Sunday, September 20, 2009


How is it our own personal earthquake zones are so apparent to folks who thunder on and around us? And how is it that after more than 6 decades on this planet I am still so surprised by my own vulnerability? Years ago my daughter told me in the absolutist way that adolescents do that there were several things I was no longer allowed to be surprised about--I don't know if being hurt by the comments of other people was on the list.

I had no doubt that I was talked about and assessed and no doubt found lacking in many respects for the first few months of my bumbling along as a stranger in a strange land. I resolved that if I did not actually hear it--as I was not likely to--I would not have to react to it. And so I kept myself cocooned and made friends and got invovled and began to feel as if I just might belong here.

The price of that hard won confidence was to hear some of the ugly things said about me. I was devastated by the comments, by my naivete, and mostly by the power of half baked rumours to persist. I have written previously about the rumour mill in Caithness ("The Virtue of Doubt"), but yesterday as I reeled from the pain of being vicitmized by it, I tried to analyze it.

It occurred to me that personal attacks--delivered anonymously, of course--have many of the hallmarks of urban legends--those bizarre stories that persist despite frequent challenges to their logic or street hustles.

When I was tasked with teaching the rhetoric of persuasive writing to reluctant students, I told them that the best examples of identifying the reader's needs could be found in street hustlers. There are several articles and boks on that--both learned and more street savvy studies, but the point I want to make here is that all cons have a great talent for identifying a person's vulnerabilities--"what will make this person buy snake oil?"

And rumour mongers also have that knack. What will catch someone's attention and make them, like the seeds of sticky willie, carry it on to fertile territory?

And why are we all --despite being the victim in this instance I include myself in this rubric--so willing to carry those seeds?

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At 11:40 AM, Blogger John D. Stanton said...

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