RHETORIC: THE ANCIENT POLITICAL ALTERNATIVE TO TRUTH AND LOGIC
Oh how great our politicians have become at speaking to us and not saying a thing. Political debates, speeches and even answers to direct questions leave us Americans with more questions than answers. Just where this talent came from and how those in power came to perfect it is the question we all need to ask. The answer lies in the ancient art of rhetoric.
Rhetoric is used when truth and logic are on the side of your opposition. It's the art of using language in such a way as to produce a desired impression upon the emotions of the hearer when truth has little or nothing to do with it. History teaches us that the founder of Rhetoric as an art was Corax of Syracuse in 466 B.C. when a democracy was founded there. Later, Isocrates is said to have defined Rhetoric, "as the science of persuasion", but a detailed study of this art we owe to Aristotle who composed Rhetoric between 330 and 322 B.C. Then, just as today, rhetoric was most often used in courts of law and in politics where it was used to excite prejudice, pity, anger, and other such like emotions to the souls of the masses. The Encyclopedia Britannica 11th edition tells us, "[S]peakers incapable of showing even the ghost of an argument have sometimes been the most successful in carrying great audiences along with them." When Aristotle was asked how Rhetoric was useful, he replied, "first of all, because truth and justice are naturally stronger than their opposites."
During the first four centuries of the Roman Empire, the practice of the art of rhetoric was in vogue. The fashion of flowery public declamation and stretched imaginations prevailed in the rhetorical schools of Asia. Vespasian (70-70 A.D.) was the first emperor to give public endowment to its teaching. Under Hadrian and the Antonines (117-180 A.D.) the public chairs of rhetoric became objects of the highest ambition. In Athens the teacher of rhetoric, called the sophist was invested with the jurisdiction of the youth of Athens and rewarded with exemption from taxation and much splendor. In the medieval system of academic studies, rhetoric was a large part of a four year undergraduate study. After the middle ages and the revival of learning, the better Roman and Greek writers gradually returned to use and by the middle of the 1500's, the general aim was to revive and re-popularize the best teachings of the ancients on rhetoric. The subject was indeed very important and regularly taught in universities.
Much to the chagrin of the elite, this art lost its hold as a formal study during the 18th century. This was a time of great awakening when the truth and reasoning of all men are created equal and all are subject to the same judgment effectively denied the claim of the divine right of kings and introduced civil liberty and equality into the hearts of men. People quickly became willing to leave all they had known and sail across the Atlantic Ocean for a new land in search of equality and freedom and before long; they were willing to die to keep it. However, as history shows, there have always been those who oppose truth and logic and seek to rule unjustly and today we can see plainly that the art of rhetoric is alive and well.
While the common children of America are dumbed down and told to view themselves as animals, the children of the elite are earnestly schooled in this most deceptive art. The youth of America are being reduced to immoral animals; dressing, speaking and acting like savages in a country that was borne by the blood of countless thousands who gave their lives so they could have theirs in freedom and liberty. Today, the children of the elite attend the best colleges where, just as Quintillian taught in 90 A.D., oratory is the end to which the entire mental and moral development of the student is directed. The cost to attend college is rising every year, deceptive personality tests are helping to deny Americans jobs, and soon, only the elite will be able to afford college while the rest can barely read.
These children of both sides will be the ones to lead America in the near future. It scares me to see the class system in the faces of our youth in a country founded on equality and it saddens me to think of those American soldiers who drew their last breaths on a battlefield happy in the knowing they did it so their posterity could be free.
"Posterity, you will never know how much it cost the present generation to preserve your freedom. I hope you will make good use of it. If you do not, I shall repent in heaven that ever I took half the pains to preserve it." -- John Adams
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Heidi Cappadona lives with her family in Cape Cod, Massachusetts.
While the common children of America are dumbed down and told to view themselves as animals, the children of the elite are earnestly schooled in this most deceptive art.