The Other I

February 24, 2013

Tranquility vs transparency

Filed under: Just Stuff,Survival Strategies — theotheri @ 3:25 pm

Today’s almost-instantaneous global communications systems are wonderful.  But they have their downsides, only one of which is this question of news.

Wherever one is on a political, economic, or religious spectrum, it is impossible to review an average day of news and commentary without feeling the impulse toward something between rage and despair.  I’m not the only one to be faced with the decision to tune out altogether or to find some way to come to terms with an overwhelming feeling of helplessness.

I’ve given myself endless sermons that I am not, cannot be, responsible for everything that happens in the world.  I even have enough self-knowledge to realize that, despite my obvious goodness and wisdom, I am unlikely to do a better job than most  of our leaders.  Why then, I have asked myself, bother?  Why flagellate myself when there is nothing I can do beyond my own very small patch?

But I think there is a reason we should keep worrying about what’s happening in the larger world beyond our personal circle.  It’s because transparency is one of the most powerful tools we as a human species have.  Closed, secret systems provide far more opportunities to cheat, lie, manipulate,and destroy.  Even the fear of exposure can help keep these universal impulses under control.  We know this is true for each of us as individuals.  Seeing what’s going on is just as true for systems.  We need them to be transparent.

So although my life might be more tranquil if I simply close the door on the world, I won’t be making my small contribution to a more transparent and honest one.

It’s not that any of us can see ourselves making much of a contribution to changing the world.  Even those proclaimed to be among the Great and the Good seem to make such small changes for a life-time of heroic effort.  But bit by bit, for better or for worse, we each do make a difference.

Like it or not, we’re all in this together.



  1. Just finished Frederick Douglass’s My Life in Bondage, where he says something pertinent to your comments. He spoke, when he was in Britain, about the need to bring wrongs (slavery) to light–surround them with fire, he says–for all the world to see, and doing so from a distance, i.e. not in America, gives him a “lever” he would not have in his own country and amplifies the strength of that light/fire.

    So, your “small patch” is a kind of foothold where you can manipulate that lever across oceans and continents, as I see it.


    Comment by pianomusicman — February 25, 2013 @ 12:16 am | Reply

    • Thank you for this. It’s the kind of encouragement we need to hang on to. And one can see from reading about Douglass’s life that there was no way he could know what the effects of his fire might have been. He jut lit as many as he could. Most of the time I find anger is a distorting and destructive feeling, especially if it carries on for days or months or years, or even generations. But sometimes it is a light, isn’t it?

      On Mon, Feb 25, 2013 at 12:16 AM, The Other I


      Comment by Terry Sissons — February 25, 2013 @ 2:08 pm | Reply

  2. I feel a tiny bit less helpless when I sign a petition or contact my congress people via the internet. I know it is just a drop in the ocean but it makes me feel better and it only takes a couple of clicks!


    Comment by kay lent — February 26, 2013 @ 12:00 am | Reply

    • I’ve been thinking about your comment “it is just a drop in the ocean.” And I agree – I feel the same way. But so, of course, is each of our votes for political representatives, but we think it’s worth it. And I think that “a drop” is just about right — I don’t have the right (or even the wisdom) to exercise a greater influence about what happens to everybody else. Yes, I have to do my part. But I shouldn’t be trying to do everybody else’s part as well. I wasn’t put on this earth to run everybody else’s life.

      On the other hand, what you are reminding me is that I do have to make those couple of clicks. Nobody else can do that for me either. Sometimes I let my feeling of helplessness be an excuse for not doing anything — because everybody else is so stupid and self-absorbed, why bother?

      Thank you. It’s a really helpful comment. Terry

      On Tue, Feb 26, 2013 at 12:00 AM, The Other I


      Comment by Terry Sissons — February 26, 2013 @ 2:26 pm | Reply

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