Friday, December 09, 2005

On Persuasion

At work, the editors of the Grade 8 textbook are looking for an example of persuasive speech. Though clearly we cannot use it, my co-worker Maria found this and circulated it immediately.

No, seriously. Read it.

I'm still reeling with it a bit too much to draft an intelligent response--Pinter drops the thread in my view most complex, that of his conceptions of political theater, to deal directly with politics. Deal directly with politics it does; as Maria said, he had a lot to cover. Almost any fault in the document, I deem excusable.

Which does, though, make me realize that there are probably many people who feel the same about the document from the Vatican. Among other documents.

Going back six months ago, to when I read Ann Coulter: it is the postulates that divide intelligent people, not the proofs. It is a more frightening world when those who oppose us, those whose positions we find ethically repugnant, are intellectually sound and operating by means of logic. While their opinions are inimical to our own, while the things on which they use said logic are inimical to our beliefs and loves and needs, they are using the same *logic*, the same step-by-step process of reasoning, that we are using ourselves. We can follow their logic; if we used the same postulates they used, made their assumptions instead of our own, we would reach the same conclusions. It makes politics more difficult, simultaneously worse and better. Bush is a terrible president, but, as Pinter shows, he stands on the shoulders of giants similar to himself in many ways. He's not illogical. He's building on things that have been building for a long time. The reason we spend so much time claiming he's stupid is because it feels substantially safer than the alternative, that he is intelligent and surrounded by intelligent people who have both power and logic on their side. We have logic on our side (or sides--let me not fall into the if-you're-not-with-us-you're-against-us trap) too, but we cannot claim it as a trump card.

Once more, gah.


At 1:30 PM, Anonymous tyromaven said...

I read this, and I'm actually not so impressed. The facts that Pinter presents are jostling, perhaps shocking if you haven't heard them before, many times over. I guess that's why I'm not impressed, even though I may nod to many of Pinter's observations and claims. As brilliant as Pinter is, I think he's mostly politically impotent--and that's why he doesn't impress me. I don't see that his piece persuades towards anything active. Does he have a strategy for mass popular revolt or reform in the U.S.? If he does, give me his number.

And "logic"? Logic is more like a process, a movement from some basic values and givens to assertions and perhaps imperatives. If people are operating on different assumptions about reality, sometimes those can be argued about--sometimes you can change someone's mind, and if they're willing to employ the same logical process, get to a different conclusion. Maybe one you're waiting for them to get. But if people are operating on different value priorities--or worse, have been neutered and spayed of the need to have them at all by economic and cultural structures entrenched in convenience-- then persuasion becomes suddenly a much higher cliff to climb.

I'm also willing to defend--should someone walk into the saloon for a brawl-- that there're are differences between motives, values, and logics, and that values are the most deeply hidden of those. 'Nuf for now...but I feel like I hear too many people preach to the converted and call it persuasion. I'm glad Pinter didn't talk fluff, but I hunger for more. Please grant amnesty to my perhaps heated tone--just enthusiastic and activated, 's all.

I love Gemma's blog!

At 1:33 PM, Anonymous tyro said...

Oh, and none of the above means that I don't agree with the last chunk of post re: it's scarier when you can't just call people stupid and make them disappear. 'Cause I do. Agree.

At 2:41 PM, Blogger Ammegg said...

First I'll admit openly that I *haven't* heard them before many times over. I've heard bits and pieces of them throughout the years, but I had never heard them lined up all at once at that level. His piece does not persuade towards one particular political action, but I learned.

I also think we err in assuming that "people . . . have been neutered and spayed of the need to have [value priorities] at all by economic and cultural structures entrenched in convenience." In the same way that we err in assuming that Bush is stupid. For a select group of people, convenience *is* a value. Just as contentment makes some people happy. As the recent controversy in my own Chicago neighborhood over bringing children into restaurants proved, there are people who will fight vociferously, expending piles of energy that you and I think would be better used elsewhere, to defend their own convenience. Don't knock that power.

That said, I agree about what logic is, and like what you're saying about motives, values and logic, which last I want to think through a bit more. Also, I recognize what you're saying--that knowledge in and of itself is not power, it's simply something that contributes to power. Pinter is not a revolutionary citizen, he's an extremely intelligent man delineating some facts. However, I would say impotent is a word too strong for an artist of Pinter's talent, conviction and prestige. If he's currently politically powerless, I would venture to wonder whether it's based on his separating the needs of so-called political art from the needs of so-called nonpolitical art. As far as I'm concerned, there's never been and nor should there ever be any kind of difference between the two, and to make such a delineation bleeds power from both. This conversation may help me on the road to finding out, in more and better detail than I usually have, *why* I think that's the case. Which in turn will make it clearer to me why teaching theater is important. Let my mind reel for a few days, and let me finish the other post I'm working on. Then I'll write some more about it.

And I've the distinct feeling that if either of us was wont to take serious offense at politically heated tone, we wouldn't be friends.


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