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Disturbing the Peace

by on May 15, 2019

Disturbing the Peace

by Marco M. Pardi

There are two kinds of people: Those who don’t know and those who don’t know they don’t know.” Robert B. Reich. 1995

All comments are welcome and will receive a response.

Most of us have grown up with the meme, Ignorance is bliss. Usually it is said in jest, or at least to compensate for some shortfall in knowledge. But the actual quote is: “Where ignorance is bliss, ‘Tis folly to be wise.” Thomas Gray. (1716-1771) Ode on a Distant Prospect at Eton College. 1747.

So that puts a different spin on that casual piece of “wisdom”. Is it folly to be wise? Or is it folly to be seen as wise?

Yet we’ve now developed a new meme, TMI, or Too Much Information. Whenever I hear that, usually in response to an explanation I’ve given (I refuse to present incomplete information), I form the impression the speaker is intellectually lazy. Who doesn’t want information?

But wait. Is there such a thing as too much information? Some years ago at the start of a lengthy journey I stopped in Seattle to see an acquaintance. She was a ticket agent for a major airline at SEATAC, the Seattle/Tacoma airport. Her boyfriend worked in the administration of SEATAC parking lots. She had forewarned me he habitually said whatever came to mind. So, where we might say, Pleased to meet you, he might say, Let’s get this over with. The evening went well, except for those awkward moments when he asked, Did you have sex with her (the young ticket agent)?

In current parlance we would say he “had no filters”. Whatever we call it, most of us learned at an early age to edit what we say. We also learned to edit how we answered, and not just for our own convenience. In the last days of her years long descent into Alzheimer’s my mother, in a seeming moment of some clarity, asked me, “Am I dying?” I answered truthfully: “You look fine to me, Mom.” Of course, she did look fine. The problem was totally internal. And what purpose would have been served by saying, Yes, you have a terminal condition and I would not expect you to live much longer? The fact that she asked at all suggested that, at least in that minute or so of clarity, she was not entirely ignorant of her situation. And, as expected, her attention quickly shifted into her routine kaleidoscope of perceptions, conceptions, reactions, and silence.

Please don’t misinterpret my use of this aphorism, but we also grew up being advised to “let sleeping dogs lie”. When information can be a call to action, is it appropriate to provide information for which no action is possible? A well meaning person might say, But your mother could have made her peace had she been given that information. And I would say that well meaning person has never been around an advanced Alzheimer’s patient.

On the other hand, we are daily faced with situations for which information can be, and is, a call to action. When I received my Naturalization as a U.S. citizen I had the impression citizenship was participatory, not submissive as in the Fascist Italy of my earliest years. I did not swear an oath to be anyone’s loyal subject. I acted on that participatory impression, speaking out in school, volunteering for the military, and successfully working hard to qualify for hand-picked volunteer-only military positions. Once out of the military I continued on that course even while in college and graduate school, winning selection for positions most Americans still don’t know exist while also, later, working in very public, outspoken jobs such as college teaching and assignments in U.S. government agencies.

But hands-on information is taking a back seat to a new phenomenon. Since the advent of the internet and on-line publications we have seen an exponential proliferation of “information” sources, some of them calling for action more clearly than others. As I frequently see international news media coverage of street marches and huge public gatherings protesting some issue of importance I try to understand both (or all) sides of the issue, even knowing my “evidence” is limited through media filters. But while I often find myself leaning toward one particular side I still find myself saying, You think you’ve got troubles now, just keep complaining about your singular issue or keep sitting on your ass while the American regime in power goes unexposed and unchecked.

Although I was out of the country much of the ’60’s and some of the ’70’s I do remember the mass protests, particularly against the Viet Nam war. Where are these people now? Signing up at their local Social Security office? I understand the pervasive atmosphere of fear and the sense of futility resulting from a regime which has ever more sophisticated methods and means of surveillance at hand. And the regime in power has shown unbridled willingness to deploy it. At the time of this writing the Attorney General of the United States, acting as the private attorney for the president, has initiated a third separate investigation into how the now well documented Russian election meddling probe got started. Never mind the numerous convictions and prison sentences; the regime is investigating the investigators.

Over the past couple of years I’ve signed hundreds of petitions, entered dozens of lengthy comments into The Federal Record, and sent dozens of E-letters directly to the White House. Perhaps I’m honored with my very own surveillance satellite parked in space over my house. I can imagine it now:

Officer Joe Bagadonuts comes to my house.

Yes, Officer, I was standing on my front lawn.

You were displaying your significant finger to a rightful property of the United States.”

Officer, I consider all my fingers equal in value and in their right to be on my hands. So, I do not have a significant finger.

Never mind the equality crap, put your equal hands behind your back.”

I doubt that will happen. Notice doubt, not certainty. Has it come to this? Are Americans settling for what they think of as peace while paying for it with the loss of everything America once was? Maybe in all those years in school I got bad information; maybe America never was any of those things. I admit I had doubts at the time.

So, in contrast to my earlier stated understanding of the fear and futility so many seem to feel I do not understand how so many seem to have the Not My Problem attitude. It’s as if Timothy Leary’s message, Drop acid, drop out, really did take hold. La, la, la. What mindless programs are streaming, beaming, gleaming now, what sports program preempts that nasty evening news, what Bachelorette is hawking her ass to the highest bidder? What “reality” shows are better alternatives to our own reality? What’s the price of gasoline?

Twenty five White male Republicans in the State of Alabama just passed the most Draconian anti-abortion law in the United States, seeking up to 99 years in prison for any and all providers, including the woman having the procedure. They cloak this move in religious garb yet there is not a single mention of abortion in the Torah, Talmud, Mishnah, or what Christians call the “new testament”. The prohibition of abortion (and contraception), once common practices, was started by the Catholic church as it quickly organized itself into an empire, with need for a greater population base from which to draw military support. Developing nations quickly found that a workforce so hamstrung by excessive family size is a workforce desperate to accept any working conditions no matter how bad, even enlistment in the military. The same people across the country are attempting to limit access to contraception under the guise of “religious liberty” for pharmacists.

But any simpleton knows this. Or do they? As of today 66% of Americans think overturning Roe v. Wade, the constitutional right to obtain an abortion, is a bad thing; 23% are in favor of it. Our government of the people, by the people, and for the people functions only if the people speak out, only if they disturb the peace.

I’ve been speaking out through this website for a few years now. The site has a wide readership, yet few seem daring enough to comment. How about this? If you are uncomfortable offering a comment, at least forward the site to someone who may do so.

Disturb the peace.

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8 Comments
  1. An interesting subject; one to which I have given a great deal of thought since discovering this offering just hours after it was posted. (I swear, I will use this computer as a boat anchor if it doesn’t stop fighting me every time I try to use it.) It does not propose a simple question, and there are no simple answers. If empirical is what we’re talking about, then I believe we should learn as much as possible about whatever subject matter interests us. Subject matter approached in a hap-hazard manner is of limited use, or no use at all.

    If the subject matter is of a personal nature, perhaps it is possible to share too much information. Certainly, any fact shared which hurts or harms the receiver without any other purpose should be kept to ourselves. Your answer to your mother’s question is a prime example of this; to have answered otherwise would only have served to upset her.

    My children and I have always shared an open line of communication, and so I have sometimes been privy to bits of private information which might better have been kept to themselves. I am pleased that they feel safe in telling me these things, but that doesn’t mean I always wanted to know. I have done things in my life which I am convinced would cause even the most caring of others to turn away from me, and so I keep these things to myself for all eternity. In these cases, too much information would be just that.

    Government and political information are of a public nature, and should be accessible to all of us. I don’t want the people who make the rules to be able to do so behind my back. I openly admit that politics were of little interest to me until the past few years, but the world has changed so much since the “election” of the current regime. You can’t fix it if you don’t know it’s broken, and this country is falling into shards and tatters around our feet. I don’t have the answers, but we have to keep asking the questions.

  2. Thank you, Rose. I think I’ve said before that I think each of us ultimately has a right to privacy, even from those closest to us. But you enlarge that right to include the responsibility to not hurt someone for no defensible reason. That can sometimes mean “accepting” information volunteered to you which you would rather not have heard. Your children are indeed fortunate.

    I know your recent outspokenness came after deep soul searching. Sadly, too many seem unwilling to follow your lead.

  3. Given the political atmosphere which currently pervades our nation, I am not certain I blame those who hesitate to make their opinions publicly known, however much we wish they would raise their voices. There have been many examples of the extremes to which the current administration is willing to go to punish any who dare to speak out against them. Perhaps it is not lack of concern, but fear of consequence, which keeps so many silent.

    In my own home, I have learned that it is best to keep silent about my political views. It’s not that the subject is banned, but to enter into a discussion of such is to invite a most unpleasant argument. Sometimes it’s worth it, but most of the time it is just banging my head against a brick wall; painful and frustrating, but making no difference at all. I pick my battles, as should we all.

    • Thank you, Rose. I suspect you are correct. The regime has succeeded in its Divide and Conquer strategy, even down to the family level. I expect things will get far worse before they get better, if they ever do.

  4. Dana permalink

    Marco, I wanted to add that I can’t comprehend why women vote for the men who hate them. But as someone who has never voted (insert self-awareness here) – no need for further comment.

    Rose, I admire your secrecy. There is a local T-shirt store in my neighborhood called, “Stuff We Wanna Say.” In my world a more appropriate title would be, “Stuff We Wish We’d Never Said.”

    • Thank you, Dana. Of course, as a Resident you can’t vote, but we take your point. It must be difficult being in a country as it implodes, especially since you know far more about the founding principles than the average citizen. It is said history does not repeat itself but this is the closest I’ve ever seen to the pro-Nazi and pro-Fascist ascension to power in 1920’s and 1930’s Europe.

      Secrecy can be an amusing thing. When I learned the Secret Oral Traditions of Tibetan Buddhism I learned they were “secret” because even though they were well publicized only a few could understand them.

      • Dana permalink

        I used to quip that I was sent to the Bible Belt to die. But we’re needed here, therefore I stay.

  5. And we’re glad you have.

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