CULTUREAug 18, 2020Rob Loggia
In case you haven’t heard, there is a new advice column in LoggiaOnFire Magazine called "Dear John" that features no-holds-barred, blunt advice from John McAfee. The goal of this column is to draw upon an amazing lifetime of experience in a wide range of areas to provide practical advice delivered without judgment. That last bit is important, and forms the basis of the reason why good advice is so hard to come by.
Most of us alive have sought advice at one time or another. For no matter how smart, how insightful or how wise a person is, life will find a way to present problems for which we have little experience. And even in cases where we believe we can see the answer, it can be helpful to hear from someone with actual experience and practical knowledge.
Actually, sound practical advice is one of the greatest gifts that one person can offer another. However, this is extremely difficult to obtain in our culture. This is because for one reason or another, the act of reaching out for practical advice is routinely treated by people as a request for a moral assessment of your character and an evaluation of your priorities. Consider the following exchange:
"Say Bob, how can I bypass the EPA restrictions on my lawnmower so it runs smoother?"
"Well, Roland, you really don’t want to know how to do that. First of all it is illegal. You could get in trouble. Second, it is immoral. Bypassing those restrictions will pollute the air more. Third, what kind of person would even ask such a question? Are you some kind of monster? Yeah I know how to modify your lawnmower, but I won’t tell you. I think you’d better take a good, close look at your life choices instead…."
And so on. While farcical, this exchange highlights one of the major difficulties we can encounter when seeking advice from others. Actual practical advice, in this case, would have looked more like this:
"Well, Roland, there are risks and issues involved that I'm sure you will consider, and that I would be happy to discuss, but if you decide to do it here is a tip. One thing you could do is drill and tap the fixed jets and replace them with adjustable screws. This would allow you to control the fuel mixture and get the engine humming."
Here, the pitfalls and caveats were covered without judgment, and practical advice was tendered. Exchanges like this are becoming increasingly rare, as our society marches harder and faster towards Puritanical extremes on an increasing variety of subjects.
To be fair, sometimes people are seeking judgment and an evaluation of their priorities. In many ways, this has been the format for all but the most deliberately practical of advice columns like household tip columns and the like. On the other hand, popular installments like "Dear Abby" and Ann Landers’ advice column appeared to be predicated on the assumption that the letter writer was seeking an analysis of their character and priorities rather than practical advice.
Some are, but many of us are not. Some of are comfortable setting our own priorities, rather than just adopting the priorities of another person or group. In fact, some of us insist on it, and consider unsolicited discussion and advice on the subject by others to be rude, intrusive and unethical. Believing this is becoming an increasingly unpopular opinion in this burgeoning era of woke witch hunts.
In reality, none of us should presume to provide an assessment of someone’s character, priorities in life, overall creed, or any other subjective or personal characteristic, unless we are directly asked to do so by that person. And even then we should tread carefully. Because, ultimately, it is none of our business what another person believes, or how they choose to live their life.
One of the brutal truths of our reality is that life would be much simpler, and come with much less static, if people more would directly answer questions that are put to them, rather than making their own question and answering that one. Sadly, many people can’t help themselves. The perverse satisfaction they derive from the process is simply too great to resist.
Our correspondent, however, suffers under no such burden. John McAfee has absolutely no interest whatsoever in judging you or your priorities. He simply wants to share his experience in a way that may help people in the way they actually want to be helped. And if reading these answers helps still others, even if it is simply to bring a temporary smile to the face of someone who is hurting, than the time it takes to produce this column will have been worth it.
So don’t be shy. Whatever you are facing, especially if you are facing it on the wrong side of the law, John McAfee has probably lived through something similar. Don’t feel like you’re alone – reach out and ask your question. Fictional identities are used in the column to protect the guilty, so you have nothing to lose. But you may find that you have a great deal to gain.