“Those who knew him, whether friendly to him or not, always anticipated that he would play a conspicuous part in public life. It is seldom that men produce so great an immediate effect by speech, unless they, in some degree, lay themselves out for it; and he did this in no ordinary degree. He loved to strike, and even to startle. He knew that decision is the greatest element of effect, and he uttered his opinions with all the decision he could throw into them, never so well pleased as when he astonished anyone by their audacity. He presented the doctrines in the most startling form of which they were susceptible, exaggerating everything in them which tended to consequences offensive to anyone’s preconceived feelings. All which, he defended with such verve and vivacity, and carried off by a manner so agreeable as well as forcible, that he always either came off victor, or divided the honours of the field. It is my belief that much of the notion popularly entertained of the tenets and sentiments of what are called Benthamites or Utilitarians had its origin in paradoxes thrown out by Charles Austin.”
John Stuart Mill
We’re taught at an early age to say nice things of others. Eventually however the more scandalous business of gossip and criticism takes over. And this not only of one’s family, friends and associates. The primary denunciation is of politicians – especially as they are notoriously immune to insult. Whole institutions devote their livelihood to running down politicians! Such fun! The inutility is as manifest as the complaint itself. Of greater note is that in our predation of others we threaten to overlook their accomplishment. Take Trump – just as an example – he’s not someone of whom I regularly speak glowingly. What I am having to admit however is that as much as I disapprove of his use of language, my Pygmalion ancestry is not about to change the value of what exists.
From the outset of his candidacy Trump’s language has been one of his primary attractions for those who have been persuaded by him. Though it is hardly a compliment to say so, his supporters tout that he speaks their language! Which I fully accept is true! He also has what I, as a moderate musician, recognize – rhythm and poetic cadence. Deliberately or intuitively (either way doesn’t matter) he is repetitive for rhetorical effect. His entertainment dramatics enable him to side-step the substantive – the silliness, the racism or the inaccuracy – which will constitute equally repetitive criticism on Cable News (which I am beginning to think no one but Canadians watch).
I suddenly realize I may have made a hopeless error! I hope you don’t think I approve of Trump just because he speaks gibberish in a way “everyone” can understand! That doesn’t mean I like the guy! But here’s the point…