SHREWSBURY, Massachusetts – A very popular TV series genre has always been the doctor shows, surreptitiously depicting life and death in the ER or in the specialist’s office, where every week a different malady, trauma, or rare disease is diagnosed and successfully treated amidst the personal troubles and angst of the physicians and nurses. What drama, and after a while even the least literate of people think they are capable of making diagnoses and dispensing medications, including me.
One of the favorite types of illnesses is not physical but rather mental, where the patients have any number of disorders from amnesia, aphasia, split personalities, hysterical pregnancies, or an inability to walk or see or even talk though without any discernible impairment. Of course each program has to last a full hour so the writers insert all kinds of complications, both the patient’s and those of the medics, but if someone truly had the incapacity to communicate through speech or writing I could cure them in five minutes without having had any psychological or psychiatric training.
That’s right, I know a sure fire way to make the most closed-mouthed person become loquacious to the point where they can’t be made to shut up, and it’s as simple as uttering just four words, “I need your advice.” Yes, if it’s one thing everyone has, no matter how wealthy or poor, young or old, educated or not, it’s an opinion and usually more than just one. Not only does everyone have such a thing, but they’re all more than happy to share it with the world at a moment’s notice.
While disciplines like algebra or calculus or chemistry or physics have facts scientifically proven through experimentation, other subjects such as sociology or even history contain theories that are a matter of conjecture and interpretation, while self-help books abound where the authors provide educated guesses at best, pure fiction at worst. What makes this pseudo-information truly dangerous is, as Tevya wisely commented in Fiddler on the Roof, “when you’re rich they think you really know.”
While I said it is a “sure fire way,” there actually might be one or two occasions when my method may not completely work and in that case, an alternate approach that’s absolutely guaranteed to get anyone to write is to enter something on one of the Internet Boards and make a mistake, either an error in spelling or a misquote of a fact. Not more than five seconds after you hit the “Post” key there will dozens of responses either correcting your error or calling you everything from a numbskull to an ignorant baboon. It’s as if people hover over their laptops on a 24-7 basis just waiting for the chance to put others down.
I subscribe to a few Boards, one of which has been in existence for many years and is belonged to by ex-Brooklynites. There are actually several of those but the one I joined has unfortunately become poorly attended. I try to think of interesting topics to discuss though usually all in vain, but if I should happen to make a typo or especially if making a grammatical error my thread is immediately deluged with posts, letting me know in no uncertain terms how illiterate I appear. On another Board for baseball fans, if I should happen to make the unforgivable blunder of misspelling a player’s name, 20 fans immediately criticize me regardless of how sagacious the content of my post.
It always makes me laugh when polls are taken and 1 or 2 % supposedly have no opinion. I never believe it, figuring that the pollsters are fudging the numbers when the results don’t add up to 100, but that’s just my opinion.