Subtle Rhetoric. (A Dime A Dozen)

by SC


“Let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia.”

These following submissions are part of my Rhetoric course at the University of Sydney, I’m required to submit around 80-100 words every week as a requirement to pass my course. (obviously my submissions completely broke this word ‘limit’…) Hopefully, this is an enjoyable read as it details my thoughts on rhetoric, it’s uses and how it effects society.

Friends, Romans, lend me your ears!

Intangible Consumerism.

Ralph Waldo Emerson’s work is very similar to the lecturer who believed that fundamentally language is about quotations and paraphrasing and thus there can be no real sense of creativity since the medium used to translate the ideas are socially constructed.

This made me question the purpose and the legitimacy of copy right or patenting, is this just a method for companies to store up ideas and inventions? Are ideals like trade mark and copy right just a product of a consumeristic society? Or is it used to heighten one’s ego? Giving their words or beliefs legitimacy because of their association to an idea or item that is recognised as their ‘personal’ production? Personally I think capitalism, pride and financial gain are the three biggest contributors to a world where intelligence and ideas can licensed.

Lost in Translation.

As the world becomes more and more connected with the rise of technology, the distinction between cultures and nations have been blurred with the internet becoming a powerful medium where people can experience a wide variety of texts. There has always been critics of translated texts, personally I am a big fan of anime (Japanese animation or cartoon) and there’s a huge split down the community about the authenticity about translation animes.

However just like translation can take away from a text, it can also add meaning which may be more relevant to the audiences. In some ways translation can be compared to adaptions, such as Romeo + Juliet by Baz Luhrmann, which took a traditional text can placed it into a different cultural environment, though no one questions the validity or the purpose of those adaptions. My views on translation has been directly influenced by something my year eight English teacher talked about; The Death of the Author by Roland Barthes. Whilst this may be influenced by my relative mentality, I believe that once a text is created, the author loses their position of authority on it since different interpretations of the same event, book, and sentence etcetera will be supported by varying experiences, all of which are just as valid.

I guess it is up to individual viewers to decide whether they value complete ‘authenticity’ or the injection of a ‘foreign’ perspective.

Apples and Oranges.

In today’s tutorial the class (spear headed by Benjamin) discussed how national perceptions are social constructions within involve the participation of the said nation along with the international communities which all contribute to the final image. In some ways this could be seen as the situated ethos of the nation which is an accumulation of the perceptions and surrounding stereotypes around a nation. Despite the statistics (logos) which reflect the modern, technological society that most Australians live in, the typical belief that all Australians are Caucasian surfers with blonde curly hair who are also ironically desert dwellers exist.

Though instead of pointing how the creation of beliefs and perceptions are a joint product between multiple parties, I think it’s interesting how societies will always define themselves in comparison to other nations. Australians share a lot in common with the British, a similar language combined with a capitalistic society with democracy as its social foundation. However Australians proudly uphold the ‘Crocodile Dundee’ image whilst the English will joke about their fetish for tea and biscuits.

This is another issue I have with the media, it’s over simplistic rhetoric is both manipulative and false. It aims to present easy to consume stories and images for the busy and largely ignorant masses. These over generalisations will often reinforce the already socially accepted stereotypes and thus trapping society in a dangerous cycle of self-delusion.

Rhetoric and how we word and portray ideas is important my friends.

Is Technology indistinguishable from Magic.

Rhetoric is something which is constantly evolving, it evolved under the Humanism movement, it defined itself against the scholastic movement and during the Industrial Revolution it became less and less important as economics opened up trade and communication amongst different nations with different languages. With the spread of the internet, rhetoric has also undergone changes as communication adapts to an increasingly shrinking world.

In my opinion, the internet has allowed unknown individuals to publish their thoughts anonymously meaning that ethos is becoming less and less important and instead there is a larger focus upon the strength of one’s arguments. Likewise powerful influences like situated ethos have been nullified by the internet as the author’s physical appearance and socio-economic status are hidden from sight. I also believe that pathos is harder to effectively implement and aggressive tactics such as intimidation would be poorly received as those rhetorical strategies often require face to face communication or at the very least the use of body language to subtly convey certain emotions and feelings.

I also believe that the main purpose of modern rhetoric is not to ‘persuade’ but rather to simply communicate or pass along a certain message or theme, this is due to the widening audience which can access a speech, article, essay, comment or picture. This means persuasion is harder than ever as the audience will have a wider spectrum of values and beliefs ingrained into them by their culture, thus simple and effective communication seems to be more important than ever as language barriers become more apparent than ever on the internet.

Personally I don’t see this evolution of rhetoric as something which destroys the ‘art’ or ‘soul’ of rhetoric, which is a form of knowledge or practice which has under gone many different transitions and likewise a 16th century rhetorician might of complained about the destructive capabilities of the printing press, something which is integral to modern society.  Instead I think it is necessary that rhetoric evolves along with the world so it does not become an outdated skill left to gather dust upon a bookshelf, void of all relevance.