Gorean Compass – Those Pesky Signal Words

Gorean compass classes offered at the Gorean Campus every Thursday at noon and 6pm SLT.  Topics cover all aspects of gorean philosophy and culture especially as it relates to goreans within Second Life.  All are welcome to attend and participate in the classes and discussions offered by Master Gorm Runo.

Tal and Greetings

There is an interesting passage in one of the books where Samos and Tarl are having an argument while playing a Kaissa game.  Tarl is getting angry about Samos’ suggestions that he is not behaving in a very manly fashion and Tarl asks him, basically, if he wants to step outside and settle it with swords.  Samos, who is a good swordsman himself, says. “I might if you could show me the relationship of that activity to the matter we are discussing”


In other words, what is the connection between who is better at sword fighting, and the wussie thing you are doing with this female?

I like that passage because Samos is reflecting the Gorean balanced respect for what is rational and what is appropriate.

The Gorean would feel very out of place in our modern society on Earth because of this tendency to react to a logical argument with a deflection.  In the early Gorean chatrooms, we used to have a saying that the first person to say, “fuck you” lost the debate.   It meant he had exhausted all the logical rational arguments and the profanity was his concession.  In much the same way that Tarl wanted to move to violence when he could no longer argue logically, the throwing of a profanity or insult is a capitulation.


In the book, Fighting Slave of Gor, there is a scene that actually takes place in a restaurant in New York City rather than on Gor.   A discussion is taking place between a young lady, and a young man, both of whom will soon find themselves on Gor.  When the young man presents an argument to which the young woman has no logical refutation, she responds this way:

“Are you a sexist?” she asked.
“Perhaps,” I said. “I do not know. What is a sexist?”
“A sexist is a sexist,” she said.
“That is a logical truth, ” I said. “An apple is an apple. The argument is not much advanced.”
“The concept is vague, ” she said.
“There is little if any concept involved, ” I said. “The expression is a “signal word”, a word selected for its emotive connotation, not its cognitive meaning. It is used as a slander tool to discourage questioning and enforce verbal agreement.  Similar expressions, once meaningful, now largely of value as rhetorical devices are “chauvinist, “sex object”, “person”, “conservative” and “liberal.”  One of the great utilities of these words, long since evacuated of their cognitive content, is that they make thought unnecessary.  It is little wonder men value them so highly.”

Page 10  Fighting Slave of Gor

If you are young and not much experienced at life, and having a ball with Gorean role play and happen to read any passage from the books slowly and carefully, I hope it is this one.

There are a whole list of signal words that she could have called him.  You see them splashed around social media like confetti these days.  Are you a racist?   Are you a Homophobe?  Are you a misogynist?   They are all signal words.  I was stunned when I recently reread that passage and realized that John Norman had written it in 1980.    37 years ago, it was satire, and some of the most advanced satire you could imagine, to mock the very beginning of this mindless throwing of signal words at a person in place of a logical argument.


Today, it is the reality of a generation of people that like to call themselves “woke.”

The idea of the non-cognitive word is a core part of John Norman’s writing.  He mentions it over and over.  When I look back over my own personal Gorean experience, understanding the concept of it is one of the gifts Gor has bestowed upon my life.

Sadly, the word “love” is one I had to let go.  And it was sad because I love the word “love,” but there is no question that every single person who says it , means something a little different by it. It is “evacuated of (it’s) cognitive content,” as Jason Marshall put it in our quote.

But, at least, that beautiful word and the beautiful and positive emotions it sometimes evokes have some use and value, the debate ending signal words like the girl used are only really another way of saying “fuck you” and should only signal defeat and surrender.

One of the other problems with this signal words is their connection to the idea of “group identity.” which is another, and very UnGorean, concept permeating Western Earth culture.

suck at math

Group identity is one of the things that John Norman suggests is designed to make us interchangeable parts in a machine orientated society.   It is the enemy of individual identity and personal responsibility which are two of the very cornerstones of Gorean thinking.

And it connects in this fashion.  You might meet a lesbian and not like her very much.  She might even be a real bitch and you tell her so.  The response is that you are a homophobe.  You have an irrational fear of people that are not straight.  You are trampling on the rights of LGBTQ people every where.   The poor bitchy lesbian is not viewed as an individual. She is a part of the collective group.

I remember 1980, vaguely, but enough to know that it wasn’t like that back then.  John Norman was a bit of a seer in seeing it coming, but I wonder if he knew how insane it was going to get.

There is group identity in Gor.  Take the caste of Builders.  They like to wear yellow robes, and they are high caste and they all are bound by the same set of Caste Codes, but they are not a voting block, or a demographic.   And if someone sees me on my way to confront an individual builder that has pissed me off, he isn’t going to yell, “Builderophobe” at me, but he is going to wonder what that individual, unique, person did to anger me.

Group identity and signal words are a part of this Counter-Earth idea of taking what is good from Earth and rejecting what is bad, and doing the same for Gor

That's not a sheep … hey, maybe I'm not a sheep.

This sheep like behavior of bleating out insulting signal words, and spending your time trying to decide if your “victim group” has been more oppressed than some one else’s “victim group” is a bad thing of Earth, that even the fictional Goreans would have found laughable.

But, we here in Second Life Gor still have a lot of work to do in this area.  Have we really erased signal words and non-cognitive words from our world.  Are we bringing any “group identity” foolishness to this world?

Is BTB a clear cut concept, useful in communication because everyone knows exactly what it means?  Is OOC?   Do we think “Gor Evolved” sucks?   Do we think all “role players” are assholes, or that all “lifestylers” take things too seriously?   How often , every day, even in our role play, do we think in terms of group identity or signal words with no cognitive meaning, or meaningless absolutes?

Remember the message at the end of the quote.

One of the great utilities of these words, long since evacuated of their cognitive content, is that they make thought unnecessary.  It is little wonder men value them so highly.”

Thinkers anonymous

I am not always sure of which way the Gorean compass is pointing, but it very clearly is not pointing to a direction that makes thought unnecessary, despite the fact that Gor’s sister planet seems to be plunging recklessly in that direction.

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