Plutarch on listening, and The Block

Not listening[W]e observe that… the great majority of persons …practise speaking before they have acquired the habit of listening.” Plutarch wrote that in his essay De Auditu, or On Listening. Reading those words immediately made me think of that group we have on Collingwood Council who never listen to anyone but themselves and frequently speak without any apparent thought behind their comments: The Block.

And, no, I don’t expect any of them to heed his words of wisdom or advice on this or any other subject. First, that would require reading, and reading is antithetical to all of them because it might lead to learning and that could lead to facts, and facts are something they will have none of this term.

Still, I thought I’d share some of Plutarch’s other words of wisdom with you, dear reader, so you can judge for yourself if, as it strikes me, it seems he was writing about them.*

Plutarch lived almost 2,000 years ago (c.50-c.120 CE), and was a prolific writer (you probably know him best for his historical “Lives”; biographies of famous Greeks and Romans). I came across this essay in a Penguin book I’ve been reading of late. They’re from his master work, Moralia, an eclectic collection of 78 essays.

…if anybody draws them to one side and tries to impart something useful, or to advise them of some duty, or to admonish them when in the wrong, or to mollify them when incensed, they have no patience with him; but, eager to get the better of him if they can, they fight against what he says, or else they beat a hasty retreat in search of other foolish talk, filling their ears like worthless and rotten vessels with anything rather than the things they need.

One only need consider the efforts by PowerStream to have their side of the story presented to council and help debunk the conspiracy theory being floated about the previous sale or the shared services agreement. None of The Block would hear them or our own staff, nor allow them to come to council and make public statements. 

Consider, too, The Block’s refusal to listen to anything the hospital representatives and their planner said about the redevelopment plan. Or to our municipal partners on the airport board who argued in favour of developing the site. There are so many examples of The Block refusing to listen to anyone who contradicted their rigid ideology or debunked their conspiracy theories that I can’t pretend to list them all here.

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