Wimp or Warrior? Barbie or Boudicca? Henry V’s Lesson in Language vs. Horse Slaughter, Abuse and Neglect
I was first published at age 12, 47 years ago. I’ve been a professional writer longer than many people have been alive. I’ve been a pro in horse racing for only 12 years, but in those 12 years I’ve written a great deal about horse slaughter, abuse and neglect.
I’ve also read a great deal about these topics, to the point at which I feel the need to pull out my hair from frustration. Like you, I’ve seen many–thousands?– of writings on social media, a’la Facebook–in which a kind-hearted person, who truly loves horses, wants to vent her/his frustration about the state of slaughter/neglect/abuse.
And the desire to write or speak out against any kind of animal abuse is a good thing. God bless everyone who wants to help animals.
Unfortunately–and God knows, I hate to report this–but you know as well as I, that the majority of the people who write on Facebook to rant about slaughter/neglect and abuse are females. Usually (gulp!) middle-aged females. Yes, women in my age range. Middle-aged women who truly care. Deeply, madly…care. Good-hearted people, all.
But the way that many of them vent their anger or displeasure actually is detrimental to the cause for which they stand. “Why?” you ask: precisely because they’re coming across as raging lunatics, and not as Heroines of the Cause.
Right out of the gate, I’m going to remind you about Henry V, the King of England who led his tiny British contingent of a few hundred against 50,000 French in the Battle of Agincourt. (For those of you not familiar with the history: a few hundred Brits on foot beat 50,000 mounted Frenchmen because the French had planned to do battle hand-to-hand. But those tricky Brits had…the longbow. And the Brits won, basically, from afar.)
However…going into that battle in 1415, the British saw only what was obvious: 50,000 magnificently-chainmailed French knights on horses. (You know the sound of pounding hooves, when just five Thoroughbreds exit a starting gate? Magnify that sound by 10,000–coming at you–and you can begin to imagine what the few hundred stunned British soldiers felt.)
They had no reasonable expectation of living through the battle. All they knew was that Henry V truly believed that no-less than God intended him to rule France, so they had to be in this battle. Crazy, huh?
And before that ragged group of British “soldiers” went up against the magnificent French horde, Henry V gave his men a speech. Shakespeare imagined what this speech sounded like, and wrote it in “Henry V.” What words could a king say to a group of rag-tag “soldiers” that could possibly make them feel better about the fact that they were charging into battle, to be slaughtered? Shakespeare put these words into Henry V’s mouth:
“…But we in it shall be remembered-
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne’er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition;
And gentlemen in England now-a-bed
Shall think themselves accurs’d they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin’s day…”
And of course, they weren’t slaughtered, but won the battle–and France. But can you see how those words–those strong, powerful words–landed in the hearts of Henry V’s audience, and built them up? How he got them pumped, and ready to go out there–prepared to die for him?
The wily king actually pronounced that those men who were safe, back home in England, tucked into their own beds–would forevermore consider themselves to be cursed because they’rd not died in battle with those brave British who fought that sacred day in France!
In the play–and no doubt, in real-life–Henry V got his men so pumped up–so adrenaline-drenched–that they raised their longbows, screaming and ready to die or to kill, with all their souls. But, die or kill–they would do it as one.
They were unified by their passion, which was reinforced by their leader’s intelligent, well-placed words.
Words have power, people. How many times do we have to discuss this?
If Henry V had said instead,
“Oh, the big, horrible French!
They’re so mean, and hard–they even beat their horses.
I’m crying as I face you, because I feel SO sad that I have to take you boys into battle with me.
We’re gonna die like dogs.
But Whine, Whine, Whine, Whine…”
…would his men have gone willingly into battle for a whiner? Of course not.
Because only an idiot would think of a whiner as their leader.
Whining is nothing more than the elongation of vowels. And we all know that it’s annoying. It’s the preferred language of pre-teen girls; spoiled children and those who don’t have the language skills to argue their cause creatively and intelligently.
Now, I’m not saying that the people who whine on Facebook aren’t intelligent. Not at all. I’m saying that they’re perfectly intelligent people–but they lack either:
* The writing skills to express their anger about slaughter/abuse/neglect well enough to actually do something positive for their cause; or
* The patience to sit down–think about what they really want to say/write–and allow their better judgment to help them construct something that’s SO well-written that it shows both the rage in the heart of the writer AND it argues, intelligently, for the cause.
If you want to win the war, you have to be armed. Henry V’s men had longbows, in an era when hand-to-hand combat was the norm.
If you want to win over the hearts of politicians and everyone who can help bring horse slaughter, abuse and neglect to a screeching halt–you’ve got to write and speak in language that does not make you sound like a 12-year-old girl. You have to write and speak as an intelligent adult who’s enraged about something that is morally, ethically and historically–wrong.
You’ve got to bring your A-game. If you’re not a good writer–if grammar, spelling and punctuation make your eyeballs bleed–then find someone to help you write what you want to express. You must step out of your own comfort zone–if, indeed, the horses and other animal causes really are important to you. Put your ego aside, and ask a good writer for advice and help.
You must stop using phrases like, “everybody knows,” “it’s common knowledge,” etc.–because these are lousy arguments in favor of anything. You must learn how to write, citing sources for the “facts” that you bring forth–or–News Flash–they’re not facts, just your opinions. The fact that you think something does not make it a Fact.
I’m not saying that you shouldn’t have opinions–not at all! I’m very opinionated–you know that. I write a LOT of Op/Ed. But you have to be able to take your opinion and argue it intelligently, and you don’t come across as being intelligent when you use lousy spelling, grammar and punctuation. That’s not my opinion, that’s just the Truth.
Many of you will get mad at me, for telling you that you have to stop writing about horse slaughter, abuse and neglect like a preteen girl. But you have to admit that–if you really care more about the cause than about your bruised ego–you need to learn to communicate (even on Facebook) in a way that makes you come across as a strong, intelligent, well-read, thoughtful authority–and not like a child.
It’s fine to sit behind your computer and cry about the horrors that are committed against horses and other animals. I cry about it all the time. Everyone with a heart–cries about it. But when you put yourself Out There, on the Internet or other public forum–if you really care about the cause–you have to come across as being tough-as-nails, and not willing to stop until the evil has ended.
Wimp or Warrior? Your destiny is determined by your language, and how you express your rage. No one follows Barbie into battle, but Boudicca–yes.