Friday, 15 May 2009

Chain Gang

I have in the last few days received, from several friends, this email:

I am supposed to pick 12 women (who have touched my life) and whom I think would want to participate. I think that if this group of women were ever to be in a room together, there is nothing that would be impossible. I hope I chose the right twelve. My hugs, love, gestures and communications hopefully remind you how special you are. Please send this back to me.
Remember to make a wish before you read the quotation. That's all you have to do. There is nothing attached. Just send this to twelve women and let me know what happens on the fourth day. Sorry you have to forward the message, but try not to break this, please. Did you make a wish yet? If you don't make a wish, it won't come true. This is your last chance to make a wish!

'May today there be peace within. May you trust that you are exactly where you are meant to be. May you not forget the infinite possibilities that are born of faith in yourself and others. May you use the gifts that you have received, and pass on the love that has been given to you. May you be content with yourself just the way you are. Let this knowledge settle into your bones, and allow your soul the freedom to sing, dance, praise and love. It is there for each and every one of us.'

Now, send this to 12 women within the next 15 minutes. And remember to send this back. I count as 1... you'll see why.

Suggestion: copy and paste rather than forwarding it.

We're fools whether we dance or not, so we might as well dance. ~ Japanese Proverb

The first time I read this it was early in the morning. It takes me longer than fifteen minutes to respond to a kiss first thing in the morning. Also, I can't think of twelve women I know, let alone twelve women I could feel sure would want to participate (participate in what, anyway, and why only women?). So because I am slow and unsure the message had little chance of survival once it reached my inbox. The compulsion to haste lost, I had time to question then deconstruct the message, and I found it wanting on several fronts. This really irritated me: I know the friends who sent it did so with the best of intentions. The email took advantage of them. It hijacked their emotions in order to generate the response the originator required, which is to keep it going. Why, I have no idea? I have no desire to thwart some person's ambitions (no matter how insipid they appear to be) but in this instance I feel I must: this is lazy rhetoric and bad writing, and as writing, including textual analysis, is my area I have to spoil the sport. Here is
one small example of what I mean (you can't know how sorely tempted I am to do the whole thing but it would take me hours and you would lose the will to live reading it):

'I am supposed to pick 12 women (who have touched my life) and whom I think would want to participate.' I hate that "and", it has no business there, it indicates a considerable lack of care, attention, and thought
. It would follow from 'who have touched my life' but, for some reason, that has been put in parenthetic brackets and so the "and" jars. It makes no sense coming after 'I am supposed to pick 12 women'.

So, from this example alone, I get the impression that whoever wrote this didn't care enough to make sure it made sense. He (or she) just wanted to get something out there so he (or ...) laced it as heavily as possible with cheap rhetorical tricks – 'There is nothing attached'; 'Sorry you have to forward the message'; 'did you make a wish yet?', and on it goes – not dissimilar to filling a punch bowl with cheap booze and fruit juice, and forced it on the public. My friends, kind, generous, and pressed for time, were then rendered squiffy enough to pass it on. It's easily done. The message bombards the reader like a machine gun, one or two bullets are likely to hit the target and one or two are enough.

When I start mixing my similes I know it's time to stop. But I'll just say one more thing: the fact that a number of intelligent people have forwarded this message illustrates the power of language.


Scarlet-Blue said...

I have a friend that sends these 'virals' on. They drive me nuts and I automatically delete them. Often they contain pics of cute fluffy animals and bang on about angels and such like.
I'd like to know their purpose is as well!

savannah said...

Do you really think it's the power of language that motivates people to forward this stuff on or some misguided politeness? ;) xoxox

Eryl Shields said...

Scarlet~ yes, the ones with cute fluffy animals, oh god!

Savannah ~ I think it's probably a mix: the sentimental language, like a shmoozy song, causes an 'ahh' reaction, XXX

Scarlet-Blue said...

'Misguided politeness'!... Thank you, Savannah! I must remember this phrase!

Kanani said...

I've started to get those as text messages, too.

When I receive on --whether on Facebook or email, I usually ignore it. But what I feel like writing back to the sender is, "But, I send all of my friends good vibes everyday already!"

Eryl Shields said...

Scarlet and Savannah ~ the more I think about it the more I think 'misguided politeness' is exactly it! I have, myself, sometimes worried that I am being downright rude by not complying, rude and cynical.

Kanani ~ quite!

angryparsnip said...

I too have received lots of these e-mails. . . Please Stop !
It is nice that they think of me but when I am 1 of 12, 20 or a mass mailing the "special" seems to be lacking.
Most of my friends have Day Jobs and don't need another project to do in their " free-time "
I do e-mail but I also send cards, postcards and letters to convey my friends worth to me. I am the person you see laughing in front of the card section. . .
For me a mass mail doesn't cut it !
So when I see a "clip" on the header I just delete.

Leigh Russell said...

I always ignore that kind of message. Who has the time to deal with stuff like that, and who wants to anyway? If I want to email my friends, I can email them without having to send someone else's message.

Mary Witzl said...

Yay -- other spoil-sports who hate chain letters! I'm thrilled I'm not the only one: heretofore, I've felt so cynical and unappreciative, deleting these.

The messages I take particular pleasure in deleting are the ones which warn of bad luck and spoiled futures should the recipient fail to pass on the word. The people who write and pass on these messages have control issues. They are desperate for others to do their bidding, but lack the authority and charisma to influence. They're like those awful bossy kids who used to try to make everyone play THEIR games and use THEIR rules. It's sad, really...

And you're right: that grammar is crap.

Eryl Shields said...

Parsnip ~ you sound like my kind of friend! Nice to see you back here again.

Leigh ~ exactly! I like to send my friends things through the post, it's so unusual these days that they love it.

Mary ~ those are the ones I hate most too, can't help wondering if the friends who send them on to me believe in the bad luck thing and if so why pass that to me, it seems particularly cruel?

angryparsnip said...


I read your Blog all the time along with, PI, Jane, Resident Alien and of course the one who I followed here Get lost with Easy-Writer.

I just don't comment a lot but I do read you all and so enjoy it. . . by the way how is the chair coming ?

I keep saying this but as soon as I learn this computer better, I will start my own blog. My son has a great one at "sleepytako" mostly pictures and some writing on life in Japan and travels.

Eryl Shields said...

I've been a bit lax with the chair recently, I really must get on with it.

Kim Ayres said...

But then there was the recent, local case of a DOCTOR who responded to one of those "we need your account to pass $15million through and you will get a percentage..." and ended up £350,000 out of pocket.

A doctor ended up £350,000 out of pocket from a Nigerian email scam.

A doctor ended up £350,000 out of pocket from a Nigerian email scam.

A doctor ended up £350,000 out of pocket from a Nigerian email scam.

A doctor ended up £350,000 out of pocket from a Nigerian email scam.

A doctor ended up £350,000 out of pocket from a Nigerian email scam.

No matter how many times I think about it, I'm still gobsmacked by the idiocy of what must be an intelligent person

Eryl Shields said...

Kim ~ greed, or is it fear (though fear of what?), or hope? Whichever they are all powerful emotions that seem to get the better of reason every time, for at least a little while, in even the most intelligent people.