Thursday, October 13, 2011

On Behalf of Poesy

This is a post about rhetoric, not politics.

First, read the text in the image. Even if you've already read it, read it again. I'm going to talk about it a lot, and you need to be familiar with it. My prose can be a bit impenetrable even if you know exactly what I'm talking about, so rolling in blind or on memory won't help.

As I said, this is about rhetoric, not politics. I have no real political statement to make for or against the protesters in Wall Street. I'm still reserving judgment as I learn more and more, but the way the rhetoric in that image was assembled set me off, and so, a blog post is born.

Here we go!

The text defines an unnamed, ambiguous third party negatively (not as in a value, but by establishing what they aren't) and it does so by positively building an arguably unassailable ideal shared across political affiliations; it's moving parts are sacrifice, patience, thriftiness, and hard work.

As this is going on, the writer is also doing the inverse, establishing themselves negatively by building an image of what they are not, which implicitly builds up what that initial unnamed ambiguous third party is. This is done by tagging their (the writer's) lack of common luxury items, and further reinforcing the austere virtues established earlier.

If this were a poem, in what would be called the volta, the writer then implicitly names the unnamed ambiguous third party as the Wall Street protesters and, in that same moment, definitively states their actions and motivations (blaming Wall Street directly for specific misfortune in their own lives), a thing the protesters are still yet to do, I might add, and in doing so builds a straw man to knock down with the conclusion.

The conclusion builds with a promise that those same initial virtuous behaviors will continue into the foreseeable future, (which ironically implies not that the protesters will continue in their path but instead fall apart and possibly become virtuous, because of where the emphasis falls), and it concludes with naked emotionalism, a direct and pointed claim that the writer, because of force of will and determination, is not part of a statistical reality, which destabilizes the strength of the statistic not with similar reason, something that would normally be called for, but by declaring it (by way of implicit analogous syllogism) an idea rather than mathematics. This allows the statistic to be refuted with a bold declaration.

Invoking that piece is lose/lose. If the protesters are pedantic gas bags, this is no better, which surrenders any sort of moral or intellectual high ground and leaves everyone throwing rocks in knee deep mud.

If the protesters are actually finding some coherency and traction with a reasonable, rational message, then this image still debases their opposite number, but instead of leveling the playing field, it gives the advantage to the protesters.

Hold the high ground, kids. If you're cold and calculating it makes for good strategy. If you're more moralistic, it's just the right thing to do.