Armchair Critics Feast Upon Gossip Rather Than Standing Up For Change

At times in each of our lives, we are faced with the question, “to do or wait for someone else to do?” I would also add to that question this way, “to do or wait for someone else to do, but in the mean time whine and complain, write snarky comments in social media and spread gossip?” This question has been crossing my mind frequently lately because of worldwide events, autism-related issues, local occurrences at large, and the way I observe people reacting to them. Some of the brouhaha centers on real events that get distorted like in the old child’s game of telephone where gossip is passed on and on embellished along the way from one person to the next until the truth is disconnected. Other news is completely fake or made-up and meant to stir- up certain specified people or groups; also reminiscent of childhood behavior, where one child makes up a lie and spreads it maliciously while the intended recipient(s) gobble it up.

Whether gossip or fake news, there are those who spread it and devour it, often behind a computer screen or in texts. This indirect method works great for the armchair critic who can feast upon the “tasty” morsels that they read or learn about from their “sources.” These folks are more brazen when shielded behind a communication device. For instance, I have seen this kind of behavior on Facebook when someone in the autism community digs into another person with fury rather than facts. The worst of this is when the insults become personal; another example of childish behavior that we as adults supposedly have learned is not acceptable.

Armchair critics can be effective in raising points or questioning things but their methods do little or nothing to change what they are complaining about. Instead they vividly opine but leave the heavy lifting of change-making for others. To do the heavy lifting of change-making it takes more than just ideas: it takes courage; persistence; and time. It also takes selflessness, and by that I mean doing something that may not directly benefit you. There are people who do this and inspire us, everyday heroes and heroines who change the world.  It is easy to criticize  and as the saying goes “words are cheap,” but to add real value to a cause, even the tiniest action can make a big impact.

Personally, I am honored to know and work with many outstanding advocates in the autism community. These individuals do not get tangled in the web of gossip because they are focusing on projects and advocacy that they are passionate; they are changing lives and opening doors for others. They realize that criticism alone does little to change society. They realize that tearing others down does not build a community up. They realize that there are many ways to look at the same issue, and they show respect for others even when they disagree with them.

It is my hope that as adults we start to do a better a job in raising our children to be  concerned about the world they are inheriting rather than just becoming successful  themselves. We must teach by example that armchair or bystander activism is not enough. You have not done a notable job as a parent if you merely raise a child that looks good in Facebook posts and seems to have it all. The word “seems” is important here. That same child may be a gossip using tactics like armchair bullying or spreading rumors. That same child may act entitled, in the “little things” like not sending appreciative thank you notes to having common courtesy for all people, not only those who can benefit them. Indeed there are many younger individuals who actively change the world because they care about more than building up their resumes, but too many do so to enhance their own appearance. It is up to parents and other adults in the lives of our children to model kind and respectful discourse and to demonstrate through our behavior that actions based upon knowledge not gossip speak louder than words.

The opinions expressed in this BLOG are solely the opinions of Linda J. Walder and do not reflect the opinions of The Daniel Jordan Fiddle Foundation or those affiliated with it.

Dust in the Wind

The following is a commentary by Linda J. Walder, and does not necessarily reflect the viewpoints of others affiliated with The Daniel Jordan Fiddle Foundation.

Many of you are too young to remember the rock group Kansas and their iconic song “Dust in the Wind,” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tH2w6Oxx0kQ This song comes to mind in the wake of celebrities, and others in the public eye who due to their careers are in the media spotlight, and who are constantly badgering the public with their personal viewpoints and politics. The egos of these folks are so enormous that they have anointed themselves the “experts” on everything! Many of these people are not well-read, well-versed or well-eduated, but this does not stop them from using their platforms to divide our country.The lyrics of ” Dust in the Wind” are spot on for the message that all of us are simply “dust in the wind,” and that no amount of money, fame or power will change that truth.

How can we progress towards a more utopian world where we all feel valued, and where we all feel that our viewpoints, although differing, will not be berated or stifled? In the world of autism advocacy, we need to first and foremost listen to individuals and their families living with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Science may guide us and we should learn from what is revealed, but not to the exclusion of the day to day experiences of individuals and their families. Both research and experience are worthy informants and hopefully help to improve people’s lives. However, what is valid today, may not be valid tomorrow. We cannot learn more if we shut our minds to new research and experiences that contravene how we think now.

Those whose egos claim ownership of the truth may be in for a wake up call when their positions are rejected. The realization that we are all “dust in the wind” should be an uplifting thought of empowerment for every person who defies that sort of egotism.  In the end, what will matter is not who blew their horn the loudest, but what blew us away without fanfare or conceit.