3 Timeliness in 2021
I dedicate this chapter to my maternal Grandparents. They both came to the United States as immigrants. My grandfather Jean-Marie was born in Paris, France, and grew up during the Nazi occupation of World War II. My grandmother was born in Maracaibo, Venezuela, and grew up in Port of Spain, Trinidad. Both my Grandparents have had a lasting impact on the value of immigration, as they immigrated to the United States. One of the most important discussions today revolves around immigration in the United States. During one of the most intense conversations I’ve had with family members, some talked very negatively about the people who want to be Americans (Dreamers). After this discussion, my grandmother pointed out that she was a dreamer and was very hurt by the way things were happening at ICE facilities….They both have lived with adversity at points in their lives but always advocated to put me in others’ shoes when making judgments toward others.
Keywords: Media, Location, Effectiveness, Opportune, Inopportune
Whenever I drive past Asheville, I see a giant confederate flag on the side of I-40. I come from Knoxville, TN and have lived through speech of hate and racism for my entire life. In high school during my daily distance runs throughout my rural town, I would consistently see confederate flags waving on people’s doorstep. This is the rural south that I live in and what is present to me. Racism is a relevant subject to talk about as 2020 was one of the most eventful years of civil rights in the past 50 years. Kairos is the rhetorical concept that tackles the question of “why” people discuss news and media to each other. It stems from ancient Greek language and means “qualitative time” (Kinneavy and Eskin 432). Kairos is the rhetorical concept of the present moment in timeliness, delivering what is important to public discourse. This means that Kairos is the relevancy of a chosen situation and whether it should be shared with others in any given moment or time.
In order to impact an audience’s feelings and emotions, Kairos must be relevant to the discussion of what is going on. I selected this concept because when I thought of Kairos, I thought of the present area that surrounds me. When articles of discussion like racism and ignorance are portrayed in the media, Kairos is used by activists to make a stance on these arguments. People in the public sphere such as politicians and activists argue about these things because they are relevant to the struggle to change society for the better. I care about Kairos because it is the first step in getting things done in any project to better the world we live in. I argue that Kairos is most powerful when discourse is about topics that bring a positive change the world around us. In order for Kairos to be as most effective as possible in a discussion on society, a take on a subject must be brought upon in a timely manner. We probably won’t be talking about issues of today 200 years in the future unless it is still a relevant topic. I believe that Kairos is most effective when dealing with acts of ignorance, inequality, and injustice that shows the dark side of what humans can be. These acts of injustice are often brought up when an unexpected event occurs.
Kairos is particularly powerful in legal and political settings when something bad happens. Where Kairos is the opportune time for something to happen, this can be brought upon as “akairos” or inopportune event. Boer brings up this notion of akairos as a signal for political revolution in comparison to Marxist ideology (Boer). When particular inequalities that bring upon “order over chaos, proper functioning society over the improper, the right time and place against the wrong. (Boer 127)”. This thought of Kairos rewards the events in history that are particularly evil as most powerful to rhetoric. When combining Kairos to rhetorical elements such as pathos, change can truly take place. An example of this could be the “#METOO” movement in 2017 that was kickstarted by the Harvey Weinstein scandal in Hollywood. While the abuse towards women by the hands of men has been going on throughout history, the allegations against Harvey Weinstein kickstarted a movement for survivors of sexual misconduct to say that time is up. While this moment was tragic, it ends up being the opportune moment for society to progress towards equality.
While people may say that it is always the “right time” to bring up an argument with a notion of Kairos. This is not true because Kairos takes “social, political, and historical context to a sense of the present” (Drabinsky). The right time to make an argument must be socially relevant to whatever is being discussed. These structural forces help bring upon and define an opportune moment. In recent times, advocation for civil rights and equality is a main topic of discussion in the media. It’s always a powerful topic, but can be enhanced with a horrific event. Examples of this could be the Trayvon Martin and George Floyd shootings. These events brought up the most relevant times to discuss police brutality and systematic issues in the United States. This furthers the notion that sometimes an inopportune time is the time for discussion.
In addition to the personal account I gave on what I believe is timely in today’s manner, I interviewed three of my track and field teammates. This group was very diverse as they not only hail from different countries, but also from entirely different parts of the world. I asked each person, “what is the most relevant topic of discussion in today’s time that you feel should be spoken out in public.” I told them what we had learned in class and said, “In doing this you are contributing to the discussion in the public sphere of today.” Each response was unique as it ranged from climate change, gun control, and the abolition of greed and ignorance.
The first person I interviewed was a teammate who comes from Bendigo, Victoria, Australia. When asking what was relevant to them, they said with a sarcastic chuckle, “climate change.” They then went on to tell me about the fires that ravaged their country, particularly the “Outback” where their family lives. I was surprised by my teammate’s answer because of the United States’ streak of deadly mass shootings in the last few weeks. However, I quickly came to realize the importance of “place” in Kairos. This was relevant to them because it destroyed land and homes miles from their house and killed over one billion animals (McDonald). As my teammate is not American, this was still relevant, even in 2021 where issues of systematic racism and violence seem to conquer media platforms such as social media and television. This was an eye-opening discussion as I have little first-hand experience dealing with the effects of climate change in the southeastern United States.
My second interview was with a Spanish member on the track team, who comes from Barcelona, Spain. To me, their answer was more expected as it revolved around the easy accessibility of firearms. They brought up that people in Spain don’t have issues of mass shootings and exclaimed, “just look at the news!” With this perspective, on the amount of media coverage given to shootings, it seems that the media normalizes the shockingly-high number of mass shootings. My teammate’s opinions on the subject reminded me that the United States’ gun-related death tolls should be perceived with a more serious attitude. Their point of view merges current timeliness and the location of this social issue.
After this discussion of the media, I then asked them what he thought of the controversial bill in Tennessee- which allows handguns to be carried without a permit, for people over 18 (The History of Gun Law and the Second Amendment in the United States | SpringerLink). They practically didn’t believe me and exclaimed, [they were] “shocked that it had the endorsement from Bill Lee,” the state Governor of Tennessee. I reminded my teammate that American society can lean towards ignorance, as many people actively ignore COVID health mandates, spreading the virus in large gatherings. This conversation was rewarding as we were able to share our perspectives as people from opposite corners of the world.
My final interview came from a teammate from Oakland, California. Their answer was broad, as they stated that society is “much too caught up with the quest for wealth, which causes people to lose focus on other people’s wellbeing.” Elaborating on this point, they went on to connect this concept to a plethora of issues such as income inequality, systemic racism, and mainstream ignorance to the struggles of minorities. They also went on to speak of firsthand experiences from Oakland, a stereotypically less affluent part of the Bay Area. They told me a story of when they first came to Wake Forest and revealed their hometown to some peers. This teammate was met with astonishment because people recognized Oakland as being stereotypically low income and crime ridden.
In addition to this story, my teammate shared that civil rights discussions spiked nationally after the murder of George Floyd. The Black Lives Matter Movement had always been a relevant framework in how they interpreted the world. They recollected several examples of racism, ranging from the death of a classmate at the hands of police and the gentrification of downtown Oakland. Their examples were partially emotionally driven through the hardships of their city, but also appealing to the imperfect times and location of Kairos.
For relevancy of topics of discourse through the lens of location and time, the appeals of Kairos can be very powerful for an argument. With issues like the #METOO, BLM movement, and climate change, the perfect time is sometimes not so perfect for the survivors and causalities of disasters caused by an imperfect society. Kairos combined with these untimely events can create the timeliest moment for discussion. Through my interviews with my team, I learned that we live in a truly multidimensional world, where there are plenty of different topics for the betterment of society based on when and where something happens.
Boer, Roland. “Revolution in the Event: The Problem of Kairós.” Theory, Culture & Society, vol. 30, no. 2, SAGE Publications Ltd, Mar. 2013, pp. 116–34. SAGE Journals, doi:10.1177/0263276412456565.
Derbez, Benjamin. “Is There a ‘Right Time’ for Bad News? Kairos in Familial Communication on Hereditary Breast and Ovarian Cancer Risk.” Social Science & Medicine, vol. 202, Apr. 2018, pp. 13–19. ScienceDirect, doi:10.1016/j.socscimed.2018.02.022.
Drabinski, Emily and LIU Brooklyn. “A Kairos of the Critical: Teaching Critically in a Time of Compliance.” Comminfolit, vol. 11, no. 1, 2017, p. 76. DOI.org (Crossref), doi:10.15760/comminfolit.2017.11.1.35.
McDonald, Matt. “After the fires? Climate change and security in Australia.” Australian Journal of Political Science 56.1 (2021): 1-18.
Ryan, Elisabeth J. “The History of Gun Law and the Second Amendment in the United States.” Why We Are Losing the War on Gun Violence in the United States. Springer, Cham, 2021. 123-136.