In a poem by Thomas Gray called "Ode on a Distant Prospect of Eton College", the author bemoans the loss of childhood with the line, "—where ignorance is bliss 'Tis folly to be wise."
I look around me and I see friends who watch a lot of 'reality' TV (guilty of this myself), who avoid the news and the political scene and preoccupy themselves with sports or fashion in a way that goes beyond being just a hobby. I wouldn't call them ignorant, just tired of stressing out over the ills of society.
They do, in fact, seem to be happier than the friends and relatives that I have who spend their time predicting political and economic trends or who watch every news program or never miss a headline. These people often seem angrier, stressed and even depressed. They enter into debates which descend into chaos with the result that even the ones who have (IMO) reasonable outlooks behave emotionally, irrationally and invalidate their opinions with the manner in which they try to defend their POV. They often resort to name calling and disrespecting others, while they point fingers at the 'do-nothings' that refuse to get involved.
The angrier group is the kind of people that will most likely bring about betterment of that world which the former are shutting themselves away from, but can you blame the others for wanting to be happy as opposed to sacrificing that comfort to instigate change?
Is it indeed, "...Folly to be wise"?
Not everyone gets to, nor desires to, participate in the great sweep of history. Not every citizen feels that their voice is loud enough to make a difference, and stay out of current events.
Some folks are quite certain that if they isolate themselves from events thoroughly enough, then they won't have to deal with them. Some believe that if they go with the flow, if they never touch the apple cart, then things will pretty much stay the same and they won't be blamed when things don't stay the same.
Whether they realize it or not, or even care, these people usually benefit one way or another from the involvement and sacrifices of those who decide to get involved. It may be "folly to be wise", but I think that those people who think that they are playing it smart and safe, letting others take the risks and avoiding getting involved are missing something so exciting and satisfying that no distraction or hobby could ever match it.
Aren't they avoiding much of the stress and anger that the 'involved' have to deal with, until it reaches the point when it affects them?
Do you think the satisfaction of knowing that you were a part of change is gratification enough to justify all the biting, clawing and vitriol that is bandied about?
There isn't really a good way to express this without the reasoning sounding circular, but I think that people who sit and watch life go by (or the pseudo-life on the television) only think that they're happy because they don't know how miserable they are.
There is much that can be done without, as Snagg puts it, participating "in the great sweep of history." Most people will not be named in history books. Most won't even be named in their local paper, perhaps. But nevertheless, there is much that they can do, without having to do much, that can make a positive different in their life and the lives of their families, friends, co-workers, and neighbors. There is also tremendous satisfaction to be taken from having done so.
I believe that it's also an axiom that if you think politics is all about bickering and arguing, then you're doing it wrong, and you should find another way to help. Politics is about persuasion, not power.
Where is that line drawn between participating and not participating? If I vote, I am more involved than the person who doesn't vote, but less involved than the one who gets arrested protesting an issue. If I make a small donation to a cause, I'm participating more than someone who gives nothing but less that the person who petitions for that cause. How involved does one have to be to 'be involved'?
As far as the bickering and arguing goes, I'm thinking of a few social networking examples.
There is no hard and fast rule for where the line is drawn. It depends on the context.
The first steps (and perhaps only truly difficult and important steps) are to make the decision to make a difference and to think carefully about how it should be accomplished. Gestures may be grand but meaningless, or even worse than pointless. Getting arrested for the sake of getting arrested doesn't change anything, nor does signing a meaningless petition. Be deliberate. Be committed to doing the right thing, not something.
I was about 24 when I realized (probably after getting high) that I had no answers....most of the questions asked ( especially religious, political and economic ones) were beyond my scope.
From that time forward, I have mostly kept my views to myself. Oh, I'll discuss things a little, if its in an arena where mutual respect is offered.
Back when I was a child, a kid who stirred up trouble and then ran home and "hid behind his mama" and still hurled inflammatory comments, was not respected, and sometimes was roughed up physically the next day on the school playground.
Although somewhat effective, that method of attitude adjustment would fall into disfavor as we got older. Oh, the occasional guy might get his butt kicked in a bar, but by and large, we learned to ignore the rabble rousers...we sought a level in life where we were comfortable, a level where we found people with like values.
And then came the internet......some of those folks who used to hide behind mama's skirts, or got their butts kicked in the bars, now had a whole new place from which to lob their missiles. These folks could now hide in front of their keyboards.
So, we now have a whole bunch of people wearing virtual tin badges, people who talk the talk, but don't need to, or can't, walk the walk. We seem to have a preponderance of folks who feel they have all the answers, and they don't mind letting the rest of us know it. They also proclaim loudly, their right to freedom of speech.
Freedom of speech.....well yes, I like to exercise my freedom of speech too, but I also try to be considerate of others' when I do it. As I mentioned above, I don't really have many answers when I think it all through, so I don't feel that I should stick it all in somebody else's ear, and claim its my right of freedom of speech.
I must admit, I'm a bit of an instigator sometimes myself. When I see some blowhard posting slanted and unsubstantiated drivel, and respecting no one else's opinion, hell ya, I'll revert to the internet version of the barroom buttkicking. More often, though, I'll just ignore the blowhards, or if possible, block their sorry asses.
I'm in a good place in life, a few bozos aren't gonna spoil it for me.
It sounds like most of the people on this thread are satisfied with voicing their opinions respectfully and defending those views when countered. I think this probably does influence others. Just out of curiosity, has anyone recently gone beyond that? Is anyone camping out with the 99% or marching for/against the Tar sands agreement?