Past Comments

April Issue 2002
by Tom Starland

A Fool For You

It's April - the month of fools. I don't need it to be April to feel or act a fool. We are fooled all the time because we accept what most people offer us for fact or truth - we don't question enough, we don't investigate, we don't even seem to learn from the past. We allow people to rewrite history all the time - some that isn't even a few years old. Is it because of our short attention span, our lack of knowledge, or that we just don't care, or are we afraid to question authority, go against the flow, or stand up for ourselves - or worse - stand up for others?

I don't know what your excuses are but mine are often - it's not worth it, it's not that big a deal, people will think I'm heartless, there're bigger fish to fry, I don't have time for this, let someone else take this one on, for the paper's sake - I better not, etc., etc. They are all ways of accepting "little" lies for truth - "white" lies compared to "black" lies.

During any given month I hear that through the words in my commentary I either hit the nail on the head or was being negative. How can I be both about the same subject? Is it because we all live in our own little universe where we get to determine what the truth is and what it's not? If you like what I say or agree - it's truth. If you don't like it or don't like the way I've said it - it's lies or being negative. Notice the distinction. Telling lies and being negative are different. You can be right about something, expressing the truth, but present it in a negative way so that people don't like it. It doesn't make what you said any less true, but if tagged as negative - it can be perceived as not so truthful - even wrong.

So, what's wrong we being negative? You better be glad some people are still willing to be negative in the view of all the positive some people would like to offer. It only takes one writer and one ("subjective") source to paint a positive picture of something that is going wrong or has failed its previously stated objective. We live in the age of - if it is written or spoken in public and no one sues in a day or two - it must be the truth. And, the truth is - they can even sue if it is the truth to make it cost you enough to dare speak the truth.

I was once called a Gadfly by someone who thought I picked on the SC Arts Commission too much. I had to look that up to catch the writer's exact meaning. In my dictionary it stated that a gadfly was: 1. any of various flies, esp. of the family Tabanidae, that bite or annoy livestock. 2. One acting as a provocative stimulus. 3. One who habitually criticizes existing institutions. I didn't even know I was being given a compliment - on all three points.

Yes, I don't mind being perceived a gadfly, nay sayer, backseat driver, or Mr. Negative. Somebody has to offer the other side of every coin tossed. Unfortunately, I don't take on every offering of the positive form of truth being offered in all forms - press releases, all forms of media, and the spoken word. Sometimes I don't even know I'm being lied to or am willing to accept what is being said because of personal biases. Yet, we must question everything presented. It doesn't have to take forever either. Some we can do by intuition, common sense, personal knowledge or even sense of smell. Some truths have a certain smell to them. In other cases, we need to investigate, seek collaboration, and even confront the truth being offered. And above all, we must be willing to accept the fact that even what smells may be true - hard to accept, but still true.

I know in my case, when someone confronts me on what I say, they get a plus in my book. It takes a lot to confront someone you may want to print something about you later. More should do it - not just to me, but to everyone offering "truth".

Now other than this monthly commentary, I allow all contributors to offer their version of the facts as they see them. The articles offered are press releases written by the people presenting the exhibitions. Other than being formatted to fit our style of presenting articles, most are not edited in any form. We let folks tell their story without injecting our own opinions into their space. Of course I do have final say on what gets printed in the paper each month - a job I don't wish on anyone. Some may embellish or stretch the facts, but if someone says something that is not truthful - I expect that the "art police" will deal with the issue - in the form of many reports to me. Then I have to deal with it. And, I love doing my high wire act of balancing on the line between editor and publisher. That's between the guy who determines content and the guy responsible for paying the bills.

I've had some hard truths to deal with in my time. They haven't made me the most popular guy in the art community, but then again running a newspaper and writing commentary isn't a popularity contest - or it shouldn't be. I just hope at times I'm offering a provocative stimulus for seeking the truth. I hope what I say gets people thinking - asking questions - doing a little investigating of their own. And, if I have to look the fool in some people's eyes from time to time - so be it.

So, what's behind this month's commentary about fools, truth, and standing up? You know something's up - you know me if you're a regular reader. Well, I must confess - there has been an epidemic of so called truths being offered from a number of media sources - the type constructed by a writer and a few well placed sources of info. Truth that if unquestioned could become fact and eventually legend. Some of it is outside the boundaries of the focus of the paper (except all aquariums), concerning the performing arts and their annual plea to be financially saved after they've put themselves in perilous debt - again.

I'm going to be presenting another side to their truth. It will involve numbers, previous statements, history, and good old fashion logic, so get your thinking caps ready - we're going to be taking a ride on the truth train.

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