Tuesday, August 21, 2012

...can't hurt me.

"Don't tell me the details," my friend said to my other friend.  "I don't want to know the sordid details that seal the deal against him."

He wasn't talking to me, but he was looking at me.  "What I don't know can't hurt me," he said.

Oh, it was just a gossipy little situation, further evidence against someone against whom a convincing case had already been made, and in the context of not wanting to hear even more negative stuff, I guess I can understand that whole idea of not wanting to hear more that would sully him because it would also sully the listener.  But I'm just saying that.  I don't really believe it.

I'm for knowing everything.

But this isn't about gossip or the petty injuries of daily life.  This is about the big stuff.  People, I find, for the most part don't want to know the big stuff. 

I was thinking the other day about 401ks.  I was thinking about how many people I know who don't pay any attention to their 401ks.  They don't want to know.  They don't keep up.  It's too complicated.  They don't understand.  As if somehow, in some magical way, if they ignore the quality and the trends of their investments, those same investments will take it upon themselves to sustain those people through the last 20 years of their lives.  As if simply dumping money every month, every year will be enough in a world where financial institutions either want that money for their own use or don't care what happens to it because they make their own money anyway or have larger goals in manipulating the market.

I am thinking every day about politics.  About how many people I know who don't want to know about politics. It's too dirty.  They're all crooks.  It doesn't matter. I just tell my friends I'll move to another country is such-and-such happens or so-and-so is elected.  As if that other country is out there.  As if some politician out there is looking out for their best interests even though there is no evidence in history to support that.  As if there weren't people and forces out there who want nothing more than for us to say it doesn't matter and they're all crooks so that our cynical view of everything keeps us from acting or caring very much.  Or voting.

If they can just get us to fall back onto blanket statements of cynicism or hopelessness or ignorance, then they can have their way with our politicians in unfettered ways.  And they will.  And if we don't know about them, we may never be any the wiser.

I am thinking about billboards.  About men.  Men like me.  Especially me.  Men who will, according to those billboards, die in drove this year because of stubbornness.  Stubbornness about medical tests, because we men neglect to get the physicals, cancer tests, skin check-ups, colonoscopies, etc. at a much greater rate than women.  Toughness, I guess, plus stupidity, plus fear, plus really not wanting to know. 

My neighbor showed me a spot on his elbow, or tried to because he couldn't really find it, where he had been diagnosed with skin cancer a year ago but he hadn't done anything about it year.  And he laughed about it. 

I've got to conclude that no one really wants to know much of anything.  We would rather avoid all of it, any sort of unpleasantness or danger or fear or risk that might stand in the way of our phones or movies or sports or, most of all, our meals.  We don't want to know what's in our food.  We don't know to know who has a gun in the restaurant.  Maybe we feel safer thinking that someone does.  We don't want to know who is in a certain mile radius and doesn't have enough to eat.  We don't want to know where the food we didn't eat goes or the containers it came in.  We don't want to know if the people serving the food are part of a cult.  We won't ponder, except in ironic ways, how that food is either killing us or the planet.

And we certainly don't want some asshole on the Internet taking us to task for what we don't want to know.  He is lucky that we take the time to check in on his writing from time to time and let him have his say and maybe say something nice about it.  We take it or leave it, but if it starts to make us uncomfortable, there are plenty of other places we can go on our Ipads.  We don't need him, and we don't need him telling us that ignorance is not bliss.  That we do not need.   I don't blame us.


Billy said...

Warning: War metaphors can suck.

I've only got so many troops. I can only fight so many battles. The battles I choose to fight, I want to win. Hell, I want to win all of 'em, but I don't believe I'm capable, and I don't believe that's mere humility talking.

So yes, it's a shame people say these things about 401k's and politics and health and relationships and all this stuff. But... but... it's only really REALLY a shame if they say these things about ALL of this stuff and all the other stuff of life all at the same time.

Otherwise, maybe they're just picking their battles (semi-)wisely with the (limited) troops they have at their disposal.

Bob said...

I can't quite agree with that assessment. Certainly, having been there, I understand those years when child-rearing is all-encompassing and it's impossible to keep up with other aspects of life, but for every adult in that situation, I suspect there are 3 who simply don't want to know because....well, because it makes life more complicated and worrisome and less black and white.

And not just adults. When I speak to students about transparency in government, most of them don't really want to know what the government is doing.

Me, I go with Bruce Springsteen on this one, from his intro to "War" on his live CD:

''I want to do this song tonight for all the young people out there, if you're in your teens,'' Springsteen continues. Remembering when he and his friends were teens, he says, ''we didn't have much of a chance to think about how we felt about a lot of things.

''And the next time,'' he says, ''they're going to be looking at you. And you're going to need a lot of information to know what you're going to want to do. Because, in 1985, blind faith in your leaders, or in anything, will get you killed."

Who would have thought that the same warning could apply to, for example, our food supply?

troutking said...

There is no limit to how hard and how long I will think about something that will bring me pleasure. That's fun. But as you document so clearly I don't enjoy thinking about things that are likely to bring me bad news or that are unsolveable. I agree with the Boss (on principle) but I also agree with Billy, the brain has limits. Still, your post is a good reminder that we need to push through those limits even when it's not what we'd prefer to do.