Saturday 3 July 2021

A pause for thought - Rhetoric or Deep Honesty?

We are all tempted by the idea that what we say to other people - perhaps in response to a question - might influence them for the better. For instance, the idea that when somebody says something about the birdemic, the peck, antiracism of climate-emergency-warming-change; we might respond with some phrase that does real goo. 

Thus we are tempted to use rhetoric - which, I take it, is language designed to influence other people in a particular direction; language designed to affect others as desired. 

For example, rhetoric might be defensive language designed to escape from the feared consequences of non-compliance with social norms; or evangelical language to awaken another person to the truth specifically, or to the Good more generally.

Evangelical rhetoric may be highly-motivated; but even them it is prone to be manipulative and to treat other people as interchangeable units - rather than as individuals. Of course, the particular 'other person' might not be known to you - and therefore can only be treated as a stereotype of one sort or another. 

My aim - which I seldom achieve - is deep honesty or silence

Silence is the honest response appropriate to presumptively hostile persons (especially those on the other-side, against God) - which nowadays is the majority of human interactions (especially in the workplace). 

Deep honesty is trying to answer the underlying question, not just the specific question; to address the assumptions behind the question. 

For example, an honest answer to 'Have you had the birdemic peck?' might be just a flat 'No'. Without explanation or excuse. That might, itself, lead to something. 

Or it might be 'No - it's too dangerous' (or some elaboration thereof). 

But the deeply honest response might be that you regard the whole birdemic business as an Evil Lie; or that that you believe the peck to be, in some way, an instrument of evil in the spiritual war against God. 

Thus, to provide a deeply honest answer almost always requires a pause for thought - to take account of the personal and situational context; and then an answer of a few sentences, at least. 

That in itself means that silence, or no answer at all ('I don't want to talk about it, thanks.') may be the only practical response in most ordinary social situations. 

Yet even this kind of response is very unusual, and perhaps difficult, in 'normal' social interactions. Not to reply instantly to every question needs forethought, and - probably - would need to be practiced a few times before becoming natural and spontaneous. 

Again, a pause for thought, interrupting the usual rapid to-and-fro of casual social chit-chat, would seem to be necessary. 


Wm Jas Tychonievich said...

Very important point. It’s too easy to give a fake but understandable reason — I didn’t vote because I don’t like any of the candidates, I’m not getting the peck because of the side effects, etc. — instead of taking the trouble to be fully honest and (just maybe) jolt the listener out of his dogmatic slumber.

Bruce Charlton said...

JohnB comment (edited)

"I tend toward the same approach - as much honesty as I can succinctly deliver and that won't cause too much of a scene, yet even in this day and age certain things trigger certain individuals. Thus, in many cases, when nobody is directly questioning you, I find it best to keep silent. It's worth noting that silence itself can have an impact and often makes the practitioner seem level-headed; which is perhaps good...

That said, I find that as soon as I open my mouth about God - and it doesn't matter how subtle I may be - I am already 'a dogmatic', 'an extremist', so it's rhetoric to them anyhow. Thus, if I feel somebody is prepared for it, and one can usually tell after some probing for a couple of overs maybe over some months, I'll let them have some Good, Honest Rhetoric.

But yes, around those that your are unsure of, silence or simple honesty are probably the best. But all of us here know that once you've picked a side, and we have (and they have, perhaps unwittingly) that we'll have to proceed with the rhetoric at some point. It seems to be a suitable counter to Wokeism, as we know that reason does not work.

David Earle said...

When you refuse to take something as widely accepted and controversal as the peck and show no interest in needing to elaborate further, it really packs a punch, and might encourage *genuine* intrigue about your reasoning rather than a ready-to-pounce reaction.

Bruce Charlton said...

Edited comments:

James Higham ... I’ve taken to saying, “The new Thalidomide? No thanks.”

Hari Seldon ...It is a difficult because this is a complex issue that involves both material and spiritual realities and I always have a sense of futility when trying to convey my thoughts to someone who has swallowed the official narrative...

Perhaps the best and most deeply-honest response is simply: "Because I am a Christian." While that statement has the disadvantage of (likely) confirming most people's suspicions that Christians are irrational and "anti-science," I think it does a good job of cutting to the core of the issue, and probably would give some questioners pause for thought.

Evan Pangburn said...

@BG - "Perhaps the best and most deeply-honest response is simply: "Because I am a Christian." While that statement has the disadvantage of (likely) confirming most people's suspicions that Christians are irrational and "anti-science"..."

Also, if one were to say this to a materialistic system Christian you would be inviting an argument about what Christianity is.

Arguing with someone like that might be even more frustrating and futile than trying to talk to a standard atheist.

Bruce Charlton said...

@EP - Yes, in these End Times there really is no easy answer, that will achieve what we want. My practice in such situations at work was to give a short answer, to curtail what was usually a counter-productive discussion.

If pressed, I said I was happy to give a more argued answer, but it would take about ten/ fifteen minutes (because I would need to back-up to expose and refute assumptions).

Nobody ever pursued things further.

Such is modern life! Salvation may be just ten minutes of concentrated, connected thinking away from anybody - but it might as well be hidden in another galaxy!