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Go To Your Room

by on June 24, 2019

Go To Your Room

by Marco M. Pardi

The heresy of heresies was common sense….The Party told you to reject the evidence of your eyes and ears. It was their final, most essential command.” George Orwell. Nineteen Eighty-Four. 1.7.1949.

Don’t believe what you’re hearing or seeing! It’s all fake news!” Donald J. Trump: 2019

Beware of false knowledge; it is more dangerous than ignorance.” George Bernard Shaw

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Ah, those were the most joyous words of my childhood. I was not banished, I was freed. Although I shared a room with my brother, he was usually not there until time to sleep. Instead I had many books, including a huge set of the 1910 Encyclopaedia Britannica my grandfather had bought, a radio, and a few adventure comic books. If I tired of reading long and detailed Encyclopaedia entries on how steamships worked or some such subject I could listen to the radio mystery programs while “curling” the huge encyclopaedias to develop my biceps.

As I grew and we moved from one house to another I retained that sense of the room as my sacristy, especially when my brother left for West Point. For many years thereafter my home, wherever it was, served the same role. Especially as I lived alone for so long. But therein lay the benefits and the risks.

Yes, living alone, or functionally alone provided all the joys of solitude: autonomy, my choice in what to do or not do, my selection of television news, shouting invectives at certain politicians, hurling foam nerf balls at the tv, or risking carpal tunnel syndrome from overuse of my middle fingers. What could be better?

The risks should be obvious. I was building my own information bubble, assembling my own igloo with blocks I had cut and trimmed to my satisfaction. Could The Polar Bear of Alternate Opinion come along and bat the whole thing down? I don’t socialize very much, in fact hardly at all. And I’ve written earlier (much earlier) of my impatience with “small talk”. I’m coming to suspect that now, even among those few people I know by name, the old standby – talk about the weather – would quickly morph into an unpleasant circular firing squad about whether climate change is real or a hoax, or a real hoax, or has anything to do with that rainstorm last night.

Then again, what happens when you raise a topic about which the other people in the group are ill informed or even completely uniformed? At a neighborhood chili cook-off I blundered into a group of guys talking about the current efforts to bring back the coal industry, the “clean coal” industry. (I should say here my neighborhood is composed of educated professionals) I said, “There is no clean coal”. Oh yes there is, they said with certainty. I then asked if they were referring to lignite, subbituminous, bituminous or anthracite. Group flat affect. Abrupt change of subject. Not caring much for chili, I went home. I was certain any “lecture” on my part, no matter how short, would have gotten maybe a nod or two and a mass departure for the chili tables. Although some of my college students would likely have guffawed at this, I actually am sensitive to lecturing too much.

Speaking of which, I recommend an outstanding book by Naomi Klein, NO Is Not Enough. It is short, precise, and offers analyses, solutions and action items. For example, in addressing the rule by chaos characterizing our current administration she dispels the common idea that this chaos arises from incompetence. Instead, she makes it very clear that this is a carefully orchestrated tactic. She asks us to imagine standing up to an automatic tennis ball server on steroids; we may manage to hit a few balls back but we will be quickly overwhelmed by the cloud of balls coming at us from various angles. And those balls carry the most damaging policies of this administration, such as canceling the Clean Air Act, eliminating the Environmental Protection Agency, going after every source of fossil fuel on the planet, de-regulating the industries which have harmed us, attempting to ban abortion and even contraception while cutting or eliminating all the supports for people hit the hardest by these measures. And on and on.

And so, we yield. We go to our room, where we can control the input coming to our senses, we can assure ourselves all is really well with the world, or at least it will be in a few years. But is that really what that voice inside us is telling us? If so, does that mean the propaganda machine is working? Blunt force trauma is effective but crude; fine tasting poisons, metered through the educational system, the churches, and other “benevolent” institutions are far more effective, leaving us crippled and thankful for it.

The temptation to withdraw into distractions like televised sports, game shows, “fluff” movies and so on is understandable. Yet when that inner voice tells us to speak up we must first know our subject and know our adversary. Another fine book I’m currently reading is Jonathan Haidt’s, The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics And Religion. (Thank you, Rachel). Where Klein gives us insights into the group that fronted people like Reagan, George W. Bush, and now Donald Trump, Haidt brings out the moral psychology of the individuals on both sides of an issue. I want to study this in more detail before commenting.

But it can be said that the readers of my articles are spread throughout a great many countries, large and small, near and so far away as to seem safe. I’ve certainly felt safe in many of those countries, usually having to expend some effort to access American news. But that feeling of safety was a delusion. Sadly, the United States is still the world’s leading economy. It has by far the most powerful military. It exploits and consumes the world’s resources at a rate wildly disproportionate to the world’s population. And when it sneezes much of the world catches a cold.

American policies, be they in food production, energy usage, economics and banking, or any other arena are like prodding the spinning top which is our world. A miscalculation could destabilize and hurl our world into terminal disorder. A child playing with matches in the middle of an empty cement parking lot is the child’s problem; he may burn his fingers. A child playing with matches in the middle of a wood frame house while everyone’s sleeping is a problem of a whole different order. The United States, as portrayed in the Baby Trump balloons, is that child. Everyone on this planet must be concerned, if not for themselves then for their children.

Thinking of one’s far away country as a safe room in which to control reality is overlooking the reality of the planet coming down around us. And, it is, as the trite saying goes, “Drinking the Kool-Aid”, accepting as true one of history’s greatest propaganda coups.

I suggest we get out and talk with those neighbors, even if it means having a bowl of suspicious chili. Go armed with knowledge, but also with understanding. And here’s an idea: If you want to do this but are uncomfortable raising issues, point these neighbors to my blog. That way you can always say, Hey, I didn’t say that. He did.

I’ll be here in my room. But my room is wired to the world.

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10 Comments
  1. Michael E. Stamm permalink

    Absolutely right…except that the US these days is not a child playing with matches in a wood-framed house whose other occupants are asleep, but rather a child playing with matches in a fireworks/gunpowder factory run by single-minded robots. We are so sure that, even with a whack job like Drumpf pretending to be in charge, nothing serious can go wrong, that we are all effectively sleepwalking, and will be blown to bloody rags when something inevitably does go wrong. We have it in us to stop all this…but only if we’re willing to wake up and do so.

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  2. Thank you, Mike. I did rather soft-pedal it with that example. I very much appreciate your outspokenness. Few people make the effort that you do.

    I know people who garb themselves in the sanctity of spiritual aloofness, never making any comment on politics or world affairs. I consider that the height of selfishness. And what would we say of someone who knows the building is on fire yet slips out the back saying nothing, holding their fingers in their ears and chanting, La,la,la.

    Thank you for your courage.

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  3. Dana permalink

    Marco, I too enjoyed being sent to my room. Unfortunately, once my parents realized that, they would disallow it. I was forced to read out in the living room where they were. Sometimes that’s a comforting memory if things were going well. Later on they would prohibit my closing the bedroom door, even as a teenager. I remember their saying, “You spend too much time in your room.” Since they pre-approved all of my library books and I wasn’t allowed a radio or T.V., I’m not sure what they thought I was doing in there. Michael Jackson’s sister, Janet, has a song that comes to mind, “Control.”

    As you know, I’m an introvert and delight in solitude. Staying engaged in some form is important, and I give you credit for our email network, and for inspiring the courage to write publicly. That’s been the most difficult part for me. I’m well aware that small companies lacking ethics will forego background checks to save money. Instead, they perform Internet and social media searches of candidates prior to interviewing them. This can mean an interview won’t be granted at all. That’s a true concern for me if a potential employer is conservative. I wish I didn’t have to worry about it so I could just be myself and write what I’m thinking.

    Disengaging from social media in the past (from what little I used it) was crucial for my mental health. We gave the current administration so much of our energy and still do. It’s one thing to be outraged, and so we should be. But I also think of the “definition of insanity.” The “lock her up” memes are still circulating. Cries for impeachment, when people don’t really stop to consider what impeachment will mean. Sometimes I feel those who are zeroed in on impeachment have only one thing in mind – winning. Ironically, it’s also what motivates DT most. Do they stop to consider the prize?

    The boundaries I set for myself were never to mention DT by name, and not to share or respond to articles about him. It’s not an easy boundary to maintain. I don’t want to diminish the fear and anger disenfranchised and marginalized people are feeling. They have a right to express themselves, especially if they’ve been silenced and neutralized for decades.

    There is this misplaced idea now that we should always be positive, that everything is a mindset, and we manifest what we’re thinking. To an extent this has some value. I’m not going to gripe all day long about the boss to my teammates. That serves no purpose and could place a job in jeopardy. I’ve tried to do this, and smiling more, being cheerful really does boost the mood. But suppressing normal, healthy human emotions like anger can damage mental health. Never allowing myself to be angry only creates more anxiety and places me at risk for further abuse.

    Balance is key. I’ll use my local news channel, WSB-TV and their team as an example. For obvious reasons they have to report the news. In that industry I can imagine the ability to compartmentalize is critical. They include quite a bit of “feel good” content that I find uplifting, along with helpful information. Today they had a segment about Flying Change Equine Therapy, and I thought of you. If I immerse myself in upsetting news only, I begin to feel small and helpless again.

    While I’ll be thrilled and proud to become a naturalized citizen, I’ll forever consider myself a global citizen. The U.S. interferes far too much in other countries – regime “wars” as an example. If we’re going to interfere, I’d rather we follow The Carter Center’s example. I realize that won’t happen; it would require a miracle. As a citizen (and as a permanent resident), naturally I’ll defend the Constitution. The Founding Fathers did the best they could with what they had. I have little doubt many of their opinions would be far more progressive if they could time travel to 2019. There’s much to be admired in many of them, especially Benjamin Franklin (can’t resist the opportunity to mention him!). My heart hurts for Thomas Paine, knowing less than ten people were at his funeral. While he may not have known that, it still enrages me at times. The history behind his funeral is the reason for my feelings.

    The most I hear about George Washington is that “He was a slave owner.” True, but research provides context. George Washington marrying into slave inheritance, as well as how he treated them, shouldn’t be compared to the horrors of slavery we know to be true. He and the Marquis de LaFayette conceived plans to free them. This was well-intended but impossible to bring about. They would likely have ended up in far worse situations without a means to support themselves.

    Americans need to know there are minor slaves laboring under the safety of “freedom of religion” today. As you know that I was one of them. My own investigations have confirmed what I know to be true about faith-based operations today; they still utilize child labor to “rehabilitate” wayward adolescents. In Louisiana, by 5 a.m. most mornings, I was working in a large commercial kitchen at fourteen years old. While this is unlawful in the real world, it’s completely okay if the operation is a religious cult. I realize some programs aren’t faith-based and youth are harmed in other ways, but I think the most damaging and dangerous ones are religious. They don’t have to report to the State, which means they don’t have to provide medical care. This is just one example of the horrors in these facilities. They attract the worst predators because background checks aren’t required. Even so, a criminal background check only means someone has been caught. Predators are terrific at evading discovery.

    You’ll never hear me chanting, “USA! USA!” or gushing about the “greatest nation in the world.” I find that abhorrent. I can be loyal and uphold the Constitution and the law without being a nationalist. I’ve never supported people who have leaked classified information, and I’ve defended the Intelligence Community. But I can truthfully say this country hasn’t been so good to me, especially as a defenseless adolescent. I’m fortunate to be alive today, but it wasn’t because anyone protected me or had my well-being in mind as a child. I was forced to devise my own plans for survival by keeping my wits about me, and by using psychic displacement to play a role. I’m not opposed to making amends and apologizing to descendants of slaves. The damage over generations and severe prejudice is still going on today. I’ve driven around Atlanta’s worst neighborhoods with tears running down my face. It’s appalling that nothing has really changed. There is still an agenda to oppress groups of people.

    But where’s my apology, and that of countless children and teens who today are living with irreparable mental disorders such as PTSD? Even so, what would an apology do? Apologies are trite, much like “thoughts and prayers.” Amending laws and investigating ongoing crimes against humanity would be more productive and meaningful. I can heal my mind only so much. Over the years those who supposedly “loved” me would cruelly demand I stop “living in the past,” while offering no acknowledgment for my suffering. They can’t imagine what it must be like to be caught between two countries who failed them. Why would I want to make a permanent return to what some view as the “promised land?” I don’t think much is different there. There’s a large FLDS population in British Columbia, and the cult in which I was raised, IFB, is all over Canada. Running off to Canada to escape the current administration wouldn’t amount to anything different for me. For all I know, someone has stolen my identity and racked up a bunch of credit card debt in my name. Few realize what it’s like to be forced into a country due to lack of choices, not as a child, but still not an adult.

    The other day someone suggested I write about these things from a distance to avoid being egocentric or preachy. I do think it’s good advice for many situations. But when I write, it’s usually you and me in the room, regardless of the channel. Sometimes I write emails to you and then discard the drafts. If I’m going to heal through this medium, I can’t help but use the word “I” over and over again. A word cloud created from everything I’ve written would probably have “I” front and center in the largest font possible.

    I don’t care.

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    • Thank you, Dana. Your saga of survival reminds me of those we hear or read when remembering the Holocaust. But you do more than recount events, you develop the person those events shaped. And that person, unfolding every day, is someone from whom every one of us can learn.

      You have precisely identified the source of the angst so many feel when dreaming of a return to a land of origin that exists, really, only in their idealized memories. I always remember the saying, You can never go home again. It took me years to realize the deeper meaning of that: Home was never really there. The only Home we have is our selves.

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  4. I love my room, the one place I feel I can shut everything out, if only for a while to reset myself mentally and physically.

    I feel Marco from your writing that you have the best intentions for people and think about the bigger picture in life, however we really only have control of our own part in the world, whatever that may be. Sometimes it’s easy to get caught up in ones own thinking, I know I do, that’s when my husband is good at bringing me back down to earth. Being with my dogs also gives me grounding.

    I love your exploratory mind, and I too as a child spent much of my spare time reading encyclopedias and was fascinated with all the things I could learn. When I stop and recall childhood memories, it’s hard to believe how much the world has changed, I can’t imagine what it will be like in another 45-50 years. I resolve myself to trust that life is how it should be and that the majority of humanity is good ❤️

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    • Thank you, Julie. I agree that, individually, we can only control our own part of the world. But collectively, we are the world. As you say, the world has changed, but as I grow older I wonder more if it ever was as I remember it.

      As you no doubt have discerned, much of my life has been entangled with members of humanity who were not so good. But I do feel compelled to connect with that majority you speak of.

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  5. From Ray: HI – yes loved it. Chili might be a good metaphor for today’s increasingly diverse society. I find it a challenge to get folks to buy into a concept as complicated as climate change – oatmeal, sticky porridge, might be even better. Of course it depends heavily on where they have been all their lives.

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  6. Thanks, Ray. I agree. It’s hard to get people to understand that climate change is a global issue which is intertwined with every aspect of our lives.

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  7. This is the first piece of time and space I have had to myself since before this offering was posted; what a luxury it must be to have a place of one’s own to which we may retire in peace and solitude. I have rarely had that, sharing a room with my sister until my marriage. When my husband was away, either on military assignment or later as a truck driver, it was a joy to be able to close my door and lock the world away. This kept the immediate annoyances away, but did little to abate the problems of the world.

    With my husband now retired, I get few opportunities to spend time pursuing my own thoughts and interests. To keep our relationship intact, we have often had to agree to disagree, or to ignore the issues entirely. This solves nothing. Now and again I am able to express an opinion with which he does not agree. He might not like it, but at that point he has heard it, and you can’t un-ring a bell.

    In our varied discussions over these many years concerning free will, the point has been made that every action we take determines the possibilities of action which are then offered to us. These days, it seems that the things we don’t do which are having the greatest impact. Climate change is destroying our planet, and yet we ignore humanities fault in that destruction, or the possibilities of what we might do to slow it; I doubt there is any way in which it may be stopped. I read today that Trump is thinking of mining the Grand Canyon; does he not know that this national treasure is of far greater value than anything which may be excavated from it?

    This whole world seems to be on the verge of going to war. Why can’t people understand that our only chance of survival is cooperation, not conflict. Is it any wonder that so many people want to lock ourselves away in a safe place that no longer exists, if it ever did?

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    • Thank you, Rose for your insights and for taking the time during what must be a terribly stressful time for you. I can empathize with what you describe. I’ve always tried to adhere to the principle that true privacy is within. But it becomes necessary to speak out.

      Yes, the fascist regime is planning to mine the Grand Canyon… for uranium. The push is on for a new arsenal of “low yield” nuclear weapons. Interestingly, the main driver is not political discord; it is the low price of oil. The primary way to raise the price of oil is war. This should show us where the priorities are. The regime also plans to mine and frack Yellowstone National Park. Of course, the park sits atop a Super Volcano which could obliterate most of the U.S. and bring catastrophic cooling and crop failure to the world if triggered to burst forth. But, money comes first for this regime.

      There are no safe places on this planet so long as this regime and its supporters have power. So many of our readers in other lands seem not to realize that.

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