It seems that people have more respect for my influence than they ought to

By Alan S. Chartock | January 19, 2023

Because I am on the radio a lot and I write columns like the one you are reading now, it seems that people have more respect for my influence than they ought to. I do realize that a lot of people are not afraid to lend me their super powers but the truth is, I really don’t have the ability to reorder the world or to do all the things that you and I might want to do so that, for instance, no one goes hungry or every person is given the respect to which they are entitled. If the phone rings every now and then and someone asks you to help further their newest theory on how to make the state, the country or the world a better place, it’s likely that plan will not work.

You and I both know that many human beings are not given the respect that they deserve. A lot of us learned that early when someone, perhaps a teacher, perhaps another student, tried to convince us that we were less capable and generally inferior to them. It might have been a sibling or some other relative who thought it was their heaven-delivered purpose to bring us down. I don’t believe that I have ever met anyone who can’t look back on their life and find one of those awful people who got their jollies by suggesting that they were better than you. I suppose some psychologist could explain why some people seem to have the need to regard others as failures when compared with themselves.

Unfortunately, just as dogs and children often contest with each other, adults do the same thing. Who among us hasn’t run into someone who seems to want to bring us down? When that happens, what do you do? Do you punch them in the nose, twist their arm, argue with them and hit them back with the same shots they are aiming at you? I have found that doing to them what they are doing to you is hardly the road to success. It almost never works. So what else can you do?

Well, one option is to do what your mother probably told you so many years ago: “Ignore them.” Unfortunately, in my experience, not paying attention to them is not always a good solution. I mean, when you do that, the offensive people are basically being led to believe in some way that they are winning the dual. The other problem with the “ignore them” model is that it can backfire and only encourage them to do more.

Throughout the ages, people who have refused to fight the battles that they ought to have fought have ended up sorry. Go back in history to the Nazis and look at the early successes they had at the beginning of World War II. Had the free world not fought back, we would all have been very sorry. It took people like Churchill, Roosevelt and even the otherwise very evil Stalin to slam the door and say no in perhaps the most impressive way that such force has ever been demonstrated in world history,

So there are times when we have disobey our mothers’ guidance. There really are not that many options. Somehow, our animals and our children get it. We have all seen it over the years, sometimes in our workplaces sometimes, in our homes, in our schools. We once had a guy who lived around the corner and owned a big ferocious dog. He would bring him over to our fenced in acre and sic him onto our docile dogs. Fortunately, we had a neighbor who saw him do it and came running over to take a hand, proving once again that there are some very good people in this world.

Alan Chartock is professor emeritus at the State University of New York, publisher of the Legislative Gazette and president and CEO of the WAMC Northeast Public Radio Network. Readers can email him at [email protected].