Piker Press Banner
September 25, 2023

What Do I Know

By Bernie Pilarski

What do I know? I’m not being sarcastic here, as in “I’d never put a toad in my mouth, but what do I know?” I mean it literally. What do I know? It is a question given relevance to me recently by the book Proxies, by Brian Blanchfield. Blanchfield embarks on writing a series of essays with the internet off, without reference material, relying only on what he knows. “Unresearched essaying” is what he calls it. He uses the approach as an exercise to try to discover himself. I like the idea, but I admit that I am intimidated by the idea. If I look at myself too hard, will I like what I find? And, if I look at myself and I am honest, will I be willing to put that in writing for others to see?

I’ve always liked to believe that I am a reasonably intelligent person, someone with enough common sense to figure out what’s going on around me and act in a responsible manner. I thought that like most people, I could figure out what was right and what was wrong. Then of course the 2016 presidential election occurred, and I was left with the distinct impression that my perceptions of the world were fundamentally different from those of the vast majority. Faced with a choice between unacceptable and unthinkable, the voters chose unthinkable. I voted for someone who garnered only a tiny fraction of the votes, not because I liked them, but because I couldn’t bring myself to vote for the two frontrunners, and because I wanted to reserve the right to say I didn’t vote for the winner. I thought I fairly objectively looked at the information available to me, and would have thought that many of the people I interact with in the course of a day would have come to a similar decision, but the majority of people voted for the unacceptable, and nearly as many voted for the winner.

That’s an opinion of course, and simply by expressing it, I’ve given the reader a little insight into who I am. I’m thinking, however, that just glimpsing my political bent is not enough to satisfy Blanchfield’s essay challenge. Okay, so I’m feeling a little disenfranchised by the current state of politics in this country. Who isn’t, eh? I need to look a little deeper. I need to figure out what I’ve learned about myself.

I was born shortly after the end of WWII. The war was still quite the topic. It’s like when people are standing round an accident scene, and there is a prismatic conversation where the details of the accident are seen from a dozen points of view – the woman who heard it while she was working in the kitchen; the man who happened to be on the sidewalk and saw the whole thing; the frightened kid who had never seen someone dead before. The war was over but it was not very far away. Television and the movies were filled with it. It was an inevitable topic at family gatherings. In all that chatter, there was always Hitler, and always the question in my mind: how? I wouldn’t say I was precocious, and I’m not overly sensitive, but violence has always appalled me. I don’t like hurting things; I never had a desire to dominate things.

Dad liked boxing. He was an excellent sportsman in many areas. He was once recruited by the Detroit Tigers to join their farm league team, but his father wouldn’t let him go. Dad and I would occasionally go to boxing matches at a neighborhood gym in Pittsburgh’s South Side, and there I would watch young men beat the shit out of each other, not infrequently drawing blood. It was, as far as I could see, pointless and barbaric, although I probably would not have used those words at the time, but cruel was a word that I knew then…and even more now. After all these years, I am still stunned and dismayed by the seemingly endless acts of cruelty that people heap on each other, and still dumbfounded by the belief that violence is the answer to violence.

Maybe that’s why I feel so disenfranchised at the moment. This election, and its senseless hysterical reaction to it, seems to have shoved two Neanderthals into a ring and set them loose to bash each other into a bloody mess. Bigotry and hatred are being embraced by both sides to rally people to the cause. I don’t think the current president is a Hitler, but I am afraid he’s the opening act. I think I’m beginning to see the answer to question “how?”

And what am I to do about it?

So that’s the challenge – short, one topic essays that perhaps provide an opportunity to shed a little light on who I am. I know that if I proceed with the challenge of “unresearched essaying,” I’ll be totally lousy about names and dates. I’ve always been. I only remember Blanchfield’s name because I looked at the cover of his book before I sat down to write. Is that cheating? And I would hope that it doesn’t come off as too whiney, because I also hope that the answer to the question of what I should do about it is that I should write. But what do I know?

Article © Bernie Pilarski. All rights reserved.
Published on 2023-09-04
Image(s) are public domain.
1 Reader Comments
10:35:12 AM
I think you know quite a lot, since I think you are firmly in the camp of "The Answer is There is No Answer." Being a member of this club gives you the opportunity--as I have long ago--to not dwell on one's abject stupidity so much and bless oneself out for it for being there, but to instead know that there is no fixing the preponderance of negative vibes our society is giving off these days, and it is best to stay withing the parameters of one's soul and beliefs and not go sashaying willy-nilly out into the world thinking good sense and decency can be introduced to those who've devoted a lot of time and effort into manifesting it. The best thing to do is recognize that the Great Enemy is out there and take all the necessary steps to make sure it doesn't infiltrate the wonderful existence you and yours have chosen for yourselves.
Which i daresay from reading all your essays about what you don't know is far outnumbered by what you do know.
Which is what's much more important than the persistent humming of angry bees, doing their best to ruin wherever they chose to swarm.
So no, you're not stupid at all. You know that what you don't know couldn't be that important by now or you would have knuckled down and learned it.
But you didn't learn the crapola that's out there now.
Which makes you purty dern wise in my book.
Your Comments

The Piker Press moderates all comments.
Click here for the commenting policy.