I’ve been a priest of Wicca for more than thirty years and have had plenty of questions of my own as well as those asked of me about different aspects of spirituality and magic. In this series, I will discuss some of those questions and what I have found as answers, or what appears to be important information.
The title of this series is, “Question All Things.” That is something I firmly believe is necessary to do if one is to have clarity of their ideas, which is one of the goals for me from this series. I am striving for clarity in my own mind, as well as in the mind of the readers. I have found that trying to explain my thinking to others via the written word is often much more conducive to clarity than simply talking about a subject. It is often the case that I will type something, read it back to myself and think, That doesn’t say what I’m trying to say. So I’ll go back and rework the sentence, or paragraph or THE ENTIRE ARTICLE in an attempt to make it clear and more communicative. This very often will uncover one or more bits of really bad thinking on my part. When talking with others, one doesn’t have the ability to edit, erase and completely start over.
Knowing that should make me much more circumspect when it comes to speaking with others, especially if somebody is asking my opinion on something rather important. Yes, it should. Perhaps I’ve gotten a little better at expressing my thoughts by learning to write them more clearly. I can hope that is the case. However, what usually happens when I am engaged in oral discourse is I will say whatever first comes to mind. I have not developed much skill in pre-editing my speech, and it has gotten me into all sorts of trouble over the years.
I am not alone in this deficiency. Most people are no better at thinking before they speak than I am. I find that I usually only know approximately 1% about what I talk about 99% of the time. Now, I happen to be married to a real, honest-to-goodness genius and she will readily attest to the fact that most of what I say is only slightly more intelligent than a chimpanzee. However, this does not normally bother me much because I have, over the years, learned one invaluable trick. I have learned to SOUND wise! Combined with some grey in my hair and (now) a walking cane, you’d be amazed at how well I can bedazzle multitudes without the slightest attention to clear thinking.
I’m not at all ashamed by my use of this skill. It’s much the same thrill and delight I used to get using fake I.D. to buy beer. This goes hand-in-hand with something I’ve often told audiences at various festivals and workshops I’ve presented in other states. It is the real definition of an ‘expert.’ An expert is a person over a hundred miles away from home.
This skill is not something I invented, oh no. It is used by many people for a wide variety of things. The one thing all of these applications have in common is that the person using it is trying to persuade you that they know more about something than you do. If they can get you to believe that, they can get you to act in a predictable way. That’s called POWER.
You will find that there is one group of people who are very good at getting you to believe they know more than you do. They are known as “Elected Politicians.” It shouldn’t come as any surprise that most of these people have been trained as lawyers. You see, most lawyers are trained to have an outstanding vocabulary and to actually think before they speak. They don’t necessarily have better ideas – or even clearer thoughts – than you or me, but their training can make them very persuasive. That means they can gain a great deal of power over people. Which is what government is all about.
I am not writing all this to make you feel bad. Remember, I said these people usually don’t have any better ideas than the rest of us; they’ve just learned to present them in ways that make us believe they know more than we do. Some of the rhetoric in this year’s presidential clusterpluck will serve as a classic example of how elected politicians attempt to persuade us they are wiser than the average voter.
Probably the most common trick used by these people is the classic side-step. I use this term in honor of the character of the governor of Texas in the movie version of The Best Little Whore-House in Texas. A couple of times, that wily politician sang, “Ooooo, I love to do a little side-step,” when called upon to speak about the toleration of the Chicken Ranch (the ‘house’ in the title of the play). Rather than speak clearly, he found creative ways to side-step the issue.
The candidates in this year’s race are very good at this as well. I’ve watched with great amusement as the reporter will ask a clear and highly focused question and the politician (or, more often, their spokesman) will answer with something like, “That’s a vital concern of ours, Dan. And as I’ve said all along the people of this great nation will have to decide whether they want the failed policies of the other guy or my plan.” And what did they say their plan was? That’s right, they didn’t. Or they’ll start answering their own question, and act as if it’s the same as what the reporter asked. Only it isn’t. Or they’ll haul out a couple of impressive sounding statistics that could mean a dozen different things and who’s going to know if they are even close to being true? The next day you’ll hear ten common, ordinary people who support the candidate spouting these stats as if they were holy writ. But of course they’ve got to be right, so-and-so said them!
Okay, I’ll get down off my soap box. I’ve not got any solution for this particular situation. Politics and elections are full of experts and side-steppers and everybody has the facts and the truth. Sure, just like me. But before you cast your vote (and you are going to vote, aren’t you?), I would suggest that you take a hard look at who acts like they might be wrong. Who is so arrogant they couldn’t be wrong and who is humble enough to admit they might be. I’m not going to tell you which one I think I’ll vote for, but it seems to me that this one factor could make a big difference in the long run.
But then, I only know about 1%.