Jacob J. Walker's Blog

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Quote of the Day: “Take the Charles River over there, the river going past the building. What makes it the Charles River?”

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Take the Charles River over there, the river going past the building. What makes it the Charles River? You can have substantial physical changes, and it would still be the Charles River. So, for example, you can reverse the direction. Still be the Charles River. You can break it up into tributaries that end up somewhere else, and it would still be the Charles River. You can change the contents, so maybe you build a manufacturing plant upstream, and the content is mostly arsenic, let’s say. Well, it’s still the Charles River.

On the other hand, there are very small changes that you can make, in which case it won’t be the Charles River at all. So, suppose you put panels along the side and you start using it to ship freight up and down. It’s not the river anymore; it’s a canal.

When I first heard this on Democracy Now, I at first thought it was someone babbling and making an insignificant point…  But this excerpt of Noam Chomsky from the documentary “Is the Man Who is Tall Happy?“, has continued to stay in my head, and think about the power of language in framing our entire understanding of the world.

I also post this in celebration of the fourth day of Kwanzaa, which celebrates Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics), as I think the river is also a metaphor for how we must find appropriate ways to share our natural resources for our economic benefit, such that we don’t squander them for our future.

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Written by Jacob Walker

December 29th, 2013 at 6:39 am

Posted in Quotes from Others

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