This I Believe

Jennifer - Laupahoehoe, Hawaii
Entered on August 8, 2006
Age Group: 30 - 50
Themes: creativity

I believe that rhetoric is the way to world peace. No you didn’t hear me wrong: rhetoric is the way to world peace. Rhetoric is a noun, a verb, and an adjective; it is a practice and a theory, a way of doing and a way of knowing: a way of life. Rhetoric is the foundation of all societies, governments, and religions, and it is the foundation of what it means to be human. In brief, rhetoric is someone saying something to someone in its context. If rhetoric is someone saying something to someone, that includes you, and it serves you to understand how that works because even if you don’t, the other someone might. If rhetoric is someone saying something to someone, that means anytime anyone says anything it is rhetorical, it aims to persuade. There is always an agenda. The word is never innocent. This may sound like a bad thing, and it easily can be; I don’t need to tell you how. We are suspicious of being swayed, and with good cause. This is why rhetoric is usually referred to in the negative, as something to get through, to get past, to get beyond; Enough rhetoric, let’s get to the real stuff! But there’s no doing that because it is the real stuff, so it behooves us to do our best with it. One of the best ways to do our best with rhetoric is through identification. It’s brilliantly simple; you know this already. My grandmother puts it this way: you catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar. If you can find one thing that you have in common with another person, no matter how foreign or strange or frightening that person may seem, no matter how much you might not have in common, that one bit of common ground is enough to stand on. It is why all over the world those who have exploited peoples must first dehumanize them, must make them seem so utterly different that they are less-than-human, they are savages, animals, beasts. It is why in the movies, they try to get the kidnapper to call the victim by name. It is the only way we can murder, it is the only way we can wage war. After all, humans are just, well, human. We have that in common, inevitability, inarguably and imperatively. Rhetoric shows us that we are, in the end, ultimately the same. So I believe rhetoric is the way to end war. It is the way to world peace which is an incredibly powerful idea, and probably why you’ve never hear any of this before, and why I think it’s essential that you do. With great power comes great responsibility. I know, that’s from Spiderman, and that’s not my idea, but none of these ideas actually are. My idea is that rhetoric really, truly does matter, today and tomorrow, and that the more people there are thinking their own ideas about these ideas the better off we’ll all be. Believe it.