Beyond military metaphors, which Tannen argues drive our "argument culture," what kinds of metaphors might we more usefully employ? What do military metaphors cause? From your perspective, is this a problem?
Military metaphors certainly are used a tad too much in todays society. I believe this is because, like Tannen, journalists now days write headlines or articles that grab at our attention. When we see a headline that is practically screaming at us, well we have to stop and look. Even if reading the first couple of paragraphs are brief we remember the article afterwards because its appealing. Its hypnotic. Its.. thought provoking. What better metaphors might we use to that same effect i do not honestly know. Instead of the phrase, "Put up the barricades, its going to be a battle of awesomeness." Might we use, "Lets circle the wagons its going to be a cowboys and indians showdown." I wouldn't know how to say the second phrase without cracking up into laughter because this picture is being created because of this phrase. It would be hard to change our military metaphors because we've been brought up in it. Therefore, in my opinion... I think military metaphors certainly could become a problem if taken too seriously. I, myself, have certainly not used military metaphors often. Reading this article about Tannen certainly has opened my eyes to some interesting conversations I have had with other people. But for sure, I will keep my eyes open.
I believe that military metaphors cause what start out to be simple discussions to turn into sometimes bitter arguments. By referring to "winning" an argument, "attacking" someone's logic, or giving something a "shot," people will understandably start thinking of the process of communication as a kind of battle. In a battle, there is only one "winning" side. As Tannen explained, in an argument (or battle), neither side usually listens to or values what the other side has to say, because each side is more focused on trying to "win." From my perspective, this IS a problem. It is a problem because each "side" spends more time and effort trying to make themselves look good (and to make the other side look bad) than they spend trying to solve the problem or issue that the argument is truly about.Instead of military metaphors, we could use metaphors about sewing. Instead of a "battle," we could even say something about "making a crazy quilt" of opinions and ideas (which suggests people working together to make something better than just one person could make alone).
Tannen really did make me think and examine how much we rely on metaphors to communicate. This truly is not a bad thing though, when taken in moderation. You see, as most humans tend to think and learn visually, metaphors give an important bridge from common language into art. Of course when taken to the extreme or to literally this could be the problem. Also, to be honest I don't really see a problem with the military metaphors. There are many out there that are not military and the ones that do don't aren't always violent. I do agree that headlines are meant to grab our attention, but I don't really see those as metaphors. To me the metaphor "Take a shot at it" brings up the image of getting over your embarrassment when learning how to shoot, not intentionally shooting something for violence sake. Does that make any sense at all? I guess the bottom line for me is I don't really feel that metaphors are dangerous, but they are something to think and notice. :)
I found Tannen's article to be both instructive and thought-provoking. How true it is that we use metaphors so often in both speech and argument. Concerning our prolific use of military metaphors, I primarily blame society itself. Not a day goes by in which I do not see a news article concerning a political uprising, a civil war, or a military offensive in another country. Our society has become so immersed in a military mentality that we often fail to even notice the significant impact the military has on our though processes. I do not necessarily think that military metaphors are a bad thing in and of themselves. These metaphors are simply a result of living in a conflict-dominated world. The saying "History is written by the victors" brings to mind the notion that man has always progressed through some sort military conflict. Our world is the way it is simply because we have fought our way up to this point. And until humanity stops fighting with itself, I do not see an end to our military-based rhetoric and mentality. As unfortunate as that may be, it's just a simple truth. We are who we are, for better or worse.
It is hard to escape the use of military metaphors partly because war is so fundamentally human. Conflict has always been a staple of any major civilization. In the past, ideas could prevail through conflict no matter their content. Worldviews were decided upon by the most powerful, not the most enlightened. In the modern world, we no longer have the luxury of obliterating cultures to achieve ideological unity. One of the greatest setbacks to modern discourse is that we haven't progressed from using war (literally as well as metaphorically) as a problem solving technique. We still think of differing views as either right or wrong. As Tannen points out, every major political or social issue is made out to be a battle between two opposing sides. Military metaphors exacerbate this problem. Instead of exploring creative solutions to pressing issues, we force ourselves into a side and give each other labels. Nobody wins in our "argument culture." Nobody can. The only way to overcome adversity is with an open mind. We must try to withhold bias and accept that we aren't always right; however, we must also remain objective and discerning. Instead of military metaphors, let us use scientific ones. The world is full of variables that produce different effects. Progress will come when we can tolerate each other and sort these variables out.
According to Tannen, our culture's addiction to applying everything to the battlefield has resulted in several negative effects to the art of debate. One of these is the assumption that there are only ever two sides to any discussion, both being diametrically opposed to each other. This assumption not only makes it harder for new ideas to take the floor, providing a fresh point of view to an old argument, but creates almost a need to have two sides duke it out, even when there is a logically correct solution staring you in the face. While halting our dependence on fight metaphors may not be an easy job, and certainly won’t happen overnight, it may just be possible through an ingenious idea of Tannen’s. Instead of creating and popularizing new metaphors, why not just slightly change the ones we use today? Simply pluralize the current phrases. To use an example from the book, instead of saying “What’s the other side?” we could say, “What are the other sides” (AiA, P. 500). This leaves much more room for extra points of view, making it much harder for anyone to become hard-headed about their personal ideas.
While using military metaphors attracts attention with ease it is not the best choice when trying to reach a mutually beneficial decision. Military metaphors cause contention where there might have been none before (AiA, 487). By using metaphors that focus more on collaboration rather than aggression we can make conversation the form of communication instead of debate.Time can be saved everyday by changing our culture from an argumentative one to a more understanding culture. If politicians spent more time collaborating rather than debating more problems would be solved, instead of how it is now where neither side budges in their argument. I would like to point out that I used "argument," because that is what politicians do when they should be discussing.
Considering this is a tech school, where many of the student will become either engineers or scientific researchers, Tannen's argument is even more critical. The culture of argument minimally with in the socially sciences and liberal arts, but its result is even more destructive in the realm of science. The argument culture pressures scientist to prove one side or another, leading to bending of data to prove a point. It also polarizes issues; whenever science is polarized progress is destroyed. Take a controversial issue like creationism, if your blood pressure just went up that is a result of the argumentative culture. Battle lines are drawn the deepest between creationists and evolutionists. For even suggesting this, I know I will get receive resentful comments which are the result of argumentative culture. We as scientist ought not to view creationist are religious terrorists, or ignorant fanatics, but try to understand their points rather than simply dismiss them as foolish enemies. In science there ought be NO enemies to fight, save the unknown. Ignorance is not an enemy to be slaughtered but a conundrum to be understood. Reconciliation is always referable to war, understanding is better than hatred, and curiosity stronger than dogmatism. Consider all data and positions before forming a conclusion.
I think that ideally arguments should result in a final common understanding between the arguers. When it doesn't, it often comes down to fallacies of mind and dogmatism, of which military metaphors can be a great cause. Too often people's metaphors shackle their understanding, and they pay the price in being wrong; and, sometimes, they aren't just wrong; they're vocally wrong and seek to convince others that they are right; and a few times out of a thousand, they will succeed. Military metaphors, and, indeed, all abstractions, can cause people to cling to their opinions as a gecko does to a cliff, ignorant of the beautiful, complex, and strange world around them.
Sociology has been intensely interested in language's ability to shape society: Benjamin Whorf, American linguist, became well known for his assertion that language has the ability to shape perception, thought, and culture (commonly referred to as the Spair-Whorf hypothesis.) For instance, Japanese, until very recently, had no word for the color "green"; interestingly, Japanese art hardly seemed to distinguish between green and blue. It was as if they had never noticed that green was more than simply a dark blue. So when Tannen asserts that military metaphors drive our "argument culture," she is well founded: these metaphors shape the way we see the world. Their ubiquity push us into an odd pattern: describe something using a military metaphor, subconsciously establish the metaphor as an apt descriptor, and finally accept the battle-like nature of the topic. We strongly see things as only dichotomies – a world against itself. What's more, as the Japanese were unable to see a world with green, I believe we have become unable to see a world without battle. By simply using our militaristic language, we establish conflict as both normal and unquestionable. As for potential replacements to these metaphors, I am almost at a loss – as a child of the English language, I can scarily imagine non militaristic metaphors. Perhaps, it would be a noble pursuit to attempt to make our language reflect nature (be it referring to human emotion, natural systems, or even natural relations.) This may seem vague, but the idea is if we can build metaphor off of ideas no currently associated with our current metaphor (as most human creation is) we can be more able to broaden our prospective and associations with the world…. Or maybe we can just less frequently use these metaphors… perhaps being conscious of their affect is enough. Meh… It's all just an uphill battle, from here.
Well, I just wrote out a long comment. When I went to post it, it said I didn't have permission to view that page and I lost everything I wrote. Tannen, and everyone posting, has good points with the fact military metaphors makes our society treat everything like a battle. There are 2 sides to every issue, a winner and a loser, etc. The problem with trying to change that is war is part of being human. People are passionate, and willing to fight over themselves being right. That is just who we are, and small changes are not going to stop that. Everything is a tradeoff, if we as a society didn't argue about everything, instead of wasting time on arguing we might waste time with other things. If instead of questioning scientific results, we believed them, and then wasted time and effort basing other studies on those results. There is no right or wrong, just different.
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Being conditioned to use military metaphors in holding a position on a topic has become second nature. Humans love conflict it gets our blood warm. The problem with military metaphors is that there is only black and white no grey area. Also with military metaphors there is a lot of attacks on the other persons view points rather than well constructed points of their own. From my perspective this is a negative thing because there is more focus on trying to destroy the opposing point of view rather than creating a strong more concise point of view of their own.
I believe that military metaphors serve an important purpose in our society because in many way we are a combative society. We speak in military metaphors because we see all of life as a competition and know that not all of us can succeed. As a culture we have firmly embraced the idea that survival of the fittest applies just as well to us as it does to animals, thus making the next best choice to military metaphors evolutionary metaphors.
Military metaphors are so common in headlines, news reports, and articles because they are a great attention grabber. In advertising, there are many different metaphors used. One of the most common is sex appeal. Advertisers often use attractive young men and women in their commercials. It is not uncommon to see an ad which suggests that the use of a product, Axe deodorant for example, will increase physical attraction. Using biologic metaphors may be a better alternative. Environmental or green advertising is very popular right now. Therefore, many metaphors relating to the environment are used. Military metaphors may cause people to overlook the boundaries between war and societal problems. Using military metaphors frequently may cause the community to perceive the term war in a non-threatening sense. As a result of this false perception people may begin to overlook the devastating implications of war. Military metaphors should not be used as frequently because they may change how people perceive war.