Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Life is not like a drama; Life IS drama (Part II)

3) Guilt-Redemption Cycle – The root of all rhetoric
The ultimate motivation of all public speaking is to purge ourselves of an ever-present, all-inclusive sense of guilt.

Guilt is Burke’s catch all term to cover every form of tension, anxiety, embarrassment, shame, disgust, and other noxious feelings that he believed intrinsic to human condition.

Man is ....
the symbol-using inventor
of the negative
separated from his natural condition by instruments
of his own making
goaded by the spirit of hierarchy
and rotten with perfection

Man is
Burke acknowledge our animal nature

the symbol-using inventor

of the negative
Emphasize this uniquely human ability to create, use, and abuse language

It’s only through man made language that the possibility of choice comes into being

separated from his natural condition by instruments

Human as a tool using animal
of his own making
Our technological inventions get us into trouble

goaded by the spirit of hierarchy
Hierarchies, bureaucracies, and other ordered systems that rank how well people observe society’s negative rules. No matter how high you climb on the performance ladder, you’ll always feel a strong sense of embarrassment for not having done better.

A doctor always rank higher than an artist.

and rotten with perfection

Our seemingly admirable drive to do things perfectly can hurt us and others in the process. Our greatest strength is also our greatest weakness.
Both our success and our failure increase our desire to find someone whom we can dump our load of guilt.

Burke believe that getting rid of guilt is the basic plot of the human drama. At its root, rhetoric is the public search for the perfect scapegoat (religious themes of guilt and purification).

He views rhetoric as a continual pattern of redemption through victimage.

The speaker has two options, depending on which he/she chooses.
Mortification   - To purge guilt through self-blame.
Victimage       - It’s much easier for people to blame their problems on someone else.

Victimage is the process of designating an external enemy as the source of all our ills. The list of candidate sis limited only by our imagination – eastern liberals, Al-Qaeda, the Columbian drug cartel, Communists, Jews, chauvinistic males, rich capitalist, and so forth.

Burke was not an advocate of redemption through victimization, but he said he couldn’t ignore the historical pattern of people uniting against a common enemy (“congregation through segregation”). We’ve already discussed his claim that identification is the central strategy of the new rhetoric. The easiest way for an orator to identify with an audience is to lash out at whatever or whomever the people fear (“My friend is one who hates what I hate”).

Further point of reference, click here. Which option did this speaker pick? Mortification or victimage?

This blog is written based on my own understanding of Kenneth Burke's theory - Dramatism, extracted from the book - A First Look At Communication Theory by Em Griffin.


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