felt about these issues. I think we’re watching because we’re cheering on our idea. If our team loses, there’s always next week.

It’s nice when other people feel the way you feel, but to get the same effect, you could turn the sound off and listen to your favourite Rage Against The Machine or Skrewdriver album – whichever suits your politics.

I know what I’ve been doing so far (saying what I think) is biased reporting. Unbiased reporting is when you wait for someone else to say what you think and then report that they said it.

I knew someone who attended a Question Time taping once. They told me on that occasion, the panel actually got some tough questioning from the audience in the early minutes of the show. And then one of the production staff said, “Thank you, that’s the technical run-through out of the way, now we’re going to start taping…”

Nice editing tactic!


How To Run a Country… In Seconds!

You get quite a few ideas from being a parent.

When you can’t get your kids to get dressed, you turn it into a race. “Let’s see who can get dressed the quickest… Go!”

Or you give them a choice. “Do you want to wear the red top, or the blue top?”

Both of these tactics will result in the kids doing what you want, not what they want. You’ve taken the option of not getting dressed off the table with competition and choice.

Food for thought in an election year!

Here’s a song I wrote about this topic. It’s the history of civilisation in two and a half minutes.

P.S. I’m staying with old friends this weekend. The guitar and the picture were created by the genius Keira (aged 10), who amazingly made them because that’s what kids do when we’re not bugging them!