The New Definition of Rhetoric

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My mind is preoccupied with the misery of the USA Presidential Election which close to half of its population did not bother to vote, leaving the minority of Republicans to snatch away the election from an opportunity to give victory for the first time to a woman. As neither candidate had any great popularity with the public, breaking the “glass ceiling” would have been at least been a great moment in history.
Instead the art of rhetoric became the real winner of the election.
9780195392883The Oxford Dictionary’s first definition of the word is:
The art of effective or persuasive speaking or writing, especially the exploitation of figures of speech and other compositional techniques
Then came the 1.1 “Language designed to have a persuasive or impressive effect, but which is often regarded as lacking in sincerity or meaningful content
I would like to offer my version, a 1.2 if you will;
“The art of bold faced lying to anyone who will listen without shame or moral conscious.”
At 91, I seem to remember that lying was one of the most heinous acts anyone could commit. Honesty was part of who you were as a person and in my case, driven onto me from childhood onward.
We always knew that politicians would speak in “half truths” or be “misinformed at the time” or even “to the best of my recollection…” but now the veiled attempt at being honest has completely gone out the window. Society has not only given it’s blessing, but welcomed the ‘rhetoric/lie’ with open arms. We have shared it across the internet, embellished it, rationalized it, justified it, become violent defending it, but won’t call it what it is, lies.

RHETORIC Concept Word Tag Cloud Design

To make the rhetoric/lie even more palatable we have created the “Fact-Check” where anyone can go and check the validity of any statement. The problem with this is, the gullible already believe the lie and won’t bother checking and for those that do look find the Fact-check to be littered with the words true, false or “partially factual” and “Acceptable if you consider…” which just comes down to rationalizing the rhetoric/lie.

So now you have Donald Trump, a business man, billionaire, who masterfully, without shame, used the art of rhetoric to win the U.S. presidential election. Is no one offended? I do not speak of whether you are a Democrat or Republican, man or woman, race or religion, but to you as a human being, do you not remember what it felt like being lied to?

Accepting rhetoric without moral outrage has opened the doors to a decline of ourselves as a society. Remember the phrase, “The end justifies the means”? That is precisely what we have done. We have made the lie an acceptable part of our culture because we became obsessed with our own agenda. We forgot to look out for each other. We accepted disrespect toward women. We blamed an entire religion and a culture because the rhetoric said so.
The damage is done and I wonder how long it will take to recover. For the moment those immortal words on the American Constitution are more a source of embarrassed uneasiness rather than that of an inspiration, “We the people…

In Need of Reformation

 

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Wake-up calls and drastic measures are sorely needed to move humanity towards the realization that something has to change. Consider the recent events in Paris, the unchecked assassination of an entire newspaper staff and the murder of Jews in a kosher supermarket by three men under the influence of outdated religious laws who had been outraged by the blasphemous publications mocking their revered prophet, Muhammad. These are the heroic acts they paid for with their lives. These are the signals of guerilla warfare in the making which will put fear in the hearts of millions of people who have nothing to do with that kind of religious justification. These types of actions demand renewed efforts of intelligent defense, as well as aggressive new military strategies, but counter-maneuvers will not change the animosity of barbaric cultures.

The President of the United States has simply stated that current policies with Cuba are not working. The 50-year cold war has only produced hardship and suffering for families with members split between the two countries, unable to communicate with each other. The new policy isn’t just replacing the old one, and no matter what the righteous argument may be, such as claiming the rewarding of dictators in Cuba, it takes a significate step towards a new Reformation. There are two vital elements present: a) diplomatic talks instead of armed threats; and b) the leading negotiator is a woman, Roberta Jacobson, Assistant Secretary of State, the top U.S. diplomat for Latin America.

The displacement of Iraqi dictator, Saddam Hussain, in 2006, did nothing to solve the Middle East conflict, billions of U.S. dollars having been wasted. The Middle East’s Jihadist terrorist hostilities against Europe and the Americas is on the rise and steadily scoring victories of propaganda. Watching the news on CNN, I was not impressed with the photo-shoot of European leaders in a marching column of solidarity, but with the passionate pleading of Muslim women that these assassins are not what their religion is all about.

Weapons will not change human attitudes; religious tribalism needs to be reformed. Take the Catholic Church, once a political powerhouse within Christianity which was reformed by a war which extended from 1517 until 1648, over 130 years.

Islam has one particular problem. Their infallible Prophet Muhammad had two periods in his life, one saintly and the other devilish, the latter in which he was afflicted with the sickness of epilepsy. If Muslim communities in Europe and America accept their Quran as written in the first period, and discard the belligerent and antisocial later addition, Islam could be reformed by a peaceful movement to the benefit of humanity as a whole.

That, of course, would require a spiritual and political intervention, an intervention by women, with words and love, where men have failed.

Revelation and yet Another Ending

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I was finally hit with the message that there is a spiritual plan for me to get trained and equipped with the proper attitude, philosophy and knowledge required for a man to work in aid of the advancement of humanity. I have been assigned a mission, not just to fight for gender equality, but to mobilize womanhood to be able to accomplish the task of filling a missing link in the progress towards universal peace, which is now in great danger, being sabotaged by terrorism and fanaticism.
History teaches us to look at current events in the context of evolution. Every person’s lifetime, be it short or long, wasted or glorified, has its own special meaning in the evolution of the universe. Each beginning is created by God, destined towards a blissful end.
Late in life, I realized that the glorious intention of the formation of the United Nations in 1945 has failed to encourage all corners of the world to swear off war as an impossible solution to universal peace. In the 1990s, I returned to university and studied the wisdom of the Natural Law advocates – Grotius (1583-1645), Hobbes (1588-1679) and particularly Pufendorf (1632-1694) who attempted to define a universal religion on which I wrote my Ph.D. thesis. I had retired to a country home, did a lot of gardening, wrote a few essays, but was mainly content to live peacefully without pursuing my dream to write a cultural philosophy of humanity, an extension of Albert Schweitzer’s 1952 Nobel Peace Prize-winning work, “Reverence for Life.”
When I was devastated by the death of my angelic wife, Geraldine, after 64 years of blissful marriage, on March 16, 2013, I did not wish to live a useless existence on my own. However, when assuring her that I would soon follow her, she had reprimanded me that I had not yet fulfilled my life’s mission on earth and promised that I would meet another woman to help me towards that end.
Two months later, I met a volunteer geriatric care-giver, a lady who was also a deeply wounded person and who offered me the hope of a new life with love and purpose. There followed for me, an incredible ten-month experience with a modern woman. She taught me about the continuing global suffering of women in their discrimination, being treated as second-class citizens. And she burst the bubble that I had been living in with my angelic wife. I had just seen the first shimmering of my enlightenment, a glimpse of the mission before me when she died in my arms, her heart having been wounded beyond repair, on March 11, 2014.

But In The End, She Died

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My beloved wife and I

 

I had given up on my spiritual goal and philosophical ideas. I was content just to have an executive position in Manufacturing. But one day, I had an opportunity to attend a seminar on the works of Sigmund Freud at a university nearby. I was re-energized and, with the encouragement of a professor friend at the university, was inspired to enroll in a Humanities Ph.D. program, for which I would receive credits from my degree from the University of Vienna. My senior advisor and thesis supervisor steered me towards a study of the Natural Law and Religion of Samuel Pufendorf (1632-1694). My professor was interested in having me study and comment on a recent volume produced by Horst Denzer, a scholar at the University in Munich, whose published thesis on Samuel Pufendorf’s moral philosophy and the birth of Natural Law was only available in German. It was a major undertaking. The thesis, double-spaced but with single-spaced footnotes, consisted of 452 pages; I was told that it should not have exceeded 300. I completed my studies and writing while I still held a full-time job. I graduated in 1991 at the age of 66.

However, this second Ph.D. did not advance my spiritual and creative goal. It was not until my darling wife fell seriously ill in 2012 that events began to lead me towards that end. She was diagnosed with intestinal cancer and underwent a successful operation, but with the doctor’s recommendation to be absolutely sure, she submitted to a course of chemotherapy. The first month’s treatment was far too strong, for sensitive Geraldine had never taken any drugs before. The doctor claimed that her reaction to the treatment was ten times stronger than he had witnessed in any other patient. Subsequent treatments were drastically reduced to a milder dosage. But then, her doctor left for an extended vacation and left Geraldine’s treatment to be performed without his supervision. Before the third month, Geraldine told to me that a particular nurse was going to kill her. She must have given Geraldine the original dosage again. Geraldine had to be hospitalized and when the doctor returned, he was sorry that he had been unavailable to intervene on her behalf, but gave us the good news that the cancer had been eliminated from her system. Well, I can only say today that, although the chemotherapy may have killed all the cancer cells, it also destroyed her immune system. Within six months her lungs were invaded and, subsequently, her brain. She died at home on March 16, 2013.

It was the end of her life and, I felt at the time, the end of mine.

Despite Everything

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Family photo archives

I was born in Vienna, Austria, in 1925, to non-practicing Lutheran parents living in a predominantly Catholic population and I was sent to a convenient Catholic grade school. Even though I was part of a secular family, we had several servants who were all devout Catholics and taught me to love Jesus and pray to him. For high school I was placed in a boarding school run by Hitler’s SA organization near Munich in Germany. There I became indoctrinated in Nazi ideology and I left all my previous beliefs behind. However, in my search for the purpose of one’s existence and surrounded by so many different beliefs, I held one principle dear to me: “I will always honour and respect whatever is sacred to other people.”

During World War II, I was trained as a fighter pilot, but the war ended before I was ever assigned to a combat mission. I did not know what to do after the war. Then, I read Albert Schweitzer’s The Decay and the Restoration of Civilization, the first part of The Philosophy of Civilization. As explained in his short preface, he had started to write his first draft in the year 1900, reworked it in the years 1914 to 1917 in the jungles of Gabon in Africa, then finally had it published by the C.H. Beck publishing house in Munich, Germany in 1923. The original was published in German with the title: Verfall und Wiederaufbau der Kultur. It was a small booklet of only 65 pages, but to me, it was a gift from heaven. It became my inspiration to finish high school in a course for veterans, to go to university in Vienna, and to graduate with a Ph.D. in Art History and Journalism in 1949.

Disillusionment in religious beliefs, and the senseless loss of human lives in two World Wars during the bloodiest century of humanity, had ingrained in me a desire to develop a philosophy of the purpose of human existence. My ultimate goal was to develop my own philosophy of a universal civilization with a common universal religion, to find the foundation for universal peace. However, at the time, there was a pressing need to earn a living. I was married and our first son was born in 1950. Three years later, in 1953, I immigrated to Canada, where I had to work to feed a growing family. Life carried on and unfortunately, my spiritual goal was indefinitely postponed.