Friday, September 08, 2006

More On Words:
Pretty well everybody misuses language as rhetoric. Here's a recent local example.
Over the past few months there have been several clashes between the local Critical Mass cyclists and the Winnipeg City Police. The CMs have been vilified by local politicians and the media as "possibly" blocking emergency service vehicles. Several CMers have been roughed up during arrests. It has become a rather hot issue in the letter pages of the local papers.
Predictably other more "law abiding" cycle enthusiasts have organized a rally as an alternative to Critical Mass. The ride was held two days ago and attracted about 600 people- NOT a tremendously higher number than the most popular CM rides have attracted. This fact should be noted. All the usual left wing suspects who "seemed" to be giving support to Critical Mass were prominent at this rally, including the trendy lefty mayoralty candidate whom the organizers saw important enough to choose to address the crowd.
All this is fine and dandy and basically politics as usual. What is interesting is the rhetorical description that the organizers of this rally chose to use in describing its difference from the Critical Mass rides that don't ask for permits. The term chosen was "Ghandi-like". That whirling sound in the background is the Mahatma spinning like a drill in his grave (yeah, I know he was cremated). What Ghandi did in his actions was very often NOT "direct action" (though sometimes it was) but rather symbolic action as a different form of "petition". Yet,yet,yet, yet to imagine that Ghandi saw his actions as characterized by scrupulous conformation to the written law is to pretty well lie about almost everything he did.
The rhetoric here is obvious. Critical Mass IS a non-violent form of action. The participants may not be as clear and disciplined as Ghandi and his disciples, but their chosen form of action is much closer to the actions of the Mahatma than the alternative rally was. The rhetoric is deliberately chosen. Ghandi is considered as an "almighty good thing", and it is great to cover your actions with his mantle- even if you have to lie outrageously to do it.

1 comment:

Larry Gambone said...

Finally, I am back in cyberland again. My trip to Mtl was fine, though. Great blog Pat! I will link it to my own. As for the topic at hand, for the moderates to claim the legacy of Gandhi, is part of the process of moving the goal posts, something our rulers do all the time.