Monday, January 31, 2011

Right Speech: A Case Study Thanks to Bob Dylan, Time Magazine and D. A. Pennebaker



The video above is a clip from "Don't Look Back," D. A. Pennebaker's documentary on Bob Dylan. I found this clip when I was looking for a clip of "Subterranean Homesick Blues," but found this instead. The "Subterranean Homesick Blues" bit is one of the most iconic scenes ever filmed in a documentary; it's probably the only scene from a documentary ever to be parodied by Weird Al Yankovic (replacing Dylan's lyrics with nonsense palindromes).

But the above scene is far more compelling, and says volumes about human behavior, the American media, and the limits of human communication when deep mistrust is present.  Not to mention it well encapsulates the so-called "generaton gap" that was prevalent at the time.

Notice that neither the reporter from Time, nor Dylan actually is talking to each other.  Instead, they're talking at each other - they are talking to what each thinks the other is, based on their preconceived notions.  They're speaking without consideration that the other is another human being, in a similar but different situation.  Now it may be true that each person in this conversation really has no interest in speaking with the other, or with coming to an understanding with the other person, and the fact is, they don't.  Both of them do not - despite, if you watch closely, numerous opportunities to be able to sympathize and affirm where the other person is in life.  Maybe that was part of the times.  But it clearly is an object lesson for us.

What could each have said to have spoken beyond the position they were in, to actually meet  another person? 

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