Natural Events

Harry Drabik

Aside from personal experience with it I’ve heard this year’s spring pollen is especially heavy. If you have allergies to pollen heavy means bad. We used to call the complaint Birch Fever, putting the blame on one tree type when all trees contribute to the yellow pollen dust that makes a car hood look like an exotic custom paint job. (In the old days this form of decoration also came in gray from taconite and red from natural ore dust. Depending on severity and wind the whites mother hung outdoors would be tattletale or light pink. I was personally thankful we got ninety percent more neutral gray than pretty pink tinging my T shirts.) Surrounded by forests and trees the allergy sufferer isn’t able to pin down a specific culprit causing runny eyes and sneezing. It’s funny to applaud a nice rain for washing pollen from the air and cursing that rain for encouraging the damn trees. If your allergy is fierce you might find yourself cheering when you see high fire danger or hear reports of forests ablaze. If your throat is on fire with pollen burn you might well wish every tree in creation would go up in smoke, and figure out later what to use instead of toilet paper.

The autumn version of Birch Fever has been known as Hay Fever. Before the oft maligned drug makers had their way and destroyed a popular northern industry droves of sufferers came north to escape the agonies of field on \field of crops and plants coming into season. My father went to a place on the North (not known for its alfalfa) Shore he called Hay Fever Haven. Mom and pop resorts in the north frequently advertised in cities and southern areas for guests seeking Hay Fever relief. Yup, the drug makers ruined a very good thing for lots of small resorts. If you want to politicize it cast the Mom and Pops’ as victims of greedy capitalist patriarchs. Jonas Salk can be made to look rather awful if you make an effort while on the other hand M. Curie looks good as a twice honored Nobel winner (in two different scientific areas) even though she was a Pole which these days is often being painted as wearing a strong taint of fascism. (To do this you need to not know what fascism is or that Poles suffered rather heavily from it and its peace loving socialist communist kin.)

So here’s the point you’ve been waiting for. If you are plagued and debilitated by an allergy are you foremost concerned with whether it works or whatever politics can be tied to it? My bet is that feeling hale and hearty again will trump even the strongest sense of political justice. In any case a person can go back to bashing their preferred targets and be better at it with a clear head. A truly strong belief supplies its own truth and doesn’t need mere facts to hold it up. Conviction is a superior force. We can debate with great skill and much solid supporting evidence until we are forced to debate unreason. How do we reason with the unreasonable? I don’t think you can. There’s a description of the problem held in the simple notion of playing chess with a pigeon. The pigeon will scatter the chess pieces at will, defecate on the board, and fly away cooing in victory. 

I don’t know about you, but I find the politicization of things to often time be little more than a negative revision done with more regard for populist opinion than respect for facts. One thing I see as an indicator is whether an argument tells me what to think or what needs be consideration. The easy clue is whether or not the conclusion drives the argument. Be suspicious of any time an argument puts its conclusion first and then sets up all manner of things in its support. There was a time when formal logic was recognized even in public schools. However, as this was seen as an affront to personal feelings this has been rather discouraged with the result that too many sincere arguments are terribly flawed at the start and those arguing have no idea they are the pigeon in the chess game. Often ridiculed, Western Justice (a she) is shown blindfolded and with a scale for good cause. The scale reminds us as citizens to examine both sides. The blindfold prompts us to attempt fairness and not put bias or a conclusion first as happens when a particular verdict of guilt is the only one a partisan will accept. It’s true that being held not guilty isn’t the same as innocence. But it is as good as can be found in a system trying to be fair and practical. We could insist on what might be seen as high standards only to end up playing pigeon chess with the future at stake.

In a way it’s a relief knowing for a change it’s the pollen making my eyes water and not things going on around me. Just the other day someone tried opening a “talk” with a conclusion they wanted me to agree with. Having spent much of my life disappointing others I didn’t have to break a sweat telling them I couldn’t recall any political leadership I thought had particular value and that the biggest difference in my view was some were more likeable than others or told more appealing falsehoods. My view, of course, is too cynical, but as a reminder to myself not to let the glory of the prize get in the way of thoughtful and deliberated sense. The committed see this as cowardice and refusal to face new realities. In a world socially and politically complex as ours diversity will mean division among views rather than conformity; an ironic reality there. Not that I appreciate true believers, especially those who say the universal can only be addressed standing on your head with toes pointed at Uranus while speaking Klingon. They’re fine until they get power.