Violent rhetoric is a discursive SLAP

In an article that appeared this past week, a member of the Cynic staff wrote that, “When one group defines its social goals in ways that depict a violent struggle…that group alienates itself from any other group that opposes the sought change.” Besides the logical fallacy of this statement – that it is rhetoric that makes people opposed to certain policy issues (and not money or power) – it is clear that Mr. Soule has missed the point entirely. First, the Student Labor Action Project did not alienate the administration. It was a busy semester this past fall, as some ten members of our group worked diligently to alert the administration of the urgency in putting these policies to practice. I attended a meeting in which a member of the University administration said, to paraphrase, that they would “be glad to engage in a dialogue about it.” Now, at this point, we were encouraged by the fact that the administration seemed willing to consider the policy change, although we were also somewhat skeptical. As the months passed, and absolutely nothing had been done, it was time to abandon talking the talk, and start walking the walk. If University administrators were not going to take action, then we would make them feel they had to. Our violent rhetoric was only the result of severe disillusionment with the administration – we needed an alternative, lest this urgent matter be brushed off the shoulders of an administration that didn’t have to care at all. Second, it simply is a ‘fight.’ It is naive for Mr. Soule to think that he can simply take a position as an outsider and claim that this is not a struggle, or that this is not a deadly situation. This columnist had nothing to say about the STAND group’s rhetoric – the group held a die-in day on April 6th – or SFPGJ’s Killer Coke campaign. Why? Because Mr. Soule knows that the rhetoric of these groups is attempting to depict reality – the brutality of genocide and the corporate violence of the Coca Cola Corporation. So why does SLAP depict its livable wage campaign as a struggle or a fight for a livable wage? The answer is clear – daily, hundreds of people all around us are struggling and fighting to afford housing, to feed their families and to survive. A Sodexho employee at Cook Commons told me once that he works a ten-hour shift there, and then heads to Price Chopper until 6am – I asked him why he worked himself so hard. He responded, “I have to survive.” The point here is that our columnist is caught up in the illusion that there are no local struggles, no local fights No, it is not that our University administration is evil or wrong, but rather, like a corporation, nothing gets done until there is an immanent problem at hand. This University looks to efficiency and financial stability as its goals, not social justice. SLAP simply wants to show the administration that this is an urgent, severely important issue, and that it is a struggle. Perhaps the true fantasy is that we can actually achieve a peaceable solution absent this violent rhetoric. Roland Bleiker writes that we must have active rhetorical resistance to hold any potential for “the creation of…a debate” surrounding an issue. What SLAP has achieved, more than anything else, is the creation of the livable wage debate on our campus, and the set terms for that debate – that people are starving, and that we will continue fighting until something radically changes. Our rhetoric is the first step. It is only our ‘discursive SLAP’ that can ever create the possibility for change on our campus.