Three people are taking a leisurely stroll on well-maintained pathways in a suburban park, where the flora and fauna are relatively ecologically free to roam and multiply at will. Suddenly, another visitor to the park starts to pick the tall, violet flowers: she is pretty vehemently getting a good bunch of these, destroying about 70% of the existing plants. One of the three people cried, half in jest: “You are stealing!”. She retorts: “Report me!”. And off she disappears almost running.
This real story, of which I was an eye witness and one of the visitors to the park, teaches at least three things:
1) Sometimes there are utterances to which a judicious, reasonable, well-meaning reply is not possible. What can one say to the phrase “Report me!” in this case? Here, a linguistic analysis falls short: we have a perfectly understandable setting, the interlocutors’ roles are clear, the locutionary and illocutionary (directive) forces of the speech acts at hand are elementary. And yet, that’s not the whole story.
2) Any reply to her utterance would be useless to make her understand her uncivil behaviour. The closest one can say now, with all the technology, “I already did: I sent a picture of you to the police…”. But this would not have any real impact on transforming even so slightly the lack of her ethical behaviour .
3) Ignorance about nature is great – especially as regards native plants. Native wild flowers do not last in water very long, so her “enjoyment” of these will be over in no time.
Conclusion? Wanton destruction is everywhere, and it starts with the local wild flowers.