Inspection- Lost in the Shallow Rhetoric Matrix Again
I was at Midtown, a beer and liquor store complex in Nashville, buying supplies for a Music City Homebrewers’ Christmas party. As I walked out, bag in hand, a gentleman in military fatigues walked up to me, smelling of alcohol, with dilated pupils. He was obviously on at something. Maybe more than one “something.”
“Jerry! Jerry Garcia! Oh, I’m so glad to see you, man! You were my life…”
You know, I would have thought it a joke, or he was trying to scam me; except he asked for no money and it was obvious he was serious. What am I to say to a drugged up, drunk, vet who tells me a long story how he was near an exploding landmine in Nam, pulling back his shirt to show the flesh long ago deeply scarred? …and then rattling on and on about how I saved him during that time: reciting song lyrics, facts about band members and what they wore?
Yes, what am I to say, “Hey you idiot, Jerry’s dead?”
Uh, no, I played along, desperately hoping he wouldn’t demand specifics, or insist we go smoke something. I got into music in the late 50s at hootenannies, and never really followed The Grateful Dead, or was into them, or even know much about them. Ask me about my own musical career, or music I’m into, I’d probably bore you into early onset Alzheimer’s.
I “played along” because something told me it was the wisest thing to do, and I never, ever just ignore such advice. Hey, it saved my life at least once, and maybe the life of my wife, Millie.
Anyway I left as soon, and as politely, as I could, but wondered, “What is this man doing out on the street? Why isn’t he getting help? Where’s the VA in this mess?
And I thought back to a debate I was having on Facebook.
Obviously he was street person, and living off public assistance: at best. The Facebook debate I’m referring to started with an FB friend being assaulted by insults when he suggested we should care about, and do something, for folks in need. All decorated with phrases like, “Why should I pay some lazy ass to sit at home and watch his 50 inch TV?” …or “Why should I be ‘punished for people who won’t work?” Suddenly every person who ever got assistance was a slacker, every claim littered with stereotypes.
We live in an odd, and very artificial, matrix-like world filled with strawmen made out of rhetoric. Such talk always reminds me of people who talk about “those damn, lazy…” when they’re also trying to avoid using the n-word. Or how all Muslims, Christians, Atheists are blah, blah, blah… Pick your target of hate and construct an artificial world where they are to blame for everything, and nothing supposed “blessed ones,” oh, let’s say the “job creators,” do has anything to do with creating the problems that helped put those supposed “lazy” ones in their unfortunate circumstances.
Yet: and here is where the Matrix twist comes, all of big business isn’t to blame for whatever either. The left contributes to the rhetorical Matrix as well as the right.
Here’s a good sign you prefer the shallow strawmen that populate the rhetorical Matrix to reality. When you have to frame whole groups as if they are solely responsible, the only ones to blame: all big business, all folks on public assistance, all liberals… rather than talk policy and direction a society should go: you’ve swallowed the blue pill.
We can argue that certain types of businesses, or class of folks, should pay more taxes, or less. Be more regulated, or less. Then argue why, or why not. But once we enter the realm of framing all of business, or all of the poor, or all illegals, or all Muslims… well we’re just doing battle with the strawmen that populate the rhetorical Matrix, but hurting, maybe even killing, real people.
Not all media, or all pundits, or all pols encourage us to stay on the blue pill all the time. But do be aware tis an easy way to get votes and gain more power. It’s also one of the handiest ways to encourage us to abandon important rights just to play it safe, and feel more secure.
Fear and hate sells.
Fear and hate are way too damn popular.
But lost among the strawmen, in the rhetorical Matrix, are real gentlemen and women like my delusional vet, and the Mom and Pop places trying to provide goods and services, and, yes, some big businesses really trying to do the best they can for their customers and society. Having power and size can corrupt, yes, but that doesn’t mean all who have power, or all big business, are corrupt. Likewise framing whole classes and groups as “takers,” “givers,” “job creators,” or those who “sit by the pool and gather stock dividends” while the poor suffer, solves nothing. It may get folks elected, gain campaign donations and increases the hate, the vitriol.
So when it comes to over generalizing about large groups of people, or businesses, remember that kind of framing is often simply the wrong pill.
Inspection is a column that has been written by Ken Carman for over 30 years. Inspection is dedicated to looking at odd angles, under all the rocks and into the unseen cracks and crevasses that constitute the issues and philosophical constructs of our day: places few think, or even dare, to venture.
Ken Carman and Cartenual Productions
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