Thursday, December 27, 2007

Eloquoence always prevails...

It's a sad day when violence tries to prevail as it did today with the assassination of Benazir Bhutto today in Pakistan. I'm going to sidestep the issue of her politics and whether she was a good or bad leader, for that is left for history to debate. And frankly I am not qualified to speak on such matters for I am not a foreign policy expert and I have too many friends with much better formed opinions and stakes in the game than I do.

Instead I'll relate to something more personal, and that's the power of words and speech. Long time readers of this blog and my other writings can attest I hold high regard for the rhythms and reach of the word. Be it spoken or written, words have power and that's why eloquent speakers have always been targets. So it's sad when someone so masterful with words is taken down so violently.

Words have power, and they force discussion. This blog has never been a platform for edicts, but it's target has always been reflection for our problems are rarely so simplistic. When a side fails to be able to articulate its position in words, it relates to force as the fall back. Words also have the force of being independent of the speaker, giving them power beyond the material. Thomas Pynchon once wrote in words of support to Salman Rushdie after the fatwa was issued that "a death sentence is a rather harsh book review."

Now I normally would not write about non-environmental news events, but as a collegiate debater in the late 80s, we were familiar with Bhutto's distinct style and recognized a master practitioner. She was elected President of the famous Oxford Union debating club, and indication of the respect of her peers for her talents.

It is one thing to see someone speak from tape, it is another thing to see it in person as I did when I had the opportunity to meet Bhutto in person. This happened when I was covering her visit for a school magazine. She was charismatic, and she had the ability to think on her feet. (As an aside, I have to say the other people who I've seen speak in person in a live venue with similar gravitas are Steve Jobs and in a completely different style the Dali Lama -- the ability to see someone command a crowd with words is amazing).

The point of the post is not the words, but the power of words to move one to action, good and bad. Eloquence in words, eloquence in action, eloquence in living, our challenge lies in creating a better world, when the alternative is so much easier. Destruction and consumption are always cheaper alternatives to creation, but that only makes creation that much more valuable. The point of debate is not winning but understanding, consider our actions with reflection and the actions will have meaning, do it blindly and automatically and only waste is left behind.


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