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Why Speak Out?

by on April 17, 2017

                                                                                         Why Speak Out?

                                                                                       by Marco M. Pardi 

“Let us say what we feel , and feel what we say; let speech harmonize with life.” Seneca the Younger (5BCE? – 65CE) “On the Diseases of the Soul,” Moral Letters to Lucilius.

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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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Any first time visitor to this site can easily see I have written quite a few entries. And, a simple click on any given entry can display the comments appropriate to that piece. I have also done several YouTube presentations and Vimeo podcasts with Jamie Butler, available by searching Jamie Butler on Google.

This particular site you are reading enables me to see how many visits and readings have occurred each day, tallying those visits with the countries in which the reader resides.  Since starting this site I have had pieces read in as many as 120 countries, with comments coming in from several. Early on I did venture onto a universally known site but found that site is inhabited by “trolls” who seem to have nothing better to do than to hide behind cover names and post vicious and vile comments.  If those comments had had any merit I would have responded, respecting their right to speak out but suggesting – where needed – the discourse could be more civil. But I saw no merit and withdrew, closing that account.

For over a year we have seen numerous news reports, and even in-depth articles discussing the phenomenon of diminishing civility in the internet sphere.  One hypothesis after another has been put forward, though few, if any, tested so as to rise to the level of theory.  Each hypothesis seems to convey the bias of its proponent inasmuch as, without strenuous testing it merely reflects the a priori presumptions held by that person; if this, then that. And despite all the talk about the phenomenon it persists.  Readers who do examine the comments following my various pieces will see I respond to each of them, sometimes expanding further on what I had written because I felt welcomed to do so.

But I have had private communications with people, some of whom I’ve known for years, in which they express sincere regrets at not commenting and at having to yield to fears of troll response or even of simple internet presence attached to a controversial subject.  I can understand the reticence to engage with trolls; I think it takes a certain personality type to enjoy that. And, that there seems to be no lack of that personality type seems evident from the large audience share “Reality” shows and radio “talk shows” draw.

But the fear of openly expressing opinions on a public forum speaks to a much darker phenomenon in our society.  The events of 9/11 spawned a massive and intrusive intelligence collecting effort with broad – some say unchecked – powers to sweep up private communications.  Many said, “Why worry if you have nothing to hide?”  But as prices precipitously dropped for computers and other forms of electronic communication, making them ubiquitous, more people came to feel they did have something to hide.

Certainly, as the Bush administration attempted to institute Draconian measures such as the Patriot Act, including power to sweep up private phone conversations and even force public libraries to submit lists of who checked out which books the public looked for ways of going about life without leaving a “paper trail”.  When disclosures of NSA and other governmental agency powers to “read your email” dominated talk shows and mainstream publications the public looked for ways to cover the “digital trail”.

But how much of this capability, if real, is practicable? Even with super computers processing the billions of electronic communications daily, scanning for key words, how many people would it take to examine the collated and distilled data to identify sources, assess risk, and initiate responsive action?  For the record, I got a glimpse of this as early as 1968 when a university I worked for administered the Minnesota Multi-Phasic Personality Inventory, with hundreds of questions, to hundreds of incoming Freshmen and transfer students. My question of how these were to be evaluated was answered by the arrival of several boxes of computer print-outs complete with assessments and diagnoses of students and recommendations regarding the subject students. Tron had spoken.      

It is true that potential employers scan social media sites for postings by job applicants.  It is also true many people post some really stupid stuff.  And, some things appear unbidden.  Google Marco M. Pardi and you will see material I did not post myself, including articles I’ve written for on-line magazines, comments I’ve made on books and articles, scientific papers I had no idea would go on-line and even evaluations of my college teaching as posted by students. We are also connected to other people. Google Jamie Butler YouTube or Facebook and you will find videos I’ve done with Jamie.  You will also find self-styled Finder sites which claim to have personal information on me. I’ve looked at a few of them and found much of the information to be false though I’ve not yet found anything damaging.

What I find interesting is that high traffic sites often have a very low percentage of comments.  A recent YouTube release of Jamie and me discussing NDEs has, as of this morning, nearly 1,100 views; yet, it has only 20 comments, about half of which are my responses to submitted comments.    

Yet, I continue to write, sometimes on subjects some readers may find dangerously revealing. Having a decades long familiarity with the field, I doubt “the government” is spending much if any time on my ramblings. And, one virtue in being prolific is that it becomes daunting in and of itself. An old saying in the counter-intelligence community is, “When they’re looking for the needle, add more hay.”

I think my responses to comments demonstrate my sincerity in welcoming those comments.  A fairly small percentage of readers regularly provide comments, and these are almost always very valuable in themselves.  I highly value learning, and you can’t learn as long as you are the only one doing the speaking.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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6 Comments
  1. I’m first reminded of one of The Four Agreements to “be impeccable with your words.” I’ve faced similar challenges working with consciousness in an academic setting from both sides of the spectrum. I’ve observed professors who couldn’t tolerate the word “energy” in any context other than physics, and “healers” who didn’t even want to talk to me if I mentioned the word “science.” The need to tailor our speech to the audience is real – not unlike a cover letter and CV. Silence, though, in the face of adversity implies acceptance of the status quo.

    Next I’m reminded of the panopticon (and Foucault’s work on hegemony). The idea is that if you build a jail that’s circular with a guard tower in the middle that can see into each room, prisoners’ behavior will reflect that they are under constant surveillance, even if there’s no guard in the tower. The surveillance issue you touched on acts much the same way. If people believe their every online move is being watched, they’ll act accordingly and “police” themselves – even participating in their own subjugation as trolls. Yes, the internet can be a type of prison for your mind if you let it, give into the ego and especially if you feed the trolls. Many studies are coming out on the damaging effects on online social behaviors.

    Trolling behavior is fascinating to me. The practice is as old as the performing arts (in the form of hecklers) but the prevalence of this behavior speaks to the ego-inflating nature of online interactions. What’s interesting is that when trolling behavior appears, it seems like more often than not it’s the person accusing others of “trolling” who is actually behaving that way. It’s also evident that some businesses and parties employ trolls, or partner with them in order to defend, attack, or divide communities. I have no proof, but it’s often pretty clear who’s interest is at stake. This goes to show that online dialogue is neither innocent nor insignificant.

    To that end: Thank you for holding this space with honesty and transparency.

    • Thank you, John, for this thought provoking and informative comment. The subject of trolls is distasteful to me but a social phenomenon of this magnitude calls for analysis. And you have certainly brought extremely valuable insights into the matter. I sometimes think of the investigators who have to sit and watch child pornography in order to arrest and prosecute the perpetrators and the customers. I’m convinced I could never do that job; I would bring my own Judge (made by Taurus Handguns) to bear on those individuals long before they saw a courtroom.

      Your work in consciousness is fascinating, and I hope the readers will be afforded the opportunity to read it and benefit from it. Thanks very much for providing your input. Marco

  2. Ray Z Rivers permalink

    Thanks for the article Marco – very thought provoking. I am one of those less concerned about the encroachment of the big brothers – perhaps because at this time in my life I don’t expect to see consequences – and perhaps because I feel I can defend or deflect things i might have once said. Still it should be a worry for those looking to make their mark in life….

    • Thank you, Ray. I think I feel similarly to you on this one. And I agree that younger people need to become far more aware of the trails they leave. I wonder what this says about the direction of our society, and the social world awaiting them.

  3. Generally speaking, I doubt that very many people care what I have to say, but I tend to say it anyway. It may only be an opinion, but I share it because it matters to me.

    A new “follower”, gained just days ago, shows no sign of being an individual. I am not paranoid enough to believe that any sector of the government wants to read my rants or fictions, but this reminds me how easily anyone who does have interest may access our public words, and perhaps use them against us. That caution aside, I believe that the world in which we now live demands that those words be said, however carefully. If those of us who want the right changes to take place in this country, and indeed the world, do not speak up, how are those changes ever to happen?

    Of course, both left and right feel that their desired changes are the right ones. I fear that we are on the verge of another McCarthy-style era, in which people are afraid to say what they think for fear of the repercussions.

    • Thank you, Rose. As you know, in calculating the percentage of “reads” to the percentage of comments I often think of just dropping this blog. But every once in a while someone from as far back as my first college teaching days appears or is referenced and points out to me how meaningful they found my ideas from way back then. If something is a contribution to someone’s life, I will gladly give it. I view your writing the same way.

      I suspect you may be right about the new “follower”. I get far more spam comments on the blog (hidden in a separate folder) than genuine ones. I’m also sure you are right about the return to McCarthy era thought police.

      I don’t seek out arguments, and I find it odd that almost no one challenges me to my face (my face isn’t THAT bad). But I do welcome a good discussion..

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