The Power of Words

Posted on Friday, 6th January 2012 @ 09:22 AM by Text Size A | A | A

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It’s unfortunate that most people spend their childhoods being lied to, and as a result spend their adult-hoods being fooled by lies they were told as children.

As a kid, were you ever bullied or teased, and when you tried to get the person in trouble for what they did, they lied their way out of it? Probably. Afterwards, you probably went home to your parents, defeated, and they told you something like “that’s alright because you’ll end up successful one day and that lying bully won’t.” After that, you probably went on to live your life assuming that your kindness and moral righteousness would be taking you places. It’s unfortunate that this moral wealth you grew to believe in won’t necessarily make you succeed, whereas rhetoric: the overall art of persuasion, or what some of you may call lying in many cases, will probably assist in the success of people you find yourself unable to respect or like for your own moral values, but unable to deny their accomplishments as well. While this is an angering truth, it would be best to leave anger elsewhere, as it won’t be helpful, but instead, try and understand why words make such a difference.

If you live in a country that has any form of democracy, you experience certain benefits, being able to choose your elected officials is one. However, lying has become an accepted aspect of the world we live in today, especially in positions of power. This is not a critique of politics, politicians  or any form of government, it’s actually the exact opposite, because though I acknowledge lying is frowned upon, it would be unfair not to acknowledge lying for the art that it has always been,  as it is able to mask itself under the cover of truth, far more times than it is revealed as lies, by using the tools of rhetoric. Democracy is for the people and by the people,  but who do the people choose? They choose the person that manages to CONVINCE the majority  that they are capable, morally intact and whatever else encourages people to give them both their vote and support, therefore granting them with power. There is no crystal ball or omniscient human on this Earth that can reveal the truth, the only thing we have to make decisions with is our own interpretation of what’s told to us, so hand some credit over to the people who are so crafty that they can manufacture arguments, hide lies, engineer speeches that you want to hear, and deliver them with both a tone and manner that will leave you never questioning. Regardless of how you feel about a politician or anyone else in a position you feel they are unworthy of, try and realize that as much as you dislike them, they managed to convince the majority of people to experience the opposite emotion of what you feel, using words.

As people, language is all we know. We know how to speak and be spoken to, and while listening is both a wonderful and needed trait, you absorb what you hear, and if all you do is listen and never speak, the speaker will always win because an argument can never be defeated if it is never responded to. It’s because of truths like that, that in schools, students are not only encouraged, but forced to learn about rhetoric in whatever English class you are required to take.  Your teachers and their superiors within the Education system  all know that the only skill you truly need in this world is the ability to convince people and gain their trust,  whether they outright realize it or not. The world we live in is dominated by rhetoric because people communicate through language and the masters of language may not necessarily be the most qualified, but they can convince you they are, so they are who succeed. Despite what you may be feeling towards this, I can guarantee you, if two people with similar qualifications applied for a job, no matter how much one person was better suited for the job,  the person that articulates that they are best to the employer will get hired.

As morally in debt as our society is today, if you’re choosing not to have any respect for rhetoric, don’t blame today’s world for this power rhetoric holds over people. The war between the strong and the weak  goes back far.

In Ancient Greece, Socrates, known for his morally sound behavior, hated sophists because he described them as not being interested in uncovering truth, but instead being masters of rhetoric that argued only to win and use their abilities for self-interest and gain. While Socrates considered sophists morally bankrupt, and depending on who’s analyzing it, he may have been right, when the sophists took Socrates to court for charges of impiety and corrupting the youth, they won and Socrates was sentenced to death.You may have grounds to argue that this was still a victory for Socrates because today he is hailed as a martyr for philosophy, don’t revel in that moral victory so long as not to realize that the sophists accomplished their goals and that today in America, a vast majority of today’s holders of power all shared a common profession before they were your Congressmen: they were lawyers, your modern day sophists.

Regardless of if you appreciate rhetoric or see it negatively and thus prefer to label it  as manipulation or dishonesty, it would be foolhardy to deny its power and role in your everyday life.

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