Silent = Dead
Today’s Analogical Illustration:
Speaker: Freed Zakaria, CNN news
Occasion: June 16, 2019 — Responding to the actions of Germany against the U.S. economy.
Context: The CNN opinion piece is responding to the words of Germany in Tehran. Germany’s foreign minister, while speaking in Iran, announced that a European payment system, which would rival the U.S. Dollar, would be coming soon.
The Rhetorical Analogy: (Link to full text — or video)
“ZAKARIA: But first, here’s my take. This week, we watched an unusual spectacle. The foreign minister of Germany, one of the United States’ closest allies, went to Tehran and announced that a European payment system designed as an alternative to the dollar would soon be ready.
The dollar’s dominance in global transactions which is a huge benefit for America and Americans will be hard to displace. But this is a warning sign, the canary in the coal mine.
America’s closest allies are working hard to find ways to undermine a crucial underpinning of American global power.
Why? It’s simple. The Trump administration’s abuse of this power.
The United States sits atop the world for now. But there are forces eroding that lofty status. Some of these are deep structural shifts like the rise of China but as “The Economist” points out, others are reactions to a pattern of hegemonic abuse.
Consider the trigger for this certainly for an alternative to the dollar. Britain, France, and Germany are all signatories to the Iran deal.
Does Not Explain This Analogy: Fareed only defines or “explains” the analogy by a “pre-statement” — “This is a warning sign.”
Many other writers and speakers take time to lay out the meaning of the analogy.
i.e. #1) — “We have heard the expression, “the canary in the mine.” Miners would carry these birds in cages down into the mines. If an invisible gas in the shaft built up, such as carbon monoxide, and the birds clearly were suffering, the miners would leave the shafts quickly.
The canaries reacted to a force that the miners did not see. The miners themselves had not yet reacted to the gas; but without the canaries’ early warning, many men would have died, not even knowing how bad it was until it was too late.”
or (BETTER YET*)
i.e. #2) “Years ago coal miners in the United States and the United Kingdom took caged canaries down into the mine with them as an early warning system. Canaries are extremely sensitive to toxic gases such as carbon monoxide and methane. The earliest mines didn’t have ventilation systems, so canaries helped detect toxic gases long before humans could.
The canaries served as an audible and a visual cue regarding the condition of the air the miners were breathing. As long as the miners could see that the canary was alive, and could hear the canary singing, the miners knew that the air was safe to breathe. A silent, dead canary meant that the miners needed to evacuate immediately—their environment had turned toxic.
The phrase “canary in a coal mine” has come to refer to someone or something that provides an early warning of a potential crisis.” — (emphasis mine)
Let’s try it!
#1) Explain The Analogy (A): The second of the above explanations (i.e. #2) is the most useful because it sets up the words and phrases which can be useful when swinging over to (B).*
#2) Look For & Include Key Words: I highlighted the “keywords” in the second analogy (i.e. #2) because those are the “setup words” that you will be able to extend into part (B) — the application, argument, clarification, explanation, introduction, main point, conclusion.
You want to purposefully include specific words and phrases when you talk about part (A) of the analogy. That is why the second example (i.e. #2) is more useful! The explanation of what “Canary in the mine” (or better yet “Canary in the coal mine”) means has more detail and more useful detail!
Those words and phrases in part (A) of the analogy are useful elements which can be used when you swing down into part (B) of the analogy.
You need to anticipate the use of such words and phrases and/or go back and re-do part (A) so that you now have included the elements you want to use in part (B).
#3) Use Those Setup Word: Notice that some of the useful words and phrases are part of an ongoing sentence, but notice the parts within the phrase or sentence which can be used independently, or not at all.
an early warning system
Canaries are extremely sensitive
help detect toxic gases
long before humans could
an audible (cue)
a visual cue
condition of the air
the miners were breathing
miners could see
canary was alive
(miners) could hear
the canary singing
air was safe to breathe
dead canary (knew silent = dead)
environment had turned toxic
had turned toxic.
early warning of a potential crisis.
There are a lot of great words and phrases in part (A)! They can be used severally or all together.
Tony Evans would have a hay day with (A) as he pivoted over the (B) side of the analogy! I can hear the audience now catching on to the points before and while he is making them!
Let’s Use It: After laying out part (A)
The Bible is an early warning system because there are some toxic environments — There are some toxic people and you will need to evacuate immediately! . . . . . . . . .
The canary is silent because the canary is dead. . . . . and those who are down there will be silent soon if they don’t leave the environment they are in! . . . . . . .
The environment you are in HAS TURNED toxic. Of it wasn’t toxic last week or last month. But it is now! And there are visual cues! Or there are auditory cues that will tell you that the air is not safe to breathe! . . . . . .
There is even a website called theCanary — https://www.thecanary.co/about/
Other places where that analogy is used:
√ An article from the Washington Post which uses that analogy:
“The stories of senior citizens in distressed economic conditions because of defaulted student loans are merely the canary in the coal mine. Just as the implosion of the mortgage lending market opened up debate about the great American dream of owning a home, the implosion of the student loan market is leading many to question the great American dream of graduating from college.”
√ An opinion piece using that analogy:
Julian Assange — A Canary in the Coal Mine of Free Speech, by Jackie Thornhill, April 12, 2019
√ An article on climate change:
“Like canaries in the coal mines of yore, low-lying islands in the midst of the world’s vast oceans face the possibility of extinction. Rising waters from global warming could literally drown many of them in the decades to come.
At the climate change conference in Copenhagen, voices from these vulnerable island nations–places like Tuvalu in the Pacific and the Maldives in the Indian Ocean–are singing loudly and persistently to be heard at the 12 day United Nations summit.
Their controversial, and emotional, pleas for tougher action will be an underlying source of tension in the final deliberations this week.”
√ The Canary in the Church Mine
We have heard the expression, “the canary in the mine.” Miners would carry these birds in cages down into the mines. If an invisible gas in the shaft built up, such as carbon monoxide, and the birds clearly were suffering, the miners would leave the shafts quickly.
The canaries reacted to a force that the miners did not see. The miners themselves had not yet reacted to the gas; but without the canaries’ early warning, many men would have died, not even knowing how bad it was until it was too late.
The focus of many churches right now seems to be, how do we respond to the LGBTQ community? Only a few years ago, churches had to navigate their position on gay marriage; now, it is how do the churches respond to transgender people?
In the early 70’s, the Catholic church maintained its unwavering stand against abortion. When Roe v. Wade hit the culture with the force of a tsunami, the Catholic church stood resolute. The mainline Protestant churches were rather silent; individuals has opinions, but Protestant protesters taking to the streets was not common as it would become later. In an interview with Andrew R. Lewis, whose book, Conservative Christian Politics: How Abortion Transformed the Culture Wars, (2018) says,
√ “Have you looked for the grace canary? Is the grace canary alive in the spiritual places you frequent? Is the grace canary singing? You may be suffering from the toxic effects of religion without even knowing it. If the grace canary is alive then you are going to hear messages and communication about how your relationship with God is far more important than your relationship with a religious institution. If the grace canary is singing then you are going to hear a great deal about the centrality of God’s grace in your life. ”