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On Speaking With Authority – Taylor Mali


So many things spoken today end with the high pitched sound of a question instead of a statement.  That crippling infliction has been introduced into our culture to further dumb us down and strip us of any sense of conviction.

It needs to be recognized and the tide shifted back to assertive speech — instead of this wishy washy brain dead shallow celebrity speak.

It is not cool. It’s crippling.

Taylor Mali addresses this dumbed-down speech and spirit impediment and spineless lack of conviction. A passionate teacher, he deftly challenges the student viewer to wake up and speak with authority and help others do the same.

And as is so often the case, humor is a great way to do it.  – Zen

(Poem text is below video graphic.)

Do You Know What You’re Talking About? Speak With Conviction! by Taylor Mali

In case you hadn’t noticed,
it has somehow become uncool
to sound like you know what you’re talking about?
Or believe strongly in what you’re saying?
Invisible question marks and parenthetical (you know?)’s
have been attaching themselves to the ends of our sentences?
Even when those sentences aren’t, like, questions? You know?

Declarative sentences – so-called
because they used to, like, DECLARE things to be true
as opposed to other things which were, like, not –
have been infected by a totally hip
and tragically cool interrogative tone? You know?
Like, don’t think I’m uncool just because I’ve noticed this;
this is just like the word on the street, you know?
It’s like what I’ve heard?
I have nothing personally invested in my own opinions, okay?
I’m just inviting you to join me in my uncertainty?

What has happened to our conviction?
Where are the limbs out on which we once walked?
Have they been, like, chopped down
with the rest of the rain forest?
Or do we have, like, nothing to say?
Has society become so, like, totally . . .
I mean absolutely . . . You know?
That we’ve just gotten to the point where it’s just, like . . .

And so actually our disarticulation . . . ness
is just a clever sort of . . . thing
to disguise the fact that we’ve become
the most aggressively inarticulate generation
to come along since . . .
you know, a long, long time ago!

I entreat you, I implore you, I exhort you,
I challenge you: To speak with conviction.
To say what you believe in a manner that bespeaks
the determination with which you believe it.
Because contrary to the wisdom of the bumper sticker,
it is not enough these days to simply QUESTION AUTHORITY.
You have to speak with it, too.



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  1. Thank you Zen for posting this and Thank you Taylor for articulating your concept so clearly and amusingly.

    I taught English to Asian students for many years. Their language does not use tones in the way romance languages do. Using a different tone from the standard one means that you have said a different word and one with a different meaning or often no meaning at all. The result is confusion and a lack of confidence in your ability to speak or perhaps, in the listener’s ability to understand.

    Getting the young Asian learners to use tones to express questions is hard.
    Getting them to realize that tones can show emotions and nuances of feeling is REALLY hard.

    I thought I’d been away from the West too long when I heard students from International schools speaking with the questioning tonality on statements. The effect of the way they were speaking was – six of one and half a dozen of the other. As they spoke, their use of tones negated the meaning of what they said.
    The effect of that mismatch was the equivalent of
    “Would you like a piece of coke?”
    (No, that’s not a spelling error.)

    At first, that confusing use of tones was just a fad. But it hasn’t faded away, instead it has become a norm.
    In writing too, it’s digitext and cut&paste short ‘sound-bite-equivalent’ sequences of what someone else has said.
    The communication/confusion paradigm is isolating a generation from closeness with others and from their own integrity.

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