Great orators of our time and those that have come long before us, excelled in word artistry. Not only because they were great wordsmiths and/or surrounded themselves with professionals of prose, but because they could deliver those words using a metaphorically infinite ‘word colour palette’. The colour and tone brought to their words, the style, mimicry, depth, and feeling added to the consonants, vowels, phrases, clauses, and sentences, painted masterpiece upon masterpiece in the annals of our minds that will be forever etched in our long memories.
It is these memories that stay with us. The creativity that such orators emote in the delivery of their material makes them true chameleons of the written word. The same words in the hands of Obama compared to those in tiny hands of his successor can move people to do, think, and feel more than they have ever felt before. Words in the hands of an oratorical sniper can hit their targets, every, single time. These words don’t just hit their target but leave indelible marks on the hearts and minds of those who heeded and listened.
In a previous post, I posed the viewed that oracy is art and great oracy changes culture. I spoke about our insatiable appetite for information in the 24/7 digital age. How we, now, more than ever, need solid reliable information upon which to base our decisions.
For over 10 months now, the leader of the free world and for an even longer time, the leaders of my own country have sought to be oratorical. They have sought to rally the populace behind their words. Unfortunately, almost all, in my view, have failed, and to this end, I do not see any real saviour on the horizon. They have often taken the easy road of words laden with fear and loathing to capture those with similar, quite often at times misguided fear and loathing, within their own thoughts, simply to sate their pursuit of power.
With the stepping down of Obama and in less recent times our own previous Prime Ministers like Hawke and Keating, we have seen a chasmic dearth of leaders who seek to orate but can barely muster no more than mere talk. Some may even say noise, and white noise at best. Trump, in a recent speech on the relief effort in Puerto Rico, (16 seconds in) had to speak without his teleprompt on the current status of efforts and in so doing provided us with a zinger that he so, so often does.
“This is an island, surrounded by water. Big water. Ocean water.”
No doubt his own zealotry and self-idolatry would shelter his ego from harm, for even a seven-year-old primary school student would cringe at the redundancy and inaneness of his attempt at a logical thought process in pursuit of his own brand of Twitteroracy.
Perhaps, Trump could have said:
As the 17th-century English author John Donne so eloquently put it, no man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent. In turn, our brothers and sisters across the ocean on the island of Puerto Rico will be embraced by the world community to ensure that their lives can be returned to normal as soon as humanly possible.
Whilst our own political leaders do fare better than Trump in the speaking game, it is only because their messages are scripted, rehearsed and practiced to the point of verbal muscle memory, that there is simply no room for style or substance. There is no room for creativity. There is no room for Art.
If the preceding is anything to go by, the Art of Oracy is dying and unfortunately, with this slow and painful demise, so too is culture facing a similar fate.