Eloquence, rhetoric ... Where are you?

In the heat generated by the US presidential elections during the debates between the incumbent President and Democratic presidential candidate Barrak Obama and the Republican challenger Mitt Romney, the opinion polls kept wobbling until Obama emerged victorious. Even though Mitt Romney took the lead at the beginning of the vote count since he had been fervently campaigning through the primaries, while on the other hand Obama was occupied with his presidential duties. The last debate Obama had was in 2008 — during his first election year.

Going back to the election campaign atmosphere and the language of speech which was characterized by eloquence and rhetoric; a book was recently published in the US under the title ‘Words Like (Loaded) Pistols: Rhetoric from Aristotle to Obama which was written by an university lecturer Sam Leith. The important part of this book is ‘Words Like (Loaded) Pistols which appear on its cover — a man pointing a gun at the reader. This is an indication of the importance of eloquence in words. According to the analysis of the book published in Al-Sharq Al-Awsat newspaper in London and Saudi Arabia the author differentiated between the two words: ‘Rhetoric’ — the art or study of using language effectively and persuasively, and ‘Eloquence’ — the quality of persuasive, powerful expression.

Definitely, rhetoric supports eloquence and persuasion and it is possible to be persuasive without being rhetoric or even a small part of it. It is also possible to be persuasive emotionally without being logical, either due to fear or encouragement; love or hate or vengeance or pardon. It is possible for it to be any type of logical and emotional words, although, it tends to persuade logically. Of course, the book portrays important historic Western rhetoricians and men of eloquence from Aristotle to Obama. It does not present orators and rhetoricians from other nations. If it had done so we would have countered it with the most eloquent and rhetoric individuals — from pre-Islamic epoch through to the eras that followed — individuals such as Ali ibn Abi Taleb (May Allah be pleased with Him) in his poems, speeches and advices.

Back to our degenerated political reality, Allah the Almighty did not give us any rhetoricians and orators. Instead, we have among us people whose speeches are venomous and outrageous — speeches with loads of poor choice of words — something which we witnessed during the current crisis. The rebellious opposition figures used words like ‘We will not allow you’ to change the Constitution, and ‘We will throw you in the dunghill of history’ — words targeting those contesting the December 2012 elections. ‘Our grand politicians’ neither possess the art of eloquence nor rhetoric. If we are kind to them we can say Allah has blessed them with dysphemism and worst resort — we praise and thank Allah, because, there is no one who is thanked for misfortune except Him.

By: Ali Ahmed Al-Baghli

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