Doubtless you’ve heard the term “armchair quarterbacking.” Picture the stereotypical overweight couch-potato sports fan, yelling at the football player on television that he should have done thus-and-such in order to score a touchdown. This armchair quarterbacks certainly knows how to play football better than the players on the field, as he informs the TV screen in no uncertain terms while Doritos-flecked spittle flies from his mouth.
Unpleasant visual, is it not? Yet how many of us practice armchair quarterbacking when it comes to preparedness issues?
We’ve all been at the mercy of those who share with us their most profound wisdom on subjects they have never experienced. To paraphrase an apt line from an old Pride and Prejudice movie: “How clever of you, my dear Miss Bingley, to know something of which you are ignorant.”
These are the people who know exactly what is needed to live off-grid even though they’ve never done it. Their sentences usually start with “You should…” and imply that you’re a total and complete moron because you chose this off-grid option instead of that option.
Allow me a bit of personal history. Back when I was in college, I dated a young man who knew everything. It was quite extraordinary, actually. He was getting his Ph.D. in physics and I was still an undergraduate in zoology. I knew very little about physics but he knew everything about zoology. Amazing.
Not just zoology. He was an expert in everything I did, thought, practiced, and studied. I was a fairly good amateur ballet dancer; naturally he knew more about ballet than I did. I played the flute; he knew all about how my playing could improve. I was a keen backpacker and outdoorswoman; his knowledge of tents and sleeping bags surpassed mine. You get the picture.
Our relationship was greatly shortened because it got to the point where he knew everything except the fact that I couldn’t stand to be around him, and that was that.
A milder example happened a couple years ago when I was in the middle of canning some corn from our garden, something I’ve done for twenty years. An armchair quarterback came to visit and proceeded to inform me about all the things I was doing wrong. I happen to like this armchair quarterback a great deal, so I was able to take a long view on the unceasing stream of information on how to mend my erroneous ways… but the undisputed fact remains, I have a pantry-ful of canned food while this armchair quarterback has nothing.
In other words, just because someone has a Ph.D. in physics doesn’t (necessarily) mean they know all about ballet. Or more generally, unless you can show me that your expertise on an issue trumps all, do not presume to know more about it than someone who’s been living or practicing or studying that issue for a long time.
Now granted most armchair quarterbacks are good-natured and easy-going (my ex-boyfriend excepted). But they’re annoying. My private notion is they’re masking a deep insecurity that somehow not knowing everything is a deep character flaw. This is wrong, of course. The flaw is knowing everything… or thinking you do.
Up to this point, this issue sounds like a rant against a pet peeve (which it is). But it’s more than that. It is a plea to quite literally put up or shut up, and the preference is to PUT UP.
If you think you know so much about off-grid living or milking a cow or canning corn, by golly get busy and set up some solar panels or go fetch Bossy from the pasture or buy a pressure canner. Then maybe I’ll be willing to listen to your advice. But until then, shut up already.
In other words, quit telling everyone else what to do and get busy doing it yourself. There is a lot of prepper-related knowledge out there waiting to be discovered and utilized, and we need as many true quarterbacks as possible to learn it. The more people who possess skills and knowledge that will be useful in a post-bleep situation, the better.
Therein lays the secret. If you feel the need to criticize someone else's preparatory efforts, then be ready to demonstrate that your knowledge is superior. If our local armchair quarterback had 100 pints of corn canned up in his pantry, I’d be more open to his words of wisdom. I’m far more willing to listen to how our off-grid neighbors have solved assorted solar panel or generator problems, than I am listening to those who live in a comfortable apartment in the city and merely read about going off-grid.
If you stand there and criticize me throughout the process of milking my cow -- but then can demonstrate that you are a superior cow-milker -- I might be able to tolerate you better than if you weren’t sure which end of the cow to milk. You might still be a jerk, but at least you would be an admittedly knowledgeable jerk.
So here’s a challenge to all the armchair quarterbacks out there: put your money where your mouth is. Before criticizing someone’s technique for canning corn, show me your pantry full of canned corn. Before you criticize someone’s off-grid living choices, give a tour of your off-grid farm. Before you purport to know everything about ballet, show me a double pirouette en pointe.
Then maybe I’ll be willing to listen to you. But up to that point, you’re just a blowhard.
Okay, off my soapbox (grin).