Mike Pemberton/Voices | Mind your own business

Mike Pemberton/Voices | Mind your own business

By MIKE PEMBERTON

"Mindin' other people's business seems to be high-toned
I got all that I can do just to mind my own

Why don't you mind your own business? (Mind your own business)
If you mind your own business
You'll stay busy all the time."

— Hank Williams, "Mind Your Own Business," 1949

Williams' scolding busybodies 70 years ago is as satisfying now as it was then. Nevertheless, many of us don't mind our own business. Nor do some societal institutions like churches, academia, corporations and government. Nor do the media and other social commentators.

Yep, I hear you. In this era of fake news and misinformation campaigns, commentators like me must be more careful than ever to be certain of the facts before stepping into the fray. There is too much gossip parading as news.

In everyday life, folks often weigh in on other people's lives whether we have accurate information or not. We enjoy a juicy piece of gossip, particularly involving famous people whose lives are so removed from ours it's as if they are not real. No harm, no foul, we figure, conveniently forgetting celebrities are people, too. Schadenfreude at its most sublime.

But with the explosion of social media, 24/7/365 news and texting, gossiping at any moment about anything or anyone is tempting.

In Hank Williams' day, it was the nosy "woman on the party line" listening in. Now, it's the world. And it is ugly.

A Google search reveals cases from all over the globe of people falsely accused on social media of immoral or illegal behavior, reputations ruined. It's so bad, there are companies that help businesses and individuals rebuild their online reputations.

And what of individuals who do not have resources to fight back? According to the Pew Research Center, 32 percent of U.S. teenagers say false rumors have been spread about them on social media, floating around the internet for eternity. But all that pales in comparison to instances like false child kidnapping posts, which have resulted in mob killings in Brazil, Mexico and India. The Times of India reported in July 2018 that 27 people had been killed in 13 incidents over false WhatsApp messages regarding child kidnapping since May 2017.

It's not just us common folk who do damage because we can't mind our own business. As noted, societal institutions wreak havoc as well. Not surprising, since humans run them while simultaneously managing to "blame the institution" when something goes awry, thus escaping responsibility for not taking care of business ourselves. The can is kicked down the road for the next generation of administrators to point at one another and "blame the institution."

All the while these "leaders" don't hesitate or feel embarrassed to advise hardworking, bill-paying, community-supporting folk how to take care of business.

In the private sector, "We're from corporate headquarters. We're here to help," creates nightmares in otherwise sound sleeping and productive employees.

In the public sector, "If it helps only one person," uttered by a politician is usually a mind-your-own-business red flag.

Laws attempting to regulate soft drink consumption, banning outdoor smoking, taking toys out of McDonald's Happy Meals if they do not conform to certain dietary standards, leaving trash in your car, not sorting recycle and trash properly, cooking with trans fat and cursing within earshot of other people have been passed in the U.S.

I don't drink much pop, smoke, eat Happy Meals (but if I did, yeah, I'd want my toy), leave trash in my car, do my best to separate my garbage from my recycle, avoid trans fat and try not to curse. But do we need laws regarding these things?

Of course, violations result in fines ranging from a few bucks to thousands of dollars. Meanwhile, government careens toward insolvency as lawmakers fail to take care of their business to run the public sector efficiently. Maybe start by cutting their own pay, benefits and pensions.

But, hey, a fine collected on someone smoking outside will help. And don't forget the sin taxes on cigarettes and booze. All to the greater good, right?

We need to mind our own business.

Mike Pemberton is a freelance writer and an instructor for Danville Area Community College. His short stories and essays have been published in literary journals and newspapers. He is available for speaking engagements. More of Mike's work can be found at mikepembertonbooks.com or you can contact him at info@mikepembertonbooks.com.

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