by Robert Wilkinson
Today's post comes courtesy of a comment in a NYT article on the flaw of a political philosophy based in "no." Negative rhetoric that merely inflames the lower nature truly is different than the stand we must occasionally take because of our principles. How do we know when ego is speaking, or when a higher Truth is knocking on the door of our mind?
As usual, the audio link is at the bottom of the post.
Obviously, this subject is very vast and beyond any ability to explore it thoroughly in a few paragraphs. Still, the idea that negative rhetorical thinking and speaking is related to the lower ego can help us understand how to deal with what we're hearing, or even what we're thinking about a thing, whether political or not.
So today, please put on your philosophical thinking caps, and consider the possibility of abstracting some of these concepts into higher Truths you can use as you move and groove through the intersection of Fate St. and Freewill St. on a corner of Eternity Boulevard.
In the NYT comments, it was stated that:
In The Ethics of Rhetoric, published fifty-seven years ago, U. of Chicago professor Richard Weaver warned the Republicans that no good would ever come of simply defining yourself as the negation of the other party. This shortsighted rhetorical strategy "leads a party to positions where it has no policy, or only the policy of opposing an incumbent," and will "reflect adversely upon any habitual user" because it is situational and not based on principle. Weaver's analysis applies to the current Republican Party approach; that approach will land them precisely where Weaver said it would.
If this is true, we can see that this way of viewing and asserting things is essentially polarizing, adaptive, immediate, and has no real center other than its own polarizing view. Sounds like the lower ego to me! Beyond the political reference, I believe we can use this to understand something of the lower ego that can help us in our everyday lives and interactions.
For example, it seems that this type of polarized negative rhetoric closely parallels some elements of what psychology says regarding oppositional-defiant behavior. We all must deal with such behaviors in self and others in the course of our path to Higher Awareness and effectiveness. Perhaps being aware of the qualities of this type of negativity, whether in rhetorical thinking or speaking or someone being oppositional-defiant, can help us respond effectively when we're confronted with situations where this is present.
The nature of the lower ego is competitiveness, survival at all costs, self-gratifying, and ultimately selfishness incarnate. It is self-grasping and self-cherishing. It uses the rhetoric of its own echo chamber to reinforce itself in our inner house of mirrors. It must oppose any thing that would undermine its own self-certainty.
I thought the phrase "it is situational and not based on principle" to be key to understanding how to know whether we're thinking rhetorically or listening to someone else who is doing that. Simply put, a negative rhetoric is based in the situation and is not able to accept more inclusive, universally true principles that exist in holistic views.
Rhetorical thinking tends to constantly confirm its own view, and must exclude anything that opens it to a greater balance and openness to conflicting or contrasting views. An argument based in negation cannot offer something universally positive that stands on its own. That's where we learn discrimination between the apparently positive and the truly positive.
Some rhetoric, whether our own or another's, can seem positive even when based in negation. This is rhetoric that is cloaked in a principled sophistry, but its intention is a negation of someone or something else. It only exists to counter a thing, and any seemingly positive thing it offers only reinforces its own polarized rhetoric.
Just because someone takes a powerful stand in defense of a principle they believe in does not necessarily mean that principle is a universal good. Passionate stances, unless founded in a universal good, are conditional by nature. Most passion is by its nature conditional.
The lower ego uses rhetoric to force its narrow, self-reinforcing interpretation upon others in ways they also will echo that rhetoric. To the lower ego, any other possible view of its own rhetorical reality must either strengthen that view or must be opposed for whatever selfish reasons ego employs to that end.
I've found that negative rhetoric is empty, non-constructive, usually precludes reason, and cannot encompass alternative views. Rhetoric based in negation lacks balance. Its self-reinforcing nature makes the argument one-sided.
In coming out of one-sided views we overcome duality of perception. Truth has many sides to it, and therefore many ways to view it. A whole view of any element of our reality must include seeing the "pairs of opposites" as poles of a larger process. Any view of the negatives in a situation must also be accompanied with a view of the positive directions and results within the larger whole or it's an unbalanced view.
Truth can always be known to those who seek it. The Higher Truths we find in our life experiences tend to take on an ever-more holistic nature, while rhetoric of any stripe is transitory and conditional. As an aside, that is why rhetoric is commonly used by bullies and abusers to persuade their potential "allies" or would-be victims to think as they do.
The issue of whether something is negatively rhetorical or a path to a broader Truth is one of perception. All of us have wondered from time to time why we're hearing what we're hearing, why we're saying what we're saying the way we're saying it, and wondered how to know the difference between Truth and fiction.
Looking for the purpose in any argument helps us think critically about the nature of what's being said and why. I have found that Truth is many sided, and always leads us to a greater realization and appreciation for the "compare and contrast" process.
There are many paths to Truth, as it is by nature inclusive. There is only one path in negative rhetoric which must exclude all it does not dominate and control. Negative rhetoric offers only destruction, never construction.
A principled stand for a truth is able to accept other views within a greater understanding of the whole. A principled stand for a truth is able to offer positive views of the possible, rather than have to tear some other thing or view down.
A principled stand for a truth is always ready to meet an opponent half way, knowing when to give and when not to give. A principled stand for a truth may or may not triumph in the argument of the moment, but it will be just as true tomorrow and next year as it is today.
© Copyright 2010 Robert Wilkinson