Given how fiercely mankind defends religious positions, I hastily declare a disclaimer: this brief comment is not a judgment on the merits or otherwise of the purported message in this now famous (or infamous, depending on which anthill you’re standing on) billboard. All I want is to look at one word used in the advert and underline it’s significance. And as usual I’m looking at this from the neutral vantage point of Mt Michesi.
The word “if” earns prominence by coming first. This word is an expression of a conditionality: a certain course of action can only take place if another one preceeds it. You are to read the Koran only if you have read the other two testaments.
The use of the word “if” makes this advert different from similar ones that are often used in the commercial world. Those adverts usually say something to the effect that you have used detergent A, now try detergent B. There is an explicit assumption that the first course of action has already been taken and now you’re being urged to take the second course of action.
Suppose you have read neither the old testament nor the new one, are you eligible to read the last testament? It would appear from the word “if” that this message is not directed at you. You can of course read the last testament if you so wish, but you are not the target of this message.
Now, I’m not an expert in advertising lingo, so I allow for the possibility that there’s different usage for the word “if” in advertising.
But my approach can also be used on other words used in the advert, and perhaps even discuss whether a sort of hierarchy for the testaments is being assumed or projected in this billboard. But for now my interest will stop at the word “if”.
By the way I have seen comparisons made with the Coke/Pepsi wars. I’m not sure that comparison can be applied to this billboard.
You see, in those Coke/Pepsi adverts of old, the antagonists were the companies or their cigar smoking board members, not the drinkers of those concoctions. No matter how extreme they might try to be, those adverts could never drive the consumers to fistfights.
It’s a slightly different matter with religion, where the consumers, so to speak, only require only the slightest provocation to pull out the swords and start slitting throats. History is replete with such “righteous” murders on both sides.
Which raises a question about whether it is ever possible to have a rational discussion about matters of faith.
When language was first invented, an elder on Mt Michesi was heard saying: “Thank God we have language, for now we can misunderstand each other more fluently.”Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :