‘Why?’ is a really important question. Kids use it to annoy parents, but one might wonder why it’s annoying. The obvious answer is because kids suck, and abrasive repetition is a garbage rhetorical tactic. But ‘why?’ is incredibly important, even if annoying, because it’s a quick question which gets to the root of the issue at hand. When kids repeatedly ask why it doesn’t take too many iterations to get to a sub-atomic explanation of the universe. We should ask why repeatedly asking why is annoying; in reality asking why is incredibly useful because it makes you realize what your premises are, what you take as axiomatic in how you view the world. It also plays into how topoi was conceptualized. Topoi shares etymological roots with topography, which is a fantastic analogy to how arguments are situated. Some arguments, premises, and ideas have an advantage, the high ground so to speak, in comparison to others. Asking ‘why’ is a brief glimpse, like a snapshot of the rhetorical topography. Ask ‘why’ enough, and you eventually can put the snapshots together so as to get a more holistic view of the rhetorical world you exist in.
In binging media, I frequently asked this question. ‘Why’ was a way to stave off the boredom associated with the exhaustion of content on your typical social media sites. It actually prompted me to be more thorough in reading things, of course tempered by internet apathy. But even though internet opinions are a widespread and of low value, asking why when viewing random opinions was a series of snapshots of the internet’s rhetorical paradigm. The hangup for me was while repeated asking why I was confused as to why others don’t ask why. The Chomsky on my shoulder says it’s because our education system breeds a culture of ignorance and conformity. The internet is like any tool, it’s most effective when you know how to use it.
I bet Godwin’s law has an internet corollary about Nazi punching. ‘Why?’ allows people to realize the rhetorical dynamics of violence. Were people to ask this question more often, and not accept simplistic solutions, collectively we’d probably be in a better spot. It’s a pretty straightforward rationale; don’t dismiss violence outright, instead ask what are the reasons given to justify the action and then make your own judgment. Asking why someone is violent is the first step to rectifying violence.
“Riots are the language of the unheard” - MLK
For instance if you ask why Al Qaeda engages in violence you get an answer as dynamic as you could expect. There are Salafist perspectives of Islam which justify massive violence against non-believers (a category that to extreme Salafis extends to many Muslims), but you also get themes of self-determination and refutation of US imperialism and military integration into the Muslim holy land. Then you evaluate the offered justifications; I think the former is a disgusting perversion but the latter holds a great deal of merit, with which many Muslims agree. But it’s much easier to say that they hate us for our freedom. While one certainly ought to reject the violence propagated by Al Qaeda, if you would like to see the violence stopped, don’t outright dismiss every reason given to justify their actions.
Asking why one wouldn’t ask why is to inquire into the inclinations and dispositions of power structures which benefit from ignorance and violence. Or just fed up parents. I suppose this is when one moves onto ‘who?’