“He [the student of politics] must also be on his guard against the old words, for the words persist when the reality that lay behind them has changed. It is inherent in our intellectual activity that we seek to imprison reality in our description of it. Soon, long before we realize it , it is we who become the prisoners of the description. From that point on, our ideas degenerate into a kind of folklore which we pass to each other, fondly thinking we are still talking of the reality around us.
Thus we talk of free enterprise, of capitalist society, of the rights of free association, of parliamentary government, as though all of these words stand for the same things they formerly did. Social institutions are what they do, not necessarily what we say they do. It is the verb that matters, not the noun.
If this is not understood, we become symbol worshipers. The categories we once evolved and which were the tools we used in our intercourse with reality become hopelessly blunted. In these circumstances the social and political realities we are supposed to be grappling with change and reshape themselves independently of the collective impact of our ideas. We become the creature and no longer the partner of social realities. As we fumble with outworn categories our political vitality is sucked away and we stumble from one situation to another, without chart, without compass, and with the steering wheel lashed to a course we are no longer following.
This is the real point of danger for a political party and for the leaders and thinkers who inspire it. For if they are out of touch with reality, the masses are not.”
Aneurin Bevan from “In Place of Fear“
Notes from “Language In Thought and Action“
By S.I. Hayakawa and Alan R. Hayakawa, 5th Edition
Now this may seem an unusual quotation for a former police officer (read conservative) to quote, but I’ve always been fascinated by words, their meanings, and their usage. This later turned out to be a great strength in law enforcement for many reasons, but especially when I became a Sergeant. That’s because police officers and their Sergeants, read and write a plethora [oops!] of words during their careers, and try to squeeze in as much “hooking and booking” as possible before writing any “paper”.
As exciting as the job of a police officer can be at times, much of what a cop does during any given shift is write! And one of the primary responsibilities of a Patrol or Field Sergeant is to read all of that “paper”, ALL THOSE WORDS! Of course, Sergeants also have to back-up the line cops working the street on calls, especially “hot” ones. They also have to interview people who are forcibly arrested and witnesses to the use of force; investigate and evaluate the propriety and lawfulness of the arrests made by police officers or deputies under their supervision; investigate and evaluate the complaints made by citizens; act as a “referee” between the street cop and the irate citizen who got stopped for a traffic violation and refuses to sign the ticket, or the irate citizen who isn’t happy about a deputy’s decision, actions or attitude on a call.
And these are just a glimpse of what a street cop or a Sergeant may have to negotiate during a given shift; there are a seemingly infinite number of possibilities, scenarios, incidents and problems when it comes to working with human beings; those beside you, and those in front of, or around you.
So Words and Ideas are a very important part of what police officers, deputies and Sergeants do during their careers. How they use those words and ideas, in Thought and in Action, is fundamentally and vitally important to how well they perform their duties and accomplish the goals of law enforcement.