Everybody Is An Orator
Oratory is regarded as the earliest form of legal profession. In ancient Greece, oratory could be described as a public speech conducted by a person in front of an audience. Orators were giving speeches to inform people, to convince them about an issue or an argument presented by the orator, and to entertain people using wit and humour.
Although being an orator was almost equivalent to being an attorney, it was forbidden to accept money for defending another person’s case in form of oratory. This prohibition was breached by many, and in a sense, it has turned into an occupation, i.e. legal representation. Later, this prohibition was abolished by Emperor Claudius in ancient Rome. With this development, legal representation was officially recognized. However, as was the case in Greece, Roman orators (advocates) were not trained in law, instead, they studied rhetoric to be able to impress the listeners.
When we think about orators, we visualize old men with long white beards wearing Greek toga, using mimics and gestures and applying all tricks of rhetoric to persuade the listeners about the necessity of the decrease in tax taken from farmers cultivating olives, or about raising funds to build a new philosophy school or a temple. It looks like something ancient and outdated, something that we can only see in movies now. However, oratory was used by many throughout modern history, and the principles of rhetoric were adopted and applied by many kings, queens, governors, activists, politicians and so on. We can see the rhetoric in Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address or Emmeline Pankhurst’s speech in Hartford in 1913 and in many other influential speeches. And today, we might think that the oratory is restricted within the rigid borders of politics. And, this thought would be a fallacy.
I will present my argument before I lay down the reasons: We are all orators now, trying to defend our case; a case which is about how beautiful the cupcake we ate today looks or a case which is about why Blade Runner was the greatest sci-fi movie ever or a case which is about why the best Italian restaurant in town has been cooking bland gnocchi recently.
The Internet changed many things. In the early 2000s, we were feeling insecure to share our personal information online, even our names. Still, we were sharing our ideas or getting into contact with people from the other side of the world, maybe not under our real names but with nicknames or only avatars. Today, we are willing to share our personal information online. From social media to online shopping, our names and personal information are everywhere. I am not criticizing this issue; undoubtedly the Internet is facilitating our lives, and sharing what we are doing or where we are visiting on social media makes us feel good. And the real issue arises here. Nobody wants to give a bad image of himself/herself to the public. This does not mean that we are always trying to look happy or beautiful, or trying to be perceived as clever, intellectual, knowledgeable people… Many people are also sharing bad news or sad events about their lives online. What I mean is that although people might be sharing unfortunate things about themselves online, they never want to ruin their own image. In this respect, when something sad is shared, it must genuinely look sad. When a photo from a party is shared, it must look sparkling and full of joy. When an achievement is shared with people, it must be impressing the readers. Here I reach this point: by sharing anything related to ourselves, we are asserting that the context of the relevant post (photo, statement, news etc.) is genuinely representing an idea, an emotion, an event that needs to be shared.
The Internet let us all become orators. The villagers of medieval age in Europe did not have an opportunity to express their ideas to the public. They were already up to their elbows with the work under the order of the feudal barons. In that era, orators were those who possessed power and had access to mediums to express themselves to the public. Furthermore, if a peasant had somehow an opportunity to talk in front of an audience, people would not pay attention to his/her representation as social classes were already constituting a great prejudice, and therefore, there would not be any interest in the ideas of a peasant just because of the social class he/she belongs to. In today’s world, we, the peasants of the medieval ages and the netizens of the modern age, can access to audience whenever we want. And the existence of this easy access to audience is pushing us to represent an idea, a thought, a feeling etc. Because we have an audience now, we intrinsically tend to defend our case. As I mentioned above, this case does not have to be “case” in the legal sense. When I post a statement online, such as: “I have visited this restaurant. The quality of the food was really bad.”, I try to convince people that the food was really bad in that restaurant. When I share the photo of the cake I eat, in my mind, I say: “Believe me! This cake looks so beautiful! It does not matter if it tastes good or not. As long as it looks beautiful, it deserves to be shared with other people.”
In short, by representing something to our audience, we say: “This thing has a value in itself. It is not valuable because I attribute value to it; it is valuable because it is valuable in itself.” This point can even take us to the controversial ideas of Immanuel Kant about the concept of “thing in itself”. Or we can discuss the sources of value in this regard, and one may argue that a thing is valuable because humans attribute value to it. However, this discussion would be the topic of another article.
As I mentioned in the first paragraph, oratory is regarded as the earliest form of the legal profession. As we are all orators today, we are all attorneys as well. We are acting as attorneys within the framework of the law created by the modern society, with the help of the Internet and means of communication: A law which is not written on paper but pervaded into the deepest corners of the human mind.