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I Told You So

by on March 7, 2017

                                                                       I Told You So

                                                                   by Marco M. Pardi

“Another such victory would totally undo me.” Pyrrhus (318 – 272BCE) Greek General at Battle of Asculum (Italy) 279BCE.

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All comments welcome.  To those readers who have been hesitant to comment or ask questions, please be assured you may do so freely. In recent days several new people have signed on as followers, enabling them to comment freely, and it is hoped they will. All previous posts are open for comment by clicking on “uncategorized”. Reader participation keeps this site vibrant. MMP

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I will venture there is not a person reading this who has not spoken those words, and likely thought them even more often. Of course, the context is as varied as the lives we lead. Some have warned someone of the dangers of chronic drinking, some of smoking, some of excessive speed, against a potential romantic partner, and on and on.  What too often goes unexamined is how one feels, especially having said it.

In childhood such a pronouncement to someone was easily and factually made, with little prelude and likely not much self-reflection. As such, it was often taken by the recipient as a challenge to even greater actions or words, sometimes with a punch in the mouth, but rarely with a discussion of lessons learned. The highest value attached to being right, not to the opportunity to reconsider actions or beliefs and alter them accordingly.

As we mature we often become more empathetic, having greater feelings for the foreseen consequences of someone’s behavior. The gleeful satisfaction we may once have felt at the vindication of our warning fades.  We begin to ask ourselves, Do I want to be right?

Some of us know the inner conflict parents experience when trying to steer a course between being a “helicopter parent” (hovering over a child) and taking a more Darwinian approach of “letting the chips fall where they may”.  On the few occasions my mother took an interest in my doings I always asserted, Let me make my own mistakes.  But generally, those were relatively inconsequential decisions, important as they may have seemed at the time.

As a parent I have hesitated, and when a warning seemed unavoidable tried to present it in a way which did not imply my daughter had not thought things through. “I know, Dad” was usually sufficient to silence me.  But rarely did it convince me the risk was fully understood and prepared for. 

Although the deity concept never made any sense to me, in my religious training I did learn an interesting distinction among the several varieties of sin: Sins of commission; sins of omission.  So while an unwanted warning would be a sin of commission, not warning someone when you should have would be a sin of omission.  Seeing sin in purely secular terms, as a violation of a social code, this makes sense and I could see it applied in a court of law and even employment evaluations.  If a sentry’s job is to raise the alarm when opposing forces move in, not doing so is dereliction of duty.

During my two years on the Institutional Review Board (IRB) for the Centers for Disease Control a primary duty was examination of the Informed Consent form given or read to persons to be enrolled in controlled studies. Each day people are being diagnosed with conditions for which clinical trials of drugs or procedures are being developed.  An example of a sin of commission would be leading the person to think they are in the group receiving the medication and thereby benefiting from it. An example of omission would be failing to fully inform the person of the potential side effects should they in fact receive the medication. Surprisingly to some people, failure to inform the person that they might be wasting time that could otherwise be directed to a cure is also a serious omission.  For the record, throughout the dozens of proposed trials appearing on my computer screen I never saw one in which the intent to mislead was provable (admittedly, the bar for Intent is high). Problems arose, and there were many, when it was clear the writers of the Informed Consent had not thought things through, had not employed Critical Thinking.

But getting back to the person receiving the initial diagnosis. Every physician I know of is open to, and often encourages a second opinion. What if the second opinion completely contradicts the first? A third opinion? A fourth? At what point does the person decide what is accurate, and therefore what to do? How the can person be sure they are not just seeking positive answers in the overwhelming face of negative realities?     

The past election year has been a barrage, a blitz of contradicting information and opinions, often convoluted in ways which made opinions hard to sort from reliable information.  Provision of this barrage is a multi-million dollar industry.  And, the wordsmiths who craft election campaign messages are clearly not held to the same high bar as those who craft Informed Consent forms.  How many of those paid political ads were intended merely to inform, and not to mislead?  We even have a new term in our lexicon: “Fake news”.  At what point does the voter sit back and decide they have heard enough, they have decided on a diagnosis?  True, there are many people who vote “straight ticket” for the Party they think the most positive for themselves, hardly considering the candidates if at all. Getting the Party into power comes first and things will sort into place later.

What, if any, moral responsibility attaches to the observer?  A quaint saying is: “America gets the government it deserves.” Yes, quaint. But what of those Americans who will have to live with the consequences? What of the children and grandchildren who look to us as we look to our doctors, trusting we have carefully weighed the evidence and have reached an informed conclusion? And, compounding this by several orders of magnitude, what of the rest of the people, indeed all the other life forms on this planet which will have to live with the consequences?  If my poor judgment sends my car off a cliff, so be it.  But can I say the same if my child is in the car?

Over the time I have been writing on this blog site I have refrained until recently from writing pointedly political articles.  The readership was high and it was steady, much of it distributed in countries around the world.  But I began to feel the old stirrings, the feeling I was morally remiss if I did not speak out, if I did not warn. Omission, commission, it was all the same. A couple of regular readers mentioned privately to me my writing was taking a dark turn.  I was reprising the role of Cassandra.  And, yes, the readership has declined.

I wondered if the readership decline, at least in part, might be attributed to fear, fear of being found by electronic surveillance to be reading such blatantly political material.  I most certainly do not pose myself as someone worth watching, so I cannot accept that anyone is monitoring this site to sweep up reader identifications.  But I do wonder if the atmosphere of fear has become so pervasive that some readers are unwilling to take that chance.

Or, people are just tired of reading my stuff and have moved on; some great television series have just returned to broadcast.

In any case I will not reiterate the warnings I have issued in the recent past.  If some people cannot yet see for themselves the chaos and crisis the United States, and by extension the world is in as a consequence of the complete Fascist take-over of this nation I will not “helicopter” them or blitz them further.  I have affixed my Warning Label to the goods they have been sold; “Fascism is bad for your health. Elect Fascism at your own risk. Stopping Fascism now greatly improves the quality of your life.”  I told you…….Oops, I almost said it.

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11 Comments
  1. Julie permalink

    Hi Marco, interesting comment about ‘omission’, I have always felt providing as much information/learnt experience on to my children to has been of great benefit to them and part of my role as a parent in explaining situations and consequences to them. I do remember noticing other parents hadn’t thought about or done this. I guess it also comes back to everyone having a different parenting style, I have raised my children to be independent and teaching them to have an open mind. As for the political side of things, I don’t personally get any joy out of analysing politics. I always like to feel my thoughts with positivity and inspiration as much as I can to keep my mental health on track, anything political tends to do the opposite. However, I love reading your blog Marco and don’t always find the time to comment. Keep up the good work, your a legend 🙂

    • Thank you, Julie. I always look forward to your comments and am so glad when you can find the time. If I may say, I think your children were fortunate in being born to you.

      I share your aversion to political analysis. To me it’s like watching endless reruns of car wrecks. But I am sure you sense my discomfort at keeping silent. After all, our children are in the car.

      I will keep writing, and very much appreciate your interest and your thoughtful participation. Marco .

  2. Among my friends, I am known for giving (unwanted and unasked-for) advice. I always follow it with, “feel free to ignore me”, which advice I am certain is the bit they follow. Perhaps like you, I feel the compulsion to pass on what little (in my case) wisdom life has allowed me to gather. I am less successful at taking advice than I am at giving it; my response is generally, “I know you’re right, but I don’t know how to fix the situation.” Across the board, I find it difficult, if not impossible, to stop helping people, even when I know they would be better off without my help. When my attempts to help my fellow humans falls on deaf ears, or when that help turns out to be to my own detriment, I am certain it is difficult for my friends to refrain from telling me, “I told you so.”

    • Thank you, Rose. One salient feature of our discussions so long ago was the give and take of ideas and projections we shared. Your thoughts on a subject were often prescient advice as I later looked back and remembered, Rose and I talked about this. And, your admission of sometimes not seeing a solution indicates your openness to the thoughts – even advice, of others. It brings to mind the saying, Choose your friends wisely.

      • In choosing you as my friend, I have followed that advice. You are the one person whose opinion on any subject I can trust, even on that rarest of occasions on which we do not agree. I look back on those long ago days and wonder, how were we ever so young and naïve to believe that we had the answers to all the problems of the world. Perhaps we did… it was a much simpler world then.

  3. Ray Z Rivers permalink

    Marco – very interesting paradigm you’ve created. Do we simply follow what seems the inevitable and become the lemmings the fascists would have us be? – or do we stop and say, I’m mad as hell….? History has shown that we can move mountains by inviting many hands to join in the big push – but that motivation can be best accomplished if we focus on what is to be gained, rather than shaming for what was done. “I told you so” is just too late, regardless of it’s edifying effect for the utterer.

    The nearly half of US voters who made that character now in the White House your president need to move beyond their inevitable dissatisfaction. That will require something more positive than simply grinding into them how badly they chose to vote. Consider giving another chance to the patient who, once having declined a therapy, now realizes their folly. It’s never too late to try, regardless the odds.

    • Thank you, Ray. I think you are entirely correct. I read just today an opinion that the Democratic Party is foundering because it has embraced ideals without concrete means of achieving them. As you know, I do not identify with political parties, but as you say, someone has to organize a movement with concrete, measurable objectives. That is currently lacking. Yet, “Independents”, almost by definition, take themselves out of the game. Somehow we must break free of the mindset of the two party system. This is just one of the several reasons I have long favored a Parliamentary system.

      • Ray Z Rivers permalink

        And getting rid of that silly dysfunctional electoral college would be a first step to more sanity in US politics.

      • I absolutely agree.

  4. Gregg permalink

    One of the hardest realizations as an adult might have been that “I told you so” wins very few individuals over to your argument or position. I find Stephen Colbert amusing with his barbs and rantings against the current administration but he isn’t helping the situation he criticizes. I don’t think he’s doing any good in the bigger picture than getting cheers out of people who already agree with him. Like Bill Maher but without the misogyny and anti-Islamic ramblings. How do you start bridge the gap between the polarized views that increasingly isolate themselves by exclusively seeking out material that validates their already held opinions? I don’t know how.

    • There’s a Nobel Prize waiting for you when you find that bridge. I’ve become increasingly concerned over the choir effect. Then again, I’ve never thought debates changed any minds; the debaters can’t admit to it or they lose, the audience hears only the “points” for their side. I’ve spoken often of over-population but for many it remained abstract, numbers on a page. But modern communication brings these people, and their thoughts, directly into view. This may spark the drive to choose sides. We certainly see the world is getting more rigid and tight, not just in numbers but in entrenched ideologies.

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