Because it is completely impossible to speak in any critical sense about most of our politicians without being assumed to have anti whateverthehelltheirpartyis sentiments I want to make it abundantly clear that I (Nala (The $2 Philosopher) have absolutely NO partisan leanings. I stand ramrod straight, leaning neither left nor right, trying my best not to touch either side. I view all politicians and political parties with equal ambivalence and (sadly) suspicion.
… and now on with our story…
I've been following the public speaking misadventures of Minister of Education Ronald Jones, because, quite frankly, I find him hilarious, so when I started reading a news item about his stern warnings to delinquent teachers I was reading primarily for the potential entertainment value. To my surprise (and horror…a little bit) I found myself, essentially, agreeing with him; there is a problem with some (a small number) teachers not performing their duties and using the fact of their appointment as protection from adverse repercussions. However, despite my agreement I found something about his tone questionable. You see most teachers (a large number) are dedicated, committed people who work hard for (if you consider the workload and the importance of what they do) ridiculously small amounts of money and yet Ronald Jones seemed to be chastising all teachers. I couldn't help thinking that it could not possibly be his intention to alienate every single (potentially voting) teacher on the island. It began to dawn on me that maybe the minister is not as hostile and confrontational as he often appears, that maybe the problem is in the way he expresses himself.
Later that same day, I read another news item about Ronald Jones in which he was advising teachers about handling certain real challenges that perhaps people don’t think about. Again I found myself in essential agreement with his position (twice in one day how depressing). Teachers rear human beings and are faced with a barrage of weird challenges that come with the responsibility of overseeing the development of young minds. However, (with Mr Jones there is always an inherent “however”) when he went on to ask female teachers how they would handle the sexual advances of adolescent boys, who perceived themselves to be men and had “parts longer than your hand”, I nearly peed myself laughing. Even when this man is making sense he talks foolishness.
Then all of a sudden I saw a career opportunity. It is reasonable to assume that Mr Jones knows that educating and essentially raising the nations’ youth is a daunting task, it is also only fair to assume that he sees the handling of youths’ emerging sexuality as a serious and delicate matter and it is therefore logical to conclude that he (Mr Jones) was serious and intended to be taken seriously when he spoke. It is also glaringly obvious that Mr Jones does not fully understand the power of context and delivery in affecting how a message is perceived and received. In short it appears that Mr Jones needs some public speaking training and help with speech writing so his message will not be lost (on those occasions when he actually has something intelligent to say). I would like to publicly tender my application for this position.
I have put together a training package called Cracking Heads with Words (basic concepts in public speaking) which has been specifically tailored to, what I believe to be, Mr Jones’ needs. The first module, The Awesome Power of Context I offer for free.
The Awesome Power of Context.
If one wanted, for example, to demonstrate to an audience how insulting and demeaning the phrase “God belittled you!” was, one would have to carefully consider the context in which one placed the phrase so as to get the full desired impact. Let us place this phrase in a few different contexts and see how that impacts on how the statement may be received.
Two young boys are having a playful quarrel about their favourite comic book superhero. The boys (as boys often do) identify so fully with the heroes that any attack on the hero is an attack on them.
Boy 1: Blabbermouth man is the greatest superhero ever!
Boy 2: All he does do is talk bare shite!!
Boy 1: Don’t belittle me… ting.
Boy 2: Ha Ha Ha God belittled you! (They both laugh and continue their child-like conversation)
Given the context ones’ audience will probably appreciate that the phrase is a mildly amusing insult but is unlikely to see any real seriousness in the statement.
Two men are arguing about politics and complaining (as men often do) about the state of affairs of the nation.
Man 1: All I’m saying is that them does get in public and insult the people by talking bare shite!
Man 2: You can’t talk yah idiot it’s you that vote them in, so you’se the fool!
Man 1: My man stop belittling me yuh!
Man 2: Belittling you… me??! Man boss-man God belittled you! (The men continue quarreling angrily but no fight results)
Your audience is now more likely to take the phrase seriously but the focus will (probably) be less on the phrase itself and more on why two grown men are quarreling like school boys discussing comics.
A man and a woman are discussing women’s rights and sexual equality. They are (as men and women often don’t) not really listening to each other.
Man: Stop with that shit nuh! You know the fall of man started when they made shoes for women??!
Woman: What!!!?? Stop trying to belittle me!
Man: (Stupse) you’re a woman… God belittled you! (The woman subsequently leaves the man and he is heard complaining that he used to “treat her good”)
It is at this point that one should stop. The underlying misogyny of this context and current sensitivities make it apparent just how demeaning the phrase is and what a reductive insult it is. We shall go further for the sake of the teaching point.
A man and a woman (lovers) quarrelling after or before sex. The partners (as often happens) are bringing other problems into the bedroom.
Woman: It’s not my fault that you don’t know how to f@&k!
Man: How you mean I can’t f@&k! Woman stop trying to belittle me!
Woman: (staring pointedly at his… “parts”) Heh God belittled you! (This couple ends up in the newspaper as a murder/suicide).
Now we have gone too far and because it is socially acceptable to make fun of male sex and sexuality one’s audience though aware of the insult in the phrase is apt to respond with laughter weakening one’s point.
If we were to add a fifth context in which context 4 becomes more specifically about me and my woman the audience will miss the point entirely, distracted by musings and contemplations about my “parts”.
Mr Jones when speaking about a matter as serious as teachers having to negotiate the burgeoning sexuality of adolescents, comparisons of school boys “parts” to the hands of their female teachers is distracting and inappropriate, not to mention downright creepy.
Here endeth today’s lesson.
Nala (The $2 Philosopher)