“ The object of oratory is not truth but persuasion” ( Macaulay –letters on Athenian Orators )
Hands up all those old timers who once drove a 1950’s Ford Popular Van? You remember, the with one with no power, three gears, no decent brakes and windscreen wipers that only worked when you drove down hill on a sunny day? A heater? No chance, that was an optional extra for the softies living South of Watford Gap. Real men wore extra layers. A bird puller………….? I leave that to your own imagination.
In the summer of 1961 I drove such a van (then all I could afford) out of the gates of Birmingham University onto the busy Bristol Road and straight into the path of an oncoming lorry laden with barrels of ‘Bass Beer’. Only the sheer quick thinking and fast reactions of the lorry driver prevented any injury or thankfully loss of beer. The Bristol Road was blocked however for a full five minutes whilst the driver slowly wound down his window and proceeded to tell me what he thought of me and who he thought my father may have been. He started with words I will never forget “You stupid, dozy, four eyed son of a brothel bred idiot…………………and continued on in the vein” A small crowd began to gather and whilst I was reduced to a lump of humiliated jelly they all started to clap.
My stunnned passenger in the van later told me that the driver did not use one single swear word or indeed use the same expression twice during his five minutes of oratory. It did the trick, the crowd loved it, the driver off-loaded his frustration and I learned that I still had a huge amount to learn and not just about driving.
It has always been my belief that of all the arts (this being an Art-Antiques-Design forum) the art of Oratory is the greatest. The power to persuade, to lift the heart and to bring hope to those in need.Who is not stirred by Henry V’s speech before Agincourt, the sadness of King Lear or the overwelming self torment of Hamlet? Who does not wish they had the razor sharp wit of Oscar Wilde or the modern gravitas of Sheamus Heaney ?It was said that in the dark days of 1940 when France had capitulated and Britain stood alone, Winston Churchill took the English language to war thus rallying all the British peoples to stand firm against Nazi tyranny and domination. Oratory pure and simple.
Without Oratory why else are we today persuaded to vote for so many third rate modern politicians with feet of clay?
On Monday 11th Feb. I will attend the first of many antique auctions of the year. At the City Auction Rooms in Waterford as the clock chimes 11am, Rody Keighery and his lovely wife Anne will mount the rostrum and start to sell eight hundred lots. Mr Keighery is a jovial man. A mixture of circus ring master, orchestra conductor and sergent major, he will dominate the proceedings using charm, theatrical expression, encouragement, jokes and not a little bullying should the need arise. He will sell his 800 lots with good humour and all will greatly enjoy the day. Rody will personally know many in the room, certainly the dealers, who he will often tease as he goes along and sometimes get teased himself in return. Mr Keighery will not however, even under provocation use the slightest hint of bad language, his rhetoric alone will persuade .
THE CORRECT AMBIANCE
All dealers in art & antiques are aware that nobody actually needs to buy anything we offer. We sell luxury goods to the discerning and we all understand that charm, good manners, the right words and correct ambiance will open doors, seal deals and obtain cheques. If then, as I know the followers of this forum to be well educated and intelligent, why do we allow obscenity and crudeness to creep into our lives ? We now see it everywhere, on every form of media you can mention. Why ? Do we really want our children and grandchildren growing up believing that this is the norm, that racism and the constant use of the F word and the N word etc. are to be tolerated because of some half-baked notion that to object impinges someone else's right to use them in our presence. I have been told, in this forum, that this usage is valid to make a point of discussion. That to object to it is to advocate censorship. That it's OK because “ you hear it on TV and on football terraces”. In heavens name what sort of twisted logic is this – every night we see on our TV screens images of people being killed and injured but few of us think that makes it OK for us to go out and do it ourselves (tempted as we might be!). So why do we allow obscenity into our lives and into the arts ? What has happened to our vocabulary ? Where has common sense gone ? Where has self respect gone ? Where has Oratory gone ?
In 1954 Pauline R'eage published a novel in two parts: “Histoire d 'O.” In much the same vein as ' Fifty Shades of Grey' . Graham Green reviewed it as : “ A rare thing, a pornographic book well written and without any trace of obscenity”. Some proof if proof were ever needed, that bad language is not esssential and, certainly not in intelligent debate within the Art, Antiques and Design community. All true art is sensual and stirs the emotions, so why do any wish to debase it ?
It's not censorship I seek. Far from it. Only quality debate without resorting to base crudeness.
One last quotation pertinent to my augument. Near the end of his life, when Oscar Wilde was living in Paris, penniless ,in disgrace, and close to begging, someone regognised him and told him that he now was in the gutter. His oft-quoted reply : “We are all in the gutter but some of us are looking up at the stars.”
With Oscar's words I rest my case......