Thursday, May 24, 2007

who gets to make pronouncements

been thinking a bit about the paradoxical nature of good intentioned statements. Making the statement, paradoxically, casts doubt on the proposition (if it wasn't there already).


Ok, some examples, Yooralla's "This is our community", said about disabled people, only really makes sense if there was doubt. I believe that it conjures up its negation (this train of thought is pretty new and fragile, so be kind).

How about some more examples? My circus trainer last year, Francesca, said something that irked me but at the time I couldn't express why. She was promoting a performance by some young people she was working with who were insitutionalised for mental health reasons. She said "They're really lovely" in a way that seemed to me that it implied a preface like "You wouldn't really think it, but ..." In some ways statements like these imply even more, something like "I know that people like you and I don't usually have much experience with these people, and that we tend to think that they are not lovely, but I am a good person who does good things for these poor people and I can authoritatively tell you that people like you and I should think that they are lovely."

Similarly, I recently read Jonathon Welch's comments on members of the Choir of Hard Knocks (which he conducts): "If I had a higher purpose for this [the Choir of Hard Knocks] it would be to change government policy for funding for all these sorts of projects. I hope people will see that these people are not just homeless, they are human beings, and they have value and worth and they have the right to dignity and self respect just like any other human being does." Really? Wow. They are human? You know, I always wondered if they were just really big rats. ... In this example, I just love the juxtaposition between the first people (who are the subject of "will see") and the second people (specifically, these people, the object that is seen) - the first seems to exclude the homeless people, who probably don't actually doubt the fact that they are human. It's like Jonathon is simultaneously (overtly) acknowledging their humanity, while (covertly) denying them inclusion in the category of "people."

This is one of the central patterns I want to explore in my thesis.

I'm wondering at this point if these observations are me bringing extra-linguistic (real-world) knowledge into my interpretation, or if this is inherent in the linguistic encoding. Michael Power, a friend of mine, suggested the latter to me several months ago (before I started my thesis), and recommended I read Searle's Expression and Meaning. I'll get back to you if I become any wiser on this matter.

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