Burke would say that the persuasion speech on eating disorders (which I gave as an example for Aristotle’s Art of Rhetoric) was an attempt for me to purge my guilt, and that I gave that speech because I felt guilty about my past actions in being involved in an eating disorder and for having a sister who was also involved in one. Since I concentrated on the media and its obsession with beauty and thinness, Burke would say I was concentrating on the scene or situation and was therefore one who believed I was a victim of outside forces. He would say I blamed society for the flaws in my behavior. He would probably label the word “obsession” as my devil term and the word “refocus” or the word “inner beauty” as my god-term. He would say that I felt guilty for not having done better, and that I needed to give this speech in order to relieve myself or at least to express my negative emotions. He would say I chose the second choice of victimization rather than self-blame.
I received a phone call yesterday from a Southwest bookseller—not to buy a book, but to work for them. Suddenly, I was pulled into a drama of cat and mouse. He (the cat) kept dropping cheese (identification) to me (the mouse). For instance, students gave him my name, he used to be a student, I'm interested in ministry—oh Billy Graham did something like this, he knows about finding a summer job, etc. Anything I said, he could identify with. I should feel guilty for not making use of my persuasion/communication skills. This job would purge me of that guilt. His purpose was clear—to recruit. He identified well with me, but I'm cynical when I know his purpose is to persuade me to do what he wants.
I'm a big fan of Bruce Springsteen (and what red-blooded American male isn't) and a lot of his songs are like that. They draw you in until you care for the guy in the song and stop just being a listener. A lot of this, in my opinion, has to do with the identification that Springsteen has with his audience. Burke said that the effective communicator can show consubstantiality by giving signs that his properties are the same as the listeners. Bruce looks, acts, talks, and dresses like a normal guy from New Jersey. I can relate to him because he could be my brother, cousin, or uncle. Burke says, "Without identification, there is no persuasion." Well, I identify with Springsteen and I believe in what he is saying and doing.
This theory brings me back to the cafeteria in sixth grade. I was sitting around my lunch table with Rachel and Jillian and Karisa. Amy wasn't there yet. All the girls started making fun of Amy. "She's such a nerd! Look at how she studies all the time!"
"Yeah, and I hate the way she clears her throat in class."
"And then she waves her hand when she wants to answer a question!"
"She practically yells, ‘Pick me! Pick me!' Then she'll jump out of her chair and start waving again!"
The insults kept rolling about poor Amy. I don't think any of us girls disliked Amy terribly, but we could unite against her. We made Amy the victim of our guilt and fear and self-doubt. In doing so, we created a tight-knit group that could identify with at least one thing: none of us liked Amy.
A few of the guys on my floor needed to, or just wanted to, identity with me somehow. I would get approached hearing a phrase such as, "Yo, wazup, dog?" or "How you be livin!" I was offended and taken back. I did not expect it. What a way to try to identify with me. How about, "Hello, what's your name?" We all have names. They thought that was my language. They wanted to convince me that they know me and all of those that are like me.