One of the things that I have learned over the past 24 months is the practice of remaining silent.
More and more, I remain silent not because I do not have opinions on the matters- indeed, I often do. And often my opinions are in the minority. But that is not why I have learned to become silent.
I have learned silence because I have come to accept the twin facts that I have no power to change a person's mind and that events are much farther along the path than what people believe them to be.
1) Once upon a time, I was rather a fierce and vocal defender of many things. On the whole, I did not win many arguments.
There are probably a great many reasons for this - for example, my ability as a forensic speaker was non-extant when I was young and is only slightly better now, and in the past when I got passionate I tended to escalate my volume - but perhaps the biggest reason is that I overestimated the practice of the casual chain of logic in the minds of most. Things happen for a reason - it has been said (credited to Andrew Breitbart) that culture is upstream of politics. In point of fact, this is merely a restating of a very basic principle, that effects derive from causes. Find the causes, and you will find the effects.
The difficulty, of course, is that almost everyone - often including myself - is discussing and arguing effects rather than causes. And effects are often highly subjective: my view of a place like a large city and its ills are entirely different than another person's view of a large city with all of its benefits. In both cases, the effects derive from the causes (policies in this case) that are put in place.
Subjective arguments end nowhere except yelling, a great deal of swearing, and many bad feelings. It does not accomplish what its users intend. It almost never actually changes someone's mind. Only a long discussion presenting actual facts - causes - can do that, followed by long periods of people thinking about such things, followed by realization. And to a large extent, we have lost this ability - both to present facts and to be able to listen and evaluate instead of reacting.
There is a reason that enlightenment in any endeavor seems to take a great deal of time in thinking, pondering, and listening - and most grow old in the practice of this process. And our modern society is simply no longer given to such practices.
2) If one is a student of history - be it almost kind of history I suspect - one can clearly see that we are in the midst of a period of a great upheaval, not just here but throughout the world. What I do not think that many people see as clearly is that at some moment, one passes the point of no return of the current stream of events.
As I have argued for many years - 30 at least, since I took my macro-economics class - economies are now very complicated and fragile things. They are very interconnected and a breakdown in one part leads to problems in other places ("What are computer chips, Alex?"). And economies, to be successful on more than a subsistence or local level, require other factors to be in place: reliable governments that have policies that do not change on a dime (or an administration), a work force that can be educated (if not already so) and wants to work, tax policies that are not so burdensome as to make business financially not worth performing, or simple outright instability that causes seizures or destruction. Helpful, too, is an economic system in which the medium of exchange does not lose value and taxes may not be driven higher from a need to pay for a debt which is dreadfully out of control.
If any of this sounds familiar, that may be because it is.
The odd thing to me is that this is not recognized by more people - not just people that for one reason or another have fallen out of favor with whomever their flavor of party is (and it cuts both ways) but educated and intelligent people who will often decry the results of such events but not reasons for it.
Economics is is just one aspect. I would argue that it could be applied to many others.
The thing that suggests to me more than anything that this pervasive unawareness is true is the fact that I often find myself about a week to a week and half ahead of the structural bad news cycle of those around me. Partially, I suppose, you could make the argument I frequent such places that have such information (to be fair, I do). But part of it as well is just being aware of events as they are actually occurring, looking at the upstream events (those darn causes again), and calculating appropriately.
3) (Bonus round): The third reason I have learned to practice silence is for relationships, which preserve my own piece of mind.
Given my current social circle (which is quite small) most people that I encounter I will see for a very short time - for example, I see my family now more than in the last 10 years and even that is maybe 30 minutes for five people per month. There is hardly enough time to catch up, let alone to argue. And arguing destroys their peace and my own. Far better, in my mind, to exchange the information we need to, laugh at non-descript sorts of things, and go about our business.
I will say that for all of this learning to keep silent, I have not found that I have become a seething kettle of repressed emotions. Instead, I found that most things now simply roll of my back like water off the proverbial duck we hear about so often. It simply does not bother me, because I do not let it bother me.
Life is short. Disagreements and arguments do not seem to be the way to fill it.