Tuesday, January 11, 2011
Post No. 149: And Now for Some Motherly Advice
© 2011, the Institute for Applied Common Sense
The Mother of one of our Fellows used to say, “If you can’t say something nice about someone, say nothing at all.”
During our Institute position policy meetings, much to the irritation of some, he frequently brings up this childhood notion, as if it advances some important adult interest.
Some of us argue that the public is drawn to content with an edge, and that to draw readers, we should adopt a clear position, or at a minimum, enter the fray.
But our “Mr. Nice Guy” always reminds us that our primary goal is not to take sides, but rather to encourage our readers to view issues differently. After all, “There are more than 2 or 3 ways to view any issue; there are at least 27.™”
For two years, we had a tenant neighbor on our floor in our building. The two partners operating the business, one male and one female, frequently engaged in shouting matches resembling those found at heavyweight boxing championship pre-match weigh-ins.
In fact, there were times when we could have sworn that we heard some punches thrown. Visitors to our suite were justifiably uncomfortable while sitting in our lobby.
On several occasions, prior to contacting building management, we gingerly approached the pair, in an effort to diffuse the clamor, only to have the anger directed toward us, for having dared to “interfere.”
The expletives hurled toward us were comparable to, if not worse than, those which they spewed at each other. They accused us of infringing on their freedom of expression.
Our office lease came up for renewal in early December, and during one of our meetings, we discussed whether we could further tolerate our feuding neighbors. Mr. Nice Guy made several interesting observations.
He said that both the male and the female had to have the last word. He further noted that neither party ever conceded anything or suggested a compromise position, and thus neither learned anything from the other.
To address the situation, he suggested that we invoke what his Mother referred to as the “Doctrine of Unnecessary.” His Mother would have asked the question, “Is it really necessary for us to stay in this space and endure the blood-letting?”
Back in early 2009, out of concern about the incendiary nature of public and political discourse, we posted two articles on anger, the first being Is There a Positive Side to Anger, and the second, That Positive Side of Anger Which So Many of You See.
This past weekend, the world focused its attention on the State of Arizona trying its best to comprehend the attempted assassination of U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords, and the murder of numerous others, including a child. The event prompted us to re-visit the articles.
One of our loyal readers, WSteffie (who is from Germany by the way), offered the following comment:
“If everybody would hold their breath, count to , think about what exactly the anger is about and then speak, the world would be less violent. I'm just saying that because the problem is not always somebody else. Since we do have the choice of expressing, repressing, or calming our anger, it [might] be wise to first calm our anger.”
Earlier in the day, we wondered why so many talking heads, politicians, and pundits found it “necessary” to immediately weigh in on Arizona’s recent immigration and education battles, gun control and the 2nd Amendment, the Tea Party or Parties, the liberals, the conservatives, and a country run amok - all without anyone really being able to explain the actions of the young man, and armed only with a paucity of the facts.
We imagine that the affected families did not have sufficient time to sort out the events and their emotions, and yet the experts did.
It just seems to us that the responsible pursuit of an explanation is inconsistent with a rush to judgment as to the cause, assuming that a direct cause and effect relationship can even theoretically be established.
And thus we agree with WSteffie, at least to some extent, about counting to 10, and perhaps even 20. But why not consider the application of the Doctrine of Unnecessary?
Those of us not in the business of boosting media ratings, selling sexual lubricants, or getting ourselves or party members elected, might do well to follow a little motherly advice on occasion, and simply say nothing.
To quote the Laughingman, “We don’t have a dog in every fight.”
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