They Say You Should Be Okay
The mysterious ‘They’ and Conventional Wisdom lacks empathy
I have noticed that people throw around all-knowing sayings or admonitory tidbits they have somehow gathered with a decent amount of relish. It’s as if that very event has happened to them, they wear the battle scars, and they harvested the hard-earned wisdom from that pivotal life lesson. My wife does this a lot. I am not sure if it comes from some age old Irish mother-to-daughter transfer of warnings or well-meant cautionary tales, but when talking about broader society or potential life-derailing activity we should dutifully steer clear, she starts sentences with “They say…”
This strikes me because when people say these sobering pronouncements, it’s almost as if to boost their own personal relative wellbeing and safety. These proclaim that they somehow know this unjust moral of life and hence wouldn’t be put in that situation in the first place. They would stay on the well-marked path through the woods. They would be aware of distractions and attentive to the amount of daylight left. Their conscientious experience and systematic way of moving forward would avoid any peril or danger lurking around corners.
You hear these parables in regards to legal trouble a lot. Of someone falling prey to “the system” or some external societal force outside of their own control that will decide their fate.
- “They say this judge has an axe to grind”
- “They say the mayor told the police commissioner to make an example”
- “They heard this D.A. is up for re-election and needs a strong showing”
- “They say one wrong jury with demographics different than yours and you are toast”
I can not tell you why but these make me uncomfortable. It feels like while those around me are having an uncited competition of who has the best reading comprehension of John Grisham or best recollection of Season 1 of The Wire, I am just thinking of the person who is going to have their life irreparably altered. Someone may have their life torn apart for something relatively minor and yet the event can be conveniently justified into consciousness with a platitude. In business, transgressions are allowed to pass because “It’s really just how the world works.” Ya know, They say this happens all the time.
These can take an alarming personal twist as well. They are rife in relationships and marriage with my wife conjuring troubling fables that I can for a fact know has not happened to anyone close to her.
- “They say you divorce a different person than you marry”
All I can think of is “damn, what the F show was she watching, or what was her and her mom REALLY talking about?” I am not dumb, I know that some of these are common sense and well I mean, people have to say something to each other. Maybe some of these are said not for ones own personal benefit but as a shared nugget. “Don’t worry, this wouldn’t happen to you, because we’re talking about it right now in hushed tones.”
A lot of these just make me feel a bit sad because the majority of them reinforce that life isn’t fair. We all know this deep down, whether someone has taught it to us or not. I just wish when we talked about “They” — we don’t refer to some all-knowing societal spirit that has unlocked all of life’s pitfalls — we just allow ourselves to admit that something sucks and remind the person that we are speaking with, that if this should ever fall upon them, they are now speaking with an active member of their support network. They wont be alone.
- “They say its never who you think it would be. They say there's never really any clues until its done”
Well, lets find out. Let’s try harder to dig deeper and not necessarily pass a security blanket of allegories, but of hugs and active support.