Thursday, March 17, 2011

Rhetoric's potency

At this IPS thread I've been arguing with a kennilinguist over the importance of Wisconsin's political climate. His last quip was what will you do about it, other than whine online like an impotent green meme? My response follows:

If that's all I'm doing you'd have a point, but as usual it is not and you don't. I use rhetoric to move people to action, including motivating myself. It's something at which the conservatives are indeed adept and from which liberals have much to learn. So what else can we do? I use the rhetoric to take personal responsibility for my consumer purchases. I try to find out which companies are supportive of fair labor practices and environmental impact and spend my money at such businesses, conversely withdrawing it from those that bust unions, pollute and treat employees like shit. (Of the latter, e.g., Integral Institute.) I also get politically involved on a variety of levels, from nagging representatives on all levels of government to organizing public interest lobbying groups. That is another thing at which conservatives are skilled, organizing and pooling money to buy politicians. Well the rest of us can do the same thing and we are, and it will have discernible effects in the next elections. (As one example, see the PCCC.)

However we should not neglect the powerful impact of language and rhetoric on this process. Like xibalba mentioned in the constructivist foundations thread, the likes of Foucault taught us to investigate the power structures behind the rhetoric and how to use it for liberation instead of enslavement. Hence posting on forums like this which attract folks with a "spiritual" impulse might indeed have some small influence in motivating us all to enact a better tomorrow my taking personal action today to right such inequities in our current system. It's true this will never happen unless the rest of us are moved to action. So I choose to goad in that direction rather than not only impotent acceptance of such inequity but tacit support by enacting the very rhetoric and practices that promote it.

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