Peace Building Rhetoric: Ask Mrs. Obama, the Media, or Jesus Christ, for Guidance!

Peace building Rhetoric

Mrs. Obama, former USA’s first lady chose an interesting name for her book – Becoming. A rhetoric for continuity, ongoing, something perpetual. The title of the book, whose reading is still in the bucket, is a lesson in rhetoric.

Rhetoric – an art that uses a whole range of tools ranging from persuasion, garb, silence, conquest, and so on – is the media’s lifelong passion. 

In a world saturated with media offerings, rhetoric draws the audience. Those headlines and titles that herald sensual drives such as love, hate, conquest, submission, and so on.

Given that human beings have sophisticated forms of rhetoric, it is an interesting subject of inquiry. 

The rhetoric process is sensual in the sense that it is initiated and directed at the human common senses, i.e., seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, and feeling.

Human courtship, the sort that leads to intimacy, for example, begins with sensual encounters. 

Courtship rhetoric includes dearing terms such as honey, dear, babe, and so on. How different would courtship be if such terms were replaced with cusses – like motherfucker, creepy, and so on?

What, no alternatives though, if Mrs. Obama chose a different title for her bestseller.

Two personal growing-up experiences come to mind. The first, during my basic schooling, was through corporal punishment for being ‘shy.’ Teacher said it was rude to avoid greeting him and withdrawing gaze from his.

Later, in a graduate class, for being nosy – asking pesky questions in favor of more talk than writing. The professor, nonchalantly and devoid of any corporal measures, delivered a targeted, hurting, and humbling sarcasm.

Both cases represented misplaced rhetoric. No garb was needed. Just look at the teacher and respectively accept or offer greetings, and; just take down notes and do the necessary research later, respectively.

In a sense, profane cussing and swearing in the arts may entertain but with the risk of permeating mainstream life.

In the mainstream, the cuss words themselves seem to have a course of their own. The example of courtship comes, with accompanying sensual rhetoric, to mind.

In the ‘art’ context, profanity is funny, entertaining, defying the mainstream, adventurous and absurd, and so on. Doing without it would be normal and non-newsworthy.

Drawing the line is the work of the sort of wisdom displayed by Jesus when interacting with the unholy – the prostitutes and adulterers, for example.

In John 8:4 and 5 (KJV), ‘they say unto him, Master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act. Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou?’

In today’s ‘cock-sucking’ rhetoric parlance, such a movie, for example, would provide comic relief. However, in the real and practical setting, the offending lady would be lucky for such a high-profile hearing by the King.

The jury and the judge would likely be the offended husband’s – fatal or maiming sucker punch. No comic, nothing entertaining or peaceful. 

In a delicate process like peace building, Rhetoric, you could say, is a delicate art requiring Christ’s (sort of) wisdom.


The Place of Talk-Therapy in a Bustling World

Talk therapy

Good stories are rare and when they come by, they are like a fresh breeze on a sunny day along the beach. 

To the layman, Mafia is synonymous with organized crime and evokes the rule of the jungle. However, this perception is likely not to change if you watch the Sopranos.

David Chase’s Sopranos is a good story well told and presents important themes such as cultural identity, family, interpersonal relations, power, and talk therapy.

Chase’s ability to weave talk therapy in a Mafia narrative was ingenious and managed to extricate the story from being perceived as an extension of Mario Puzo’s Godfather.

But what exactly is talk therapy and why would a mafioso need it? That is the point – that no one is ‘strong’ enough to make do without talk (therapy).

It is a fact that human beings are born helpless and dependent. The need to be loved, cared for, and validated – initially from the mother and the immediate family – therefore becomes a primary need and continues throughout a lifetime.

Whereas the layman’s perception is that the Mafioso are to be feared and even eradicated, the Soprano evokes a need to appreciate a culture that has stood the test of time. The fact that the Mafioso are as vulnerable as everyone else is an important insight into the role and power of culture. 

If talk therapy has been important to the ‘ruthless’ Mafioso’s culture, who do you think you are that you can bottle up and still survive?

Talk therapy provides a vent for implosions such as suicides, separation and divorce, loneliness, and other forms of self-harm. It is a continuation of the innate need for love, care, and validation.

Just like a parent’s affirmation is to a child learning to walk, so is a spouse’s affirmation after a day’s toil, or even after a sex round. In other words, talk therapy is for everyone and those that know how to use it can wield much inner power.

The Mafia, for example, is depicted in Soprano as a closed culture with the insiders expected to play by rigid rules that revolve around trust. In return, members benefit from social and economic support.

The closed nature of the Mafioso culture is so sensitive that obtaining talk therapy from an outsider is frowned upon and a weakness sign. So much for the therapy itself, and for the fact that the talking may expose the insiders’ secrets.

The Soprano offers a glimpse at a Mafioso’s embrace of talk therapy and the therapist’s struggle to come to terms with the fact that a client seeks to validate conflicts arising out of a criminal lifestyle.

Are not all human beings struggling with the same? It is easy to avoid confronting the elephant in the room. In other words, it is easy to ignore (or rationalize) the problem in the hope that it will evaporate rather than deal with it.

By the time the therapist decides to terminate the therapy, the criminal is strong enough to put up with the bustles of his life. Consequently, the Soprano provides valuable insight on the role of talk therapy in a bustling world.

PS: This article is not an endorsement of the Sopranos


In the Battlefield: Corona Virus and Crisis Communication

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Outbreaks and pandemics, like Coronavirus, disrupt routine and are characterized by the element of suddenness. From the Black Death, described as terrifying and indiscriminate and devastating, to HIV, pandemics in the world has never ceased to overwhelm. They, if you consider the alleged human-animal interaction in the case of Coronavirus, always attack from blind spots that people tend to have ignored or taken for granted.

The Coronavirus, reported epicenter in China’s Wuhan province, grabbed the early 2020 global headlines and disrupted global political, social and economic networks. China, mentioned as an alternative to the United States hegemony and known for her keen attention to image management, had to deal with the worst crisis since the political Tiananmen Square.

Factors such as politics, economics, and social, have played an important role during the crisis. In China, where the Coronavirus erupted, huge financial and technological investment played a pivotal role in managing the tide. In Africa, regarded for inadequate financial and tech resources, a heavier focus has been on the mobilization of political and social networks.

To be out of the woods, pandemics come with an appetite for relevant data and information. Like in all crisis conditions, diagnosis templates have to be assembled, by Adhoc and multi-sectoral teams, administered and evaluated. The ability to bring together and inspire a multi-faceted pool of expertise emerges. What China did, for example, was to leverage on property and capital outlay together with soft skills such as data gathering and analysis.

Eliminating new cases, being the ultimate objective, requires the strategic scaling up of knowledge provision. When, as often happens, competing political, economic and social interests are not compatible devastation may occur. The major challenge, that places extra demands on information the processing chain, arises when the communication dilemma is inadequately addressed.

Crisis communication demands a systematic approach in an unsystematic setting. No entity, due to the suddenness of crises, can claim expertise. Everyone, in the prevailing circumstances, has an ‘expert’ opinion. The resulting communiqués are characterized by chaos. For crisis communication to be effective, systematization – within time and resource constraints – becomes a priority. Crisis communication sets out to bring order by establishing credibility and defining rules of communication fair play.     

During outbreaks, owing to limited information, communities are vulnerable to panic which may exacerbate the situation. Information packages should, therefore, take cognizance of the potential impact of disseminated information in militating against unnecessary panicking. Crisis communication is skewed towards the provision of knowledge, over and above, information. Knowledge empowers people to make sound decisions to reduce negative exposure. Crisis communication is ongoing and dynamic to reflect the lifecycle of the crisis.