“If You Are Not Confused You Are Not Thinking Clearly”


The quotation in the title is ascribed to one Irene Peter, but strangely I cannot find a thing about her on the web, only the tagline ‘famous American writer’ heading a short list of other pithy observations. A quick search on-line brings up no lists of books or articles. Nothing on amazon.com.  I am therefore puzzled; confused even. Does she not exist? Has whoever it is been blanked from the interweb for expressing common sense?

So: now I’m thinking who cares who said it. The message is what counts. In fact this could well be the aphorism for our times. Every day the mass media attempts to shape our thinking on important (in some cases life-threatening) matters. We have think tanks, government spokespersons, celebrities, politicians, bots telling us in unexamined sound bites and headlines what to think. We are forever being herded into one corral or another in a bid to secure our consent for either one position or another.

Keeping us divided in opposing camps is part of the strategy. Firstly, shouting at each other to defend our positions consumes a lot of energy, even if that shouting only takes place in our heads; there may even be some entertainment value, elements of atavistic tribalism satisfied. The shouting also cements our respective positions, making a change of mind less likely.

And once a large enough body of consensus has amassed around a particular issue, then anyone brave enough to question it needs to be ready for reputation-smearing and all round media pillorying. And so by these means we are distracted from scrutinizing the actual issues, rational discourse is effectively outlawed and we thus fail to discover who precisely benefits from the lines being sold to us in the world-wide hypermarket that we now inhabit.

Time to be sceptical then. Time to unpick the assumptions that we’ve taken for facts, and the opinions we’ve accepted as evidence. Time to face the confusion – even though, first and foremost, it means standing our own views and convictions on their heads. You never know, if we all did this some actual world-wide wisdom might surface.


copyright 2019 Tish Farrell

63 thoughts on ““If You Are Not Confused You Are Not Thinking Clearly”

      1. Aah .. well… I suggest still you say cheese, then go dig the garden!
        Nothing like harvesting a few home grown veggies to make you feel better!

      2. Well then, you won’t want to hear how my veggie garden is looking like it’s on steroids!
        I’ll be digging up the potatoes just before Christmas and have already begun harvesting beans and gem squash.
        It’s marvelous to know that what’s on one’s plate is home grown.
        And the taste …..

      3. I do take great joy in your prospective spud harvest, Ark. And also happy to hear of burgeoning beans and squash. I have grown some whopping squash which are sitting on my kitchen cupboard. They take a bit of consuming too – roasting, souping, more roasting. Saving the seeds for next spring.

      4. It is marvelous, and I’ll post pics and results. I’ve also been investigating the techniques of vertical gardening which look very promising as well as aesthetically pleasing.
        Something to muck about with next season.

  1. Though I am increasingly confused at the current world state of events, I am beginning to see a few signs that some – like you – are rising their thought – and voice.
    In recent times I have noticed how impossible it has become to have a rational argument with many. Whether from the “right” or from the “left”. I have heard smart, educated people tell me about the “World Jewish conspiracy”. In earnest. I said nothing. Dumbfounded. On other occasions one hears young people totally caught in fake news. Opposed to vaccines… And as I may have mentioned before (here), never before has humanity been so educated… So, as our American friends might say: “WTF” is going on?
    There seems to be no place left to reason, for facts as opposed to ideology…
    Yet, some, as you, try to reverse the trend.
    Asante sana Memsahib.
    (And my most sincere condolences on the election’s outcome)

    1. Many thanks for all those thoughtful thoughts, Brian. It’s a great shame we become so mired in quite so many pointless controversies, many of which have no likely resolution. Don’t you think a lot of it is fuelled my opposing market forces – light on fact, heavy on sales pitch. Every kind of conflict seems to present a market opportunity for somebody, though what that may be is not necessarily apparent to ordinary citizens. It seems to me a paradox that more access we have to information (education included) the more compromised our powers of discretion, and the greater our inclinations to side with this or that faction. Too much ‘information’ perhaps!

      1. Totally agree with the paradox. It’s been bugging me for a while…
        Now I’m not sure whether it is a matter of “market forces”. “Market” to me is synonym of exchange. A buyer in the marketplace (from the very beginning) finds a seller, and vice-versa, for a good or service.
        When Teresa May(hap) indirectly benefits from the PM’s decision to bomb Syria… there is no market. Just greed.
        What is Johnson’s vision for the UK? A giant casino across the Channel from the Continent? That would be a “market force” but who will benefit?
        So far, I have not read anything on your dear “Leaders”‘ vision for the future of the UK. But most certainly, greed is lurking underneath.
        All my best wishes in those difficult times. And as the wheel of life turns, let’s hope it turns back the other way soon. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, Memsahib. 🙂

      2. I take your point about ‘market’ being a synonym for exchange, and that much of what is happening is by no means a fair exchange. But too many of us do seem to think that what the snake oil sellers are selling us (to our actual great cost) is the wonder cure for all ills. The Boris sales pitch is well under way – workers’ rights as determined under EU legislation is the first casualty it seems. It’s not looking good, so your good wishes are v. much appreciated. Wishing better days for all of us. And also all the very best to you and yours for 2020.

      3. Snake oil sellers? That’s a very apt definition… Unfortunately. Indians see life as a wheel. Let’s hope it turns back soon. And a happy 2020 to you and yours as well…

    1. That is probably the absolutely wisest advice, Edouard. So thank you, because now that you’ve popped by here, I’m thinking that you do have a fine place for tuning out. And from which I derive virtual benefit. Just thinking of the soothingly elegant spaces you have made in your home lowers my socio-geo-politically induced temperature. In fact I’ve just had a quick psychic wander there 🙂 Happy festive season to you and Mike and dog family.

  2. A fine bird’s eye view of the current state of information, the bipartate division of the people according to what news outlet or website they get their information from. Still, truth is truth and facts are facts. So there’s no reason to not discuss things. It’s funny how segregated we are, how much we live in insular cultural bubbles.

    1. I’m thinking that our insularity, as far as elites are concerned, ensures that things won’t change. But I agree. Why can’t important issues be debated with intelligence and civility for the greater good instead of for some power entity’s market opportunity. After all, we are all in this together. The divisions imposed upon us, or those we ourselves impose, are only as real as we want them to be.

      1. Divide and conquer is not a new strategy. Market research techniques have provided easy ways to identify and manipulate people …er the demographics. But it rests on people being uninformed or misinformed.

  3. You’re right. She’s apparently famous for being pithy.

    It’s a nasty, uncivilized world we seem to have wandered into. I don’t know how we got here. I think we were living a reasonably civilized life until suddenly, the world turned upside-down. It’s just so demoralizing to feel that all the good things we tried to do have apparently gone so terribly wrong. And no one is willing to accept responsibility for any of it. It’s all about blame.

    1. It’s a woodpigeon, our commonest pigeon. They are rather too numerous for comfort, at least in towns where their biological ‘fallout’ creates much nuisance on pavements and buildings.

      1. Our common “pigeons” used to be called “rock doves” until they infested every city on earth. They make it dangerous to sit or park the car — or even hang the laundry. i swear they do it on purpose.

    1. The Scots do seem set on another independence referendum, and one can’t blame them. They also voted to stay in Europe. Oh what a pickle we are making in our small islands.

      1. It’s been touch and go. The last referendum a few years ago came out in favour of remaining in the union, but the Scots Nationalist Party has gained a lot of ground since then. And actually quite a few English people think they’d prefer to go and live there!

  4. “And once a large enough body of consensus has amassed around a particular issue, then anyone brave enough to question it needs to be ready for reputation-smearing and all round media pillorying.” This is unfortunately all too true, Tish, and we’ve lost so much by not being able to discuss and even disagree with civility. That way lies disaster. Reading comments on most articles makes me despair of humanity. Unthinking, nasty, polarizing, etc.


  5. Good thinking for year’s end, Tish, and for starting a new year.

    In all this noise, shouting and apparent confusion, there is one big change which has struck me: there seems to be less pretense than there used to be, less hiding of how sausages are made, less hiding who it is who holds the power, what you have to do to get and keep the power and what you can and will do if you have the power.

    It’s all less genteel now. Much more the all-out American , bare knuckles, in your face. I mean can anyone imagine the leader of the Commons lying down in Parliament when Churchill was PM? Or an American President before this one telling a foreign president to investigate his political opponent or else?

    I don’t think this coming to the surface of the real networks and methods of power and of the irresponsible insouciance of our governing elites is such a bad thing. Despite the noise and our appalled disgust. Because who the enemy is and what his methods are is clear.

    And the response is growing. We have to believe this and act as and when we can! Best wishes…Sarah

    1. Thank you for those thoughts, Sarah. I agree much is coming to the surface. But I do fear that that’s because those in power have realised they can simply lie and lie and lie, and there is absolutely no come back. None of us seems to know how best to dismantle the edifice that has brought us to this position.

  6. ‘Irene Peter’ does rather seem to show the power of the internet to reproduce itself endlessly and without reference to reality (apologies to Ms Peter if she is quietly sitting in Kalamazoo, Michigan penning insightful political commentary or feminist rom-coms).

    Reading your thoughtful and intelligent post, and others’ comments, does at least give me hope that rationality is not yet extinct — though definitely endangered.

    1. Thanks for those thoughts on internet spawning, Su. I wonder if Ms Peter will ever surface. And yes, it’s good to be able to build lines of rational communication across the globe with you and other bloggers, even if those lines sometimes seem more than a bit vulnerable within the morass of general daftness. In any event, all the very best to you and yours for 2020.

      1. Thanks Tish. I hold tight to these web threads of sanity, and hope to live my own little life as well and kindly as possible. I’m not sure how much more is possible right now.

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