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Henry Fuseli: The Night-Hag visiting the Lapland Witches (1796)
" … we'll show them and harm ourselves."

An appalling ineptitude has taken over the delicate art of Pariahing, the practice of fulfilling the many duties and responsibilities pariahs have been called to practice throughout the ages. I write this morning to clarify these expectations by enumerating the many shortcomings I've been noticing of late. Our recently unseated President, who might have better exemplified pure pariah had he been better informed in the details of his chosen profession, stands as perhaps the prominent example of how Pariahing's not to be done in practice, for he blundered his golden opportunity and encouraged a raft of fresh but sadly inept pretenders into this delicate profession. A decent pariah remains first and foremost unaware of his designation. One cannot simply mimic and expect to get away with the performance. I cannot over-stress the ultimate importance of obliviousness, for this one element seems key. One must never suspect that they are the pariah everyone's whispering about. Deliberate Pariahing's an oxymoron. Still, even the oblivious seem in need of a little coaching and I will attempt that task here, though I understand from this outset that it's very unlikely to do any good and might render me into the pariah I'm coaching.

My heartfelt reaction to the recognition that some held me as a pariah was, as it properly should have been, denial and deflection, for I could not bring myself to believe it.
I had been the very soul of honesty and generosity, or so I firmly believed. Certainly, I'd disagreed with certain perspectives I knew for a fact to be false, and, yes, I'd prodded the lie's progenitor for promoting them, but gently, or so I'd thought. A man of my age and position should properly hold certain rights of revision. Should one younger or less experienced err in their insistences, I take liberty to help by correcting them post haste. I suppose upon reflection that I might not have expected to be embraced for my descent, because nobody appreciates learning that they were wrong-headed, especially if they actually were, and grievously. Strong reactions tend to come with this territory.

One may amplify this clumsy beginning in any of a wide variety of ways, but I believe that seeing nothing untoward in the exchange proves by far the most effective. Ignorance on either side of any argument improves the chances for serious rifts, often for no other reason than that the ignorant parties never fully recognize or acknowledge the depth of their confusion. A casual shred of good advice for one, too easily undermines another's entire orientation, and few willingly forfeit that prized possession. Words which fall upon deaf ears might nonetheless resonate far beyond any exchange, echoing almost forever to be ever more ungenerously interpreted. Not noticing that echo exemplifies Pariahing's true purpose. It's rarely enough to simply not notice, but one must not notice not noticing through all the reverberating whisperings that afterward ensue. A Judas Goat reputation results, one who leads others to slaughter while always exiting unscathed. Those under the knife can't help but resent his presence. The whispering continues in ever greater earnest.

A true pariah continually talks about what's not supposed to be discussed, the more publicly, the better. This need not stem from the essential obliviousness inherent to the proper performance of the pariah's primary duties, but may also at times find itself rooted in an honest intent to make things better, as if airing dirty laundry ever actually improved anything. Still, this incessant practice of "making everyone uncomfortable" tends to make others uncomfortable, and their discomfort tends to stymie any attempt to actually improve anything by repeating it. Unbelieving ears ain't buying it, no matter how persuasively it's been packaged. It helps, of course, if the target's actually wrong. Even better if they seem to deep down know it but dig in their heels. Rifts result, ones which might well not be anyone's fault, but the pariah takes the blame, albeit unknowingly. How dare he commit a truth within this well-defended hall of mirrors! How dare he attempt reform among the proudly remorseless! How dare he not freaking notice! How dare he defend with facts! Outrageous!

The pariah's many detractors can help maintain his status by never once directly confronting him. The whispering, seemingly so safe, amplifies the whisperer's eventual peril for it creates a Bubble Baby effect, further enriching the pariah's native obliviousness by keeping it so damned secret. Under no conditions should anyone ever attempt to conduct anything even remotely like an authentic conversation with any pariah, and not only because everyone already knows (or firmly believes that they do) what will result. One must tip-toe around pariahs or risk opening dreaded cans of worms which might just undermine everything. Authentic conversation might depose the pariah from his throne and encourage him to wander unencumbered through the general population, and what would we do without that sad figurehead to privately chew on? We simply must have a foil, someone ready, willing, and above all able to upset our society, then successfully stave off his influence? We can seal him off while enjoying the curious liberty of always knowing we can depend upon his threatening presence. Each society needs its enemies more than it needs more allies.

I'm uncertain how to end this cautionary essay. Should I suggest a few modest improvements in the practice of Pariahing, I should properly expect a proper rebuffing, for who am I to suggest? A pariah? And who would you have to become to gratefully accept such advice? Suffice it to say that we live in perilous times where pretenders populate traditional professions, and not even recognized pariahs can be depended upon to deliver their goods. They might instead incite much disquiet by posing problems without possible resolutions, only deepening despair among the general population. They might cry wolf while wearing sheep's clothing and thereby attract sheep willing to degrade themselves on any odd alter. Few practice honest Pariahing anymore, and I can only grieve at our resulting prospects. Even if somebody actually knows better, things could not possibly get any worse. People don't wear masks at their own peril. Knowing better's no rebuttal. Ginning up conspiracies ain't no adequate replacement.

We need pariahs in our lives. They keep us cloaked and cloistered. They encourage a defiant and essential ignorance, I guess, and the discouraging functioning of society. They intend to keep us safe from harm, but we'll show them and harm ourselves.

©2021 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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