I worked with a veterinarian in Dallas TX who was on an incredible variety of mailing lists. He introduced me to the wonderful source of information, the MWWR, published by the CDC (which is now available online, for free, instead by mail for $125 a year). He also received mail from PETA and other (what he called) “Radical Vegetarians”. When I asked why he read some of the fringe publications he replied “Sun Tzu said ‘know your enemies’, this is the best way to know what they’re thinking”. This folded into something a teacher had said many years before, that I should always seek information from both sides of an issue to help form my own opinion.
I have followed that advice ever since. It is one reason that if you were to survey everyone who knows me, you would get the descriptions of several different people. I am suspected of being everything from a Pagan to a Fundamentalist Christian, a Socialist, an Anarchist, and a Fascist. Some people think I am Gay, others think I am a womanizer. Most agree that I’m crazy, because they project their beliefs on me, or assume that because I speak about a certain issue that my beliefs follow a certain path, then when I “change direction” they think I’m schizophrenic. That may not be entirely incorrect, as I freely admit that I am of many minds.
On social media sites, and in real life, I have friends from a wide variety of backgrounds and interests. I belong to a number of fringe groups, all along the fringe, from the East side of the circle through the West. Occupy Wall Street and the National Rifle Association. Sometimes I forget that these people tend to be far more exclusive than I, and that they’re really not interested in exploring their beliefs, they just repeat their mantras and find scary things under every rock. I really pissed off a Global Warming advocate (not “for” but “it exists”) when I pointed out the graph and data he was using to illustrate his point was also being used as evidence that global warming does not exist by another group. He claimed to be “a scientist” and could not accept that he was seeing what he wanted to see.
This morning I was blocked by a woman on FaceBook. Not just “unfriended” but blocked. I had been following her posts for a couple of months, making comments that she agreed with, but today I insulted her immensely, and I hadn’t meant to. In fact I was fairly clear, starting with “I mean no insult” after she figuratively bristled.
She posts about Chem Trails, we used to call them Contrails, as they are the condensation caused by jet exhaust at high altitudes. She thinks they are chemicals being dumped on us by…somebody. She’s never been too clear on who she thinks is responsible, but speaks of “The Illuminati”, and “The New World Order”, and “The Freemasons”, with fear. She also believes in Niburu, or “Planet X” and takes photos of sunsets believing that the sunspots are Niburu, you see it’s invisible to the naked eye, only her camera can capture it. She thinks the robots in movies are real and being used against us. She believes that the magnetic poles of the Earth will shift, soon, and that there is a conspiracy behind it. A fabulous source for the state of paranoia.
So today, she posted a photograph of Aspen trees with lichens on them, with the caption “Has anyone noticed this yellow stuff on trees everywhere? It’s making the bark of the trees crack”. My first response, “That’s lichens, they’re natural and occur in many colors, and Aspen bark cracks like that all the time” was ignored, and a number of others chimed in with “I’ve never seen anything like it!”. So I asked “Are you a ‘City Girl’?”. I was genuinely interested, wondering if she had never seen an Aspen or lichens before. She came back with “No, I’m a wilderness girl, are you a city boy?”. I realized I had insulted her, so I said “I mean no insult, it’s just that many of your observations seem ‘virginal’, that is as if you had never encountered such things before”. And she was gone.
It was all terribly insensitive of me, but I’ll never have the opportunity to apologize. I’m guessing that I would be unable to successfully apologize anyway, because she’s the type that finds the existence of another point of view insulting, and is an incredibly serious person.
I will find other sources of paranoid views, they are endless, but it remains my responsibility to be careful in my interactions. I am an observer, and when the observer alters the object observed, the exercise is pointless. Once again, the lessons of quantum physics relate to the larger world.