I’m not sure when I first learned the phrase “parade of horribles” but long enough ago that I didn’t realize it isn’t something everyone says. In legalese it means a cascade of bad results that could happen in the future if one decision is made now. But it is mostly used when the actual effects of a decision are largely unknown, not when the effects are predictable. It is, in short, a way of deflecting the real meaningful discussion by introducing a lot of speculative bad things that could happen but are entirely unknown. We have seen a lot of this in the struggle for LGBTQI and BIPOC rights . . . the queers will be the end of procreation, or worse, they will procreate and make all queer children…. a pride parade will undermine community morals… Queer teachers will corrupt their students, queer marriage will undermine the value of straight marriage, trans people using bathrooms or even existing will cause the end of the world or lesbians or something.
And of course we are seeing it with climate change and covid vaccines. Rather than a rational transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy that includes conservation, efficiency and community control, the giant corporations are insisting it has to be done their way with massive industrial projects and, oh by the way, the corporations will still keep drilling for oil and gas and burning fossil fuels for more energy and plastics to pollute all the lands and waters, because if you don’t let us do that the AC might go out on a hot summer day or you won’t have a plastic bag for your groceries or even a plastic tube for your IV when you get to the hospital with your climate induced asthma. I won’t even try to explain the parade of horribles that has been concocted to dissuade people from taking vaccines— magnetism being just the latest one I heard (shesh, these people should wish they had some magnetism!).
A parade of horribles is not easy to counter directly, because it is hard to prove a negative, but it can be countered by going to the source of the issue and not getting distracted by the parade. The real horribles are already in progress, the collapse of ecosystems and extinction of species across the globe and the suffering of people for corporate greed—but the corporate cronies keep trying to distract us from real solutions with the parade.
I’ve been thinking a lot about finding focus because I keep losing it these days. It is not just the constant emails at work but also the itch to check on the latest wildfires and whether they are contained, check the air quality near me to see if I can go out for a walk or have to close all the windows and turn on an air filter, check if the supreme court has taken away more rights today, see whether having a late period or a miscarriage can get a person jailed or fined, see how many more indigenous environmental activists have been killed or jailed, see if Biden or Haaland has listened to the Line 3 protesters yet (dream on), find out if more dead grey whales are washing up on the west coast (12 in the SF Bay area as of June this year), if the idiotic border wall is falling down or being put back up to destroy more habitat and people’s lives, if it is legal to be queer in any of the states of america, or to see how many more queers are being killed in other countries. I count myself lucky that I am not drawn down the rabbit hole of other people’s lives on line — what they ate for dinner (with photo), where they went, what annoys them, what they did today— but I do admit to “following” some artist friends to see what they drew/painted/sculpted/assembled recently and some chefs for dinner inspiration. It is truly endless this “firehose” of information. (Another interesting phrase, if a bit gruesome, “drinking from a firehose” means trying to absorb too much information at once but to me it sounds painful and resonates of civil rights activists being assaulted by police with high pressure water from a fire hose.)
Ultimately I am wondering why I have this wide-ranging need to know so much? Why can’t I limit my questions to the local air quality and Covid restrictions that affect my immediate daily life? Which brings me to the confusing phrase “need to know”—in the legal world, corporate boardrooms, and espionage or spy thrillers this means that only a few people who really need to know something should have the information—but the phrase also rings the other way—the need to know everything one can, right now, immediately. The second meaning tracks with the availability of huge amounts of information available nearly instantaneously for many people and the itch to know it all, now. I’m still trying to parse out what this means for me on a daily basis—what is the “need” or is it a “want” and really what do I “know” after reading all the news and tweets and grams? No answers yet, just more questions.