Monday, October 29, 2007
People have made fun of Bush for nearly a decade for his inarticulate speech and lack of diction. I'm sure somebody has addressed the issue of why he is the way he is, but I haven't seen it.
18th century rhetorical theorist Hugh Blair says, "Speech is the great instrument by which man becomes beneficial to man: and it is to this intercourse and transmission of thought, by means of speech, that we are chiefly indebted for the improvement of thought itself."
He's saying that speech and the ability to use it to take a thought from my head and put it in your head is responsible for nearly all advances in everything from culture, to science, to technology. But more fundamentally, the ability of reason itself stems from our ability to transmit thoughts and ideas, not just to each other, our contemporaries, but to people who will come later.
It is the fact that we have all of this combined knowledge from all of those people who lived before us that we are able to do all of the things that we are able to do today. Communication is the key, in other words, to everything.
So, where do bad communicators come from? How come there are so many today? I'm talking about boring, uninspiring speakers who don't give people anything useful. Bush, Kerry, Obama, Clinton, uh...Paul, etc etc. They are terrible speakers who give their hearers nothing but canned stump speeches that have been tested before focus groups, and pushed forcefully through speech writing mills, basically, in an effort to--in their mind--distill the essence of whatever truth it is that they are trying to transmit.
Whether you believe that Bush is deliberately trying to pull the wool over the eyes of America is beside the point here. Whether Bush is deliberately playing dumb to appeal to dumb people, is not on the chopping block for this particular tirade. What's really important is the fact that Bush is boring. The only emotions he can inspire in the people of America are fear and anger. And he's losing the knack for the former.
A poll during one of the past elections (I can't remember which one, nor do I care) revealed that Bush Jr. was the candidate that the electorate would most like to sit down and have a beer with. The Onion parodied this very nicely back in 2005. The article smacks of truth. The perception that Bush is "just like me," is what got the fucker elected in the first place. Right?
Now, why in all of the universe, would you want a president who was just like you? Think about it. Look at yourself. You're flawed. You've got problems. You make mistakes. You're not as smart, attractive, ambitious, talented, friendly, or decent as you wish you were. You're not as good a Christian as you think you should be. You're not as hard a worker as the guy in the next cubicle. Bush is not those things too! In fact, in all reality, you are probably smarter, more attractive, more talented, much more friendly...though probably not more ambitious, than our current commander in chief.
So why is this? Why elect this guy?
I think I have a theory, and it's about who the president is trying to appeal to. It's not the whole story, but it's part of it. The reason the founders of this country were so eloquent has everything to do with the fact that they were a) all educated and b) only hung out with a bunch of other people who were very educated. They didn't hang out with people who were "just like me." They never had to deal with people like us. They never had to appeal to us. Just the opposite, in fact. They constantly had to make sure that their proverbial asses were covered--logically speaking. These people would tear you a new one if you weren't completely sure of what you were talking about. These people were all well versed in the art of rhetoric. They knew how to persuade intelligent people. If you can persuade a smart person, then the rest of the country, the cattle, are easy.
Today, partly because nobody has an attention span long enough to listen to an entire speech--and for this reason, I'm reasonably certain that no one will read this entire post--and partly because these candidates have to appeal to the masses, the stupid, moronic, uneducated masses, there is a unilateral lowering of the bar to meet that standard.
If you use a word like "defenestrate," as in "I would like to defenestrate the president," nobody will know what you're talking about. But if you say, "I would like to throw the president out of a window," then people will understand you. The diction is lower, even if the meaning is the same.
People are stupid, and our politicians are getting stupider to reflect that fact. And it's all your fault. Shame on you.