Rhetoric

“Words, Words, Words.”

Hamlet Act 2 Scene 2

“The disease our world is suffering from is not something peculiar to a uniquely scientific age, but the same virus that has finished off all the other great societies of which we have record. The ancients call it rhetoric. What it amounts to is the acceptance, for the sake of power and profits, of certain acknowledged standards of lying.”

Classic Quotations from Hugh Nibley, compiled by Gary P.
Gillum, 2nd ed., pp. 191_192

I made the observation the other day to a group discussing the challenges our youth face in this day and age, that I believe that the biggest danger right now is rhetoric. In fact, I believe it is a war and one that we are not equipping our children to win, let alone ourselves.

It was Oliver Wendell Holmes that said: “we must think things not words.” What he meant was that we need to think logically and not just simply react to the words that are being said.

There are numerous examples, mostly political, and they have enormous consequences for us, if we allow the speaker to get away with them. Just try to have a logical conversation about topics such as: Abortion, Gun Control, Climate Change etc. These are important topics and yet, there is so much emotion involved that is becomes impossible to see through feelings.

Statistics and data are used to back up claims, but statistics and data can be manipulated and who has time to study up on all the data in the first place? Even if you do find the data has been manipulated, those who are already emotionally invested in the rhetoric, will not likely be persuaded, because that means fighting your with your feelings. Looking at yourself.

Sadly, schools are no longer teaching how to think logically, rather what is being taught is to focus on those feelings and emotions. Before long, what sounds good overtakes what is actual truth.

So the war rages and leaves us and our youth in the ashes of a society of words:

“For we let our young men and women go out unarmed, in a day when armor was never so necessary. By teaching them all to read, we have left them at the mercy of the printed word. By the invention of the film and the radio, we have made certain that no aversion to reading shall secure them from the incessant battery of words, words, words. They do not know what the words mean; they do not know how to ward them off or blunt their edge or fling them back; they are a prey to words in their emotions instead of being the masters of them in their intellects.”

Dorothy Sayers

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