If you are somewhat well read, you’ve come across a variation of Sayre’s law. In a formulation quoted by Charles Philip Issawi: “In any dispute the intensity of feeling is inversely proportional to the value of the issues at stake.” By way of corollary, most people know it as: “That is why academic politics are so bitter because the stakes are so low.”
Every now and then I complain about something petty or snap at the dogs that roam our neighborhood. Carjo then accuses me of being an old man. I will admit of sometimes making mountains out of mole hills but it’s really not that often. In fact we just got a prime example this weekend.
Valentine’s Day we drove to Bismarck to see an elderly relative and do our usual stocking up (beer fridge update to come later). The relative in question (whom I’m not naming because of my usual privacy standards) should have gone to law school and ended up working for the US Attorney’s office, because everything is a fucking federal case. But the people who live in her building can often be worse. As we listen to her stories and anecdotes about the events around her I realize, kill me before I become this small-minded, venal, and petty. There was some screwup with the newspaper delivery and it was as if the US economy tanked and the terrorists had won. There are often crises with the newspapers. Or battles over the washing machine. There was some dispute over a shuffleboard that escalated into full scale war. And so on.
Granted that there are a lot of low income people in this housing development and no shortage of small minds but as any academic can testify, it’s no different on any campus either. Some folks just cannot see the forest for the trees, become pendants for things that just don’t matter, take issue on the smallest of things and it is so destructive. I can see myself doing this now and then so I am attempting to take stock. The last thing I want to do is raise the flag and go to war over the temperature over the porridge in the nursing home dining hall. If I do, and you’re there to see it, call me on it. But I’ll still chase those fucking dogs off my lawn.